NBA 2K21 brings a huge jump
It's been quite a while since we have covered sports titles in Digital Foundry, but with the arrival of NBA 2K21 on the newest wave of consoles, we're seeing something genuinely fascinating here, using a proper generational jump in fidelity across the board. To illustrate that, we have a peek at the sport mostly on PlayStation 5 and PS4 Guru, but we also spent a while with the Xbox Series consoles. While it may not seem like this on the outside, sports games are - from what I can tell - among the more difficult genres to work on. Truncated development programs require yearly admissions in each show, meaning less time between each release but more than this, these games have to match up to a correctly'actual' experience, often delivered with a TV-like demonstration. A game like NBA 2K21 should deal with actual people in real locations performing complicated, interlinking actions. If you are off by even a hair, you're diving straight into the uncanny valley.
What exactly makes this so difficult? Well, nailing down the arenas and player likenesses is a huge part of the equation but it's the motion that makes this so difficult. Realistic animation, momentum, and collision of every player on the court is a massive challenge. Developer Visual Concepts - whose work on this franchise dates all of the way NBAck to the Dreamcast era - is doing some great work here. While it's easy enough to see the imperfections from the visuals, even if you just allow the game wash over you, it actually starts to look unbelievably authentic in actions. When shooting on cylinders, it truly does look like a NBAsketNBAll.NBA 2K21 involves a huge roster of players out of present NBA athletes to legends in the past. The models themselves are intricately detailed with realistic skin shading, sweat, and facial expressions. Players look around the court and react to plays in real time. It is not perfect, because there's a sign of the lifeless eyes' effect, but it is solid. As with last-gen variations, 2K21 uses a fabric simulation for uniforms as well - because you move round the court, the fabric flows and reacts realistically.