ESPN NBA Basketball would benefit from the inclusion of a pro hop button as well as the separation of the shoot and dunk buttons; however, even without these additions, ESPN NBA Basketball is still the best-playing basketball game available this season. For the first time in history, basketball fans have a legitimate reason to be watching a game at four o'clock in the morning. The life of a baller is a 24-hour-a-day job.
This version of the game features a completely different broadcast team, which I'm not sure why 2K needed the power of the Series X and PlayStation 5 to pull it off. Brian Anderson, Grant Hill, and Allie LaForce add to what is already the best play-by-play and color commentary in sports video games, which is already a great accomplishment. A break from Kevin Harlan every now and then is welcome, especially because the new team brings a slightly more grounded approach to Harlan's dazzle and enthusiasm, which is a welcome change. Anderson and his crew, on the other hand, deliver the excitement when it counts. Having some variety in the booth is especially beneficial for those of us who spend a lot of time in play-now or franchise modes. It provides a welcome change of pace.
Many of the legacy issues that have plagued the franchise for years have been addressed in the new-generation version of NBA 2K21.
The new-generation NBA looks great and fixes a lot of issues, but it introduces some new ones and does not address microtransactions in any manner.
It's normal for us to expect the exact same game on the shiny new boxes when we play cross-generational games like this. Conversely, the NBA 2K21 version for the PlayStation 5 and Xbox One X takes advantage of the opportunity to make the bold leap forward that the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 versions did not. Everything, from the jaw-dropping variety of presentation to the massive City that can be explored in MyPlayer, appears to be newer and larger than ever before. We're still stuck with unnecessary grinding, rotten pay-to-win microtransactions, and a slew of other issues that appear to be a direct result of NBA 2K21's ambitious nature. Many things to be excited about, but, like a dunk attempt gone wrong, flash can be overshadowed by substance at times.
Although it appears to be beautiful, it is not. Everything that happens on the court – and everything that revolves around it – in NBA 2K21 is a technical marvel of engineering. The player models are extremely detailed, to the point where I would frequently pause the game and watch a replay just to take it all in. As players make contact with each other in the air or fight for position off the ball, it is truly impressive to watch the expressions on their faces shift. Even outside of the players, the sidelines have taken on a much more alive and dynamic feel as a result of this. It's one of the first things I noticed about NBA 2K21 after years of watching static (Next-ben best shooting badges) movement on the court. When things go wrong, as when a player stares blankly into the void at the freethrow line, the unfortunate side effect of all of this realistic glamour is that it appears even stranger than it would have otherwise. Despite this, NBA 2K21 is an excellent representation of what the new generation of consoles is capable of in terms of graphic design.