Well, today is the day. Next gen has arrived.
It’s evident that the 2K development team has put in a substantial amount of work in hopes of putting out a genre-defining game once again. With pretty much all of the information about next gen out now — plus the game itself — we’re all going to go on this journey together. But is it justified to be excited for next gen? Let’s recap all the biggest pieces of news we’ve gotten the last two weeks to answer that question and get you all caught up if you’re taking the next-gen plunge today.
Revamp Of Shooting, Passing And Dribbling
In NBA 2K21 next gen, the dev team has taken the pro stick to the next level. In the first of three Courtside Reports, it’s evident that more control over pro stick shooting will see players have the ability to also control the arc of their shots, which has been tied in to the speed they pull down on the right stick. A slow flick will see a high arc on your shot, while a fast flick will see your shot come out flat with little to no arc. You’ll see a small shot bonus if you manage to get down the tempo on your shot and hit the ideal arc point. Fast flicks of the pro stick on a shot will see you shoot off the backboard. I’m not exactly sure how this will play out without seeing it, but being able to shoot off the backboard again is a welcomed return to shooting in NBA 2K.
Dribbling in NBA 2K21 next gen will see a carryover of the current-gen dribbling system that most of us currently enjoy, but taken to another level. Size-ups can now be controlled and can be conducted at different speeds based on how fast or slowly you flick the pro stick. This would essentially mean that if you’re using a good ball handler, you can set up a defender with a slow rhythm dribble before quickly shifting into another gear and blowing by.
Passing gets a boost for next gen, with a rewrite of physics code allowing for a greater depth and flexibility in passing, especially on bounce passes. We’re going to be able to throw alley-oops off the bounce, as well as alley-oops off the backboard to teammates. Bounce touch passes will now be a thing, which is something that has never been done in a 2K basketball game before. Lead passing has been fine-tuned to lead teammates to the basket or around the 3-point line, dependent on where they are on the court and their movement, by tapping the Triangle/Y button.
Movement, Contact And The Impact Engine
One area of NBA 2K that we could harp on year in and out has always been movement and contact physics between players in the game. Things never quite added up when it came to these elements. In NBA 2K21 next gen, the jump in technology has allowed the 2K dev team to greatly improve the movement of players on both sides of the ball. I’m honestly most excited by the improvements we should be seeing here, especially on defense. Dribbling was completely scrapped and reprogrammed for next gen, except for signature dribble styles. This means we we should feel unparalleled control that we haven’t seen before.
Defense and off-ball movement received some love as well. We read about a few areas that stood out in part two of the Courtside Report that we will quote below:
- Unique contextual motion assets for various basketball situations (Transition Stops, Leak Out, Guard Break, Anchor, Space Perimeter) bring an awareness to the look of the players on the floor and give them more life.
- Improved pathing, cuts, and stops make defenders feel more grounded and fix a lot of the sliding from the previous generation.
- Overall improvement to motion stability and response. In other words, we smoothed out the twitchiness and players can more accurately follow exactly what you’re doing on the sticks.
- Updated player-size detection logic and greater emphasis on player differentiation. Bigs move like bigs, and guards move like guards. This includes a lot of new animation content to support signature motion styles.
- Left stick taps allow you to play quick steps which are really helpful when you need to make subtle adjustments to your defensive position.
Foot planting, which is an essential part of a player’s footwork in almost all situations, is now a bigger focus in NBA 2K and it’s a huge relief to see. More realistic foot planting should mean we’ll see pinpoint player movement on the court.
Body ups is what the 2K dev team is naming battles between ball handler and defender. We’ve seen these battles in the last few iterations of 2K, but I always still found it too easy for the ball handler to get by the defender. Hip riding always resulted in the ball handler still managing to get their layup off. It looks like the introduction of next gen and the power it brings has hopefully allowed the dev team to balance out both sides of the ball and the interactions in body-up situations. I’m very excited to see how defense has been improved in next gen because I feel that it hasn’t kept up with the offensive changes made by 2K over the last few years.
The Impact Engine has been developed to address in-air collisions and contact. Players should no longer see random chosen animations when defending the hoop, and can expect more control when making a play. This should hopefully also equate to players, both user and AI, making better decisions to protect the basket. On-court contact should also see improvement with better detection for charges and blocking fouls.
