Sports video games have long looked good, but even at their best, they've always looked the slightest bit synthetic, from the way players moved to the slightly empty look in their eyes at critical moments.
And then there's the next-gen version of "NBA 2K21," the first sports video game built for the new Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5. With this title, Visual Concepts and 2K Games at long last pushes the genre forward, delivering unparalleled visuals and a stunning library of customizable modes. This is a sports video game with something for everyone.
On next-gen consoles, "2K21" simply looks wildly better. Players look and move and animate with incredible fluidity, and at long last, they move with a sense of weight and heft that doesn't feel synthetic. That means a 7-footer like JaVale McGee lumbering about while the likes of Chris Paul and Russell Westbrook fly up and down the court. "NBA 2K" has long understood speed, but now the movement feels smoother and more realistic.
Other on-court mechanics shine, as well. Positioning yourself to grab a rebound has felt solid in 2K for the past few years, but on next-gen, the story of every board plays out even better. Timing your leap, blocking out and finding position all feel natural, and every rebound feels satisfying.
It all comes to life in arenas that bustle with activity. Gone are cardboard cutout fans or half-rendered fans, in favor of fan models that feel nearly as detailed as the players on the court. There's a din to every stadium, and a sense that the building is just as important to the game itself. Add in new and varied commentary teams, and playing the game with broadcast feels more satisfying than it ever has.
That core gameplay is backed by serious depth of mode and customization. "NBA 2K" essentially bundles its MyGM, MyLeague and MyLeague Online modes into one robust setup, MyNBA, that lets you pick and choose the slices of each that you like. Creating, downloading, and sharing draft classes has never been easier, and it's the same for players and rosters.
It all adds up to the top sports gaming hit of 2020. Need a sports game on your next-gen console? This is it.