While it's a bit jarring to leap into next season's NBA sim while the current season is still playing out, there's no denying the superpowers of Visual Concepts.
"NBA 2K21" is forced into an awkward situation not only by the pandemic, but because we're a couple months away from embarking on the next console generation. The current entry will likely be outclassed by the upgraded version on PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X.
Still, there is too much to appreciate in "2K21" to deny.
Cover athlete Damian Lillard's fingerprints are all over the game, from the initial 2KTV episode starring role to the improved passing and fast break animations. There's a concerted effort at play to make the game unfold more naturally rather than the traditionally choppy style of video game hoops.
As silky smooth as Lillard's pull-up jumper, the presentation and ambiance sell the gameplay as a vision of the NBA at its best. It's both nostalgic and optimistically forward-thinking to see games played at home arenas filled with rabid fans once again. How long it takes real life to follow the example of the sim after the 2020-21 basketball season begins remains to be seen.
The ego-stroking fantasy of MyPlayer continues to evolve, with your created up-and-comer dealing with the trappings of fame and fortune, as well as social media and side career distractions, as you work on your game and carve out your place in the league.
While the endless stream of nagging microtransactions is never going away, their presence are welcomely subdued, providing quiet, if persistent reminders that you can pay to speed up your progress. Still, it's far more satisfying to put in the actual work on the practice court and in game and see your dedication pay off steadily. If you're looking to get off to a faster start, you may as well spring for the Mamba Forever edition, which pays tribute to Kobe Bryant and comes preloaded with loads of virtual currency, cards and perks.
Like a low second-round draft pick or free agent signee, "NBA 2K21" has the potential to slip through the cracks due to circumstances. If you're still all in on "NBA 2K20," there isn't a heck of a lot of impetus to upgrade before the draft and free agency rejiggers the rosters to resemble next year's season.
But this is no G-League might-have-been. If you call its number off the bench, it will doubtlessly light up the scoreboard.
Publisher provided review code.