MyPlayer Builder, Badges, Takeover And Next-Gen AI Offense/Defense
In the final Courtside Report, Mike Wang dropped arguably the biggest news about NBA 2K21 next gen, confirming rumors about the new MyPlayer Builder, as well as badges and Takeovers. I covered the big news, which you can take a look at in my next gen MyPlayer deep dive. Chase also broke down the next-gen AI offensive and defensive improvements, which will potentially take the game to the next level. Take a look at the links to get detailed breakdowns on these areas.
The W: WNBA Next Gen
Not to be “that guy” but I’m doing it. This feature is two years late. That being said, the apparent depth that we’ll be getting for the WNBA MyPlayer experience in NBA 2K21 next gen should make up for the delay. The W allows you to create a WNBA MyPlayer and experience a career in the league, both on and off the court. Players will also have the capability of experiencing a fully customizable MyWNBA franchise mode, which will receive some of the upgrades that MyNBA will also receive (more on this later). Some customization options include:
- Create a league of your own. From rules, to finances, CBA, draft, and everything in between. Use 2K presets for a different experience, or download shared settings from the community.
- Skip the season altogether and get straight to the playoffs in Playoff mode.
- Want to play with friends? Got you covered with Online Leagues.
- Turn on role playing elements to experience the WNBA from a GM’s perspective.
- For experienced players, up the difficulty and compete on the leaderboard.
- Once you find yourself immersed in your sandbox, save and upload your custom configuration so you can share what you built with the community!
Players will also have a mode-exclusive W Online, which is 3-on-3 player experience. This addition to NBA 2K, as I mentioned above, is a late but very exciting addition to the franchise. As a father of two young girls that enjoy watching the Toronto Raptors, showing them that they’re represented in a video game and can flesh out their own careers is something I look forward to. For a more detailed breakdown of The W and the evolution of the WNBA in NBA 2K21 next gen, have a look at the Courtside Report presented by Felicia Steenhouse, senior producer of NBA 2K21.
The City – Affiliations Return
With the amount of news that has dropped for next gen, the announcement of The City and MyNBA’s upgrade are arguably the two most hyped features for NBA 2K21 next gen. With The City, you can say goodbye to the Park and the Neighborhood, as we’ve now been introduced to the biggest evolution of the mode since its inception. This ambitious evolution also sees the return of Affiliations, which haven’t been in NBA 2K in several years. Add in RPG-like elements and we’re in store for something we’ve never seen in NBA 2K. Due to the sheer depth of information released regarding The City, take a look at the Courtside Report, detailed by Executive Producer Eric Boenisch.
The upgrades to MyNBA, broken down by Senior Producer Dave Zdyrko, are deep. While there’s still some features that creators have been vying for that still haven’t been added, the decision to merge MyGM, MyLeague and MyLeague Online into one all-encompassing mode, and adding additional depth to these modes, is not only unexpected but welcomed. By reading through the Courtside Report, you’ll clearly see how much work the 2K dev team really put into the next-gen version of the game. If they can do this much year one, we can optimistically look forward to much more in the future.
Is All Of This Change Worth The Hype?
Since NBA 2K14, the step into the next generation at that time, NBA 2K saw incremental upgrades to the game that gave us a better product in some respects, but also issues year in and out. Being hyped for the new iteration of 2K started to become something where you had to be cautiously optimistic about the product you were about to receive. NBA 2K21 on current gen had the same optimistic hope behind it, but after small changes most (including myself) felt like they were playing NBA 2K20.5.
In seeing screenshots, videos, Courtside Reports and some pre-worldwide launch streams of NBA 2K21 next gen early this week, I can say that the hype feels warranted. The NBA 2K development team appears to have taken every possible step to ensure that its entrance into the next generation of gaming will leave its mark on the sports gaming genre once again. There’s no doubt the development team is looking to cement its status as the most innovative and ambitious company to deliver a sim product that’s as near to real life as possible. NBA 2K21 next gen might just be one of the most ambitious launch titles we’ve ever seen, not just in the sports genre, but any genre.