ENTERTAINMENT

NBA 2K21: Should You Buy It?

The latest annual NBA video game is scheduled for release on September 4 th . That
means by the time you’re reading this, it may already be out. If you’re the sort of
gamer who might be interested in this game, you’ve probably already seen gameplay
videos on YouTube and read multiple reviews already. You’re reading this article
because you still haven’t come to a conclusion on the question of whether to buy the
current-gen version of the game right now or wait for the next-gen version to be
released. The purpose of this article is to help you to conclude that matter – so let’s
give it a try!

The fact that we’ve got a new NBA 2K game this month is remarkable in itself. Most
gamers are familiar with the issues that 2K has had during the past twelve months,
which resulted in the cancellation of this year’s annual WWE 2K game. As recently as
April, there were rumors that the 2021 entry into the franchise would be delayed
due to difficulties with development. Those rumors have turned out to be wide of
the mark. The game’s current-gen version is coming out this week and looks to have
the best graphics and the best features of any game in the series up until this point.
However, it will not have the same features and graphics as the next-gen version –
and therein lies quite a significant problem.

Next-Gen Blues
Anyone interested in video gaming has already seen the trailer for the next-gen
version of NBA 2K21. It was included in the launch trailer for the PS5 back in June of
this year and featured an exceptionally realistic (and sweaty) looking Zion Williamson
of the New Orleans Pelicans. Those of you who’ve seen this version and decided you
want to buy it should be well aware that you won’t get the same visual quality from the current-gen version of the game. To underline that point one more time, the
game you saw in the trailer is not the version of the game that went on sale on
September 4th. At the time of writing, we don’t know when the next-gen version of
the game will become available. We don’t even know when the next-gen consoles
themselves will appear.

This wouldn’t be a problem if 2K adopted a similar system to Electronic Arts and its
globally-popular FIFA Soccer series. Anyone who buys the current-gen version of
FIFA 21 will get an automatic (and free) upgrade to the next-gen version as soon as it
becomes available. 2K has decided not to go down that route. If you buy the
standard version of the new NBA game and also want to play the next-gen version
when it comes out, you’ll have to pay extra for the new game. The only way around
this is to buy a ‘special edition’ version of the current-gen game, which is set to cost
one hundred dollars. That isn’t a great look for the company, and it’s also not necessarily a great deal. The price for the next-gen version, when it arrives, is set at
seventy dollars. That brings us on to our next point.

Goodbye Loot Boxes
Games made by 2K have, for many years, included loot boxes. They’re a way of keeping players playing for longer and making additional revenue for 2K above and beyond the purchase price of the game and its DLC. Unfortunately for 2K and other
games development companies that rely on loot boxes to boost profits, they’re also
on their way to becoming a thing of the past.

Various governments and authorities around the world have decided that loot boxes
are a form of gambling. The government of Belgium has directly compared them to
online slots. It doesn’t take a genius to work out why. When you’re playing online
slots such as Starburst online slot, you have no idea what you’re getting in return for
your cash until the reels of the online slots game you’re playing have stopped
spinning. You might win more than the value of your bet, or you might win nothing
at all. You’ll never get literally nothing from a loot box, but you may well get
something practically worthless. They’re now banned in Belgium on the grounds that
online slots are available only to adults, whereas video games like the NBA 2K series
are available to children. The UK government has indicated that it’s about to issue a
similar directive, and from there, it’s inevitable that most countries will follow suit.
This is going to put a dent in the profits of the companies that relied on loot box
money to stay afloat, and the next-gen price of NBA 2K21 is an indication of how
they’re likely to deal with it. It looks like prices are going to go up by around twenty
dollars, and we should all get used to it. On the plus side, it means we don’t have to
deal with loot boxes in this version of the game.

New Features?
The first version of a long-standing game franchise for new consoles tends to focus
on better visuals than expanded features, as developers need a while to adjust to
the new format. That means we shouldn’t expect too much from this latest version
of the game. If you’ve been holding your breath and hoping for cross-platform
multiplayer support, for example, should start breathing again. That’s not included.
It’s technically possible to make it happen – 2K just doesn’t appear to be willing to do
it.

Long-term players will immediately notice that the function of the Pro Stick has
changed significantly. Shot control should hopefully be a lot more realistic. You’ll
have more direct control over dribbling, too. The defensive mechanics of 2K20
proved to be popular with players, so they’ve been retained, but the new jump shot
meter might take a little getting used to. On balance, though, we think it’s more intuitive than what came before it. Aside from that, it feels a little more arcade-
focused than it does simulation-heavy. We’re not saying it’s gone all “NBA Jam” on
us, but it’s definitely easier for beginners to get into.

The big question we asked at the start is, ‘should you buy it.’ If you’re an NBA fan, we
suspect you don’t need us to answer that question for you. You’re going to buy it no
matter what we say, but if you’d like our advice, we suggest holding off for the next-
gen version. It’s bound to have had more time spent on it, it will be prioritized in
terms of support, and if there are any new features to be had, they’ll be on there.
Why pay full price for an inferior current-gen version when you could have
something genuinely brand-new and groundbreaking a few months from now?

© 2020, Seth Barmash. All rights reserved.

Minneapolis’s Own Darius Mylik