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The NBA 2K21 trailer is a legit next-gen wow moment

It’s a lot more than just sweat

Owen S. Good is a longtime veteran of video games writing, well known for his coverage of sports and racing games.

NBA 2K21’s first next-generation trailer, from June, showed copious amounts of Zion Williamson sweat and little else. 2K Sports revealed a lot more with a lengthy gameplay trailer today. This looks like a real-life broadcast, more than ever before.

Now we’re seeing what Visual Concepts can do with even stronger hardware. Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr may not look so hot, but Steph Curry and Klay Thompson are the stars here, and they raise the bar for photorealism on a console.

2K Sports offered a gallery of stills to emphasize the point, beginning with this direct comparison of Williamson from NBA 2K20 on PS4 to NBA 2K21 on PS5.

In its hype reels, Visual Concepts loves to toss in very detailed scenes, so that fans can pull out all of the intricacies that the newest game will be including. For me, the timeout sequence at 1:11 is what they really want you to pick over. Usually such cutscenes are delivered with close-up shots, because it means fewer visible character models straining the game. Seriously, look at any sports title’s trophy celebration sequence over the past two generations.

In the timeout sequence, we have the dance team taking the court, assistants putting out the chairs, security on the sidelines, mop kids wiping things down. And let’s not forget the crowd — usually a knot of synchronized clones on current hardware — doing its part to complete the scene.

That intro (at 0:19) of Luka Doncic in the tunnel, then running out to the court — also seems deliberate. It reminds me of the beginning to NBA 2K11 a decade ago, when Michael Jordan asking “Are you ready?” in Chicago Stadium’s tunnel kicked off an epochal, enormously anticipated entry in this series. This new scene makes that look ancient.

NBA 2K21 will launch with the next generation consoles, PlayStation 5 on Nov. 12, Xbox Series X and Series S on Nov. 10.

Update [Oct. 7]: Visual Concepts followed up on Wednesday with a breakdown of the gameplay enhancements that will accompany the next-gen visual upgrades.

The next level of puzzles.

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