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What’s coming to NBA 2K21’s next-gen versions?

Developers highlight gameplay enhancements for PS5 and Xbox Series X

Closeup of the Warriors’ Steph Curry in a warmup hoodie
Steph Curry’s shots will feel more like Steph Curry’s shots, thanks to shot arc control that lets players dial up rainbow threes.
Image: Visual Concepts/2K Sports
Owen S. Good is a longtime veteran of video games writing, well known for his coverage of sports and racing games.

NBA 2K21 developer Visual Concepts published a list of the upgrades and enhancements the game will see in the next-gen versions launching with the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X and Series S next month. This follows a teaser trailer on Tuesday that highlighted the games visual and presentational enhancements.

The gameplay changes are pretty weedy, even if you’re familiar with the game, but the tight focus on on-the-court mechanisms shows designers are trying to harness the new hardware’s power to do new things rather than just improve old ones.

Among the changes: players will be more cognizant of the three-point line, and step back behind it for the shot on their own. Many players have found toeing the three-point line to be inconsistent based on the continued motion of a player taking a pass or dribbling to a stop. This way, there’ll be fewer 21-foot twos — although gameplay director Mike Wang said some players will step forward for a closer jump shot if the situation looks bad for a long-range try.

That feathers into another enhancement: Shot arc control. Previously, the arc of a player’s shot has been driven by background factors, like range to the target, defensive pressure, and release time. Now players can deliberately opt for rainbow threes, with a long draw of the right thumbstick, or a flatter heave with a fast flick. Using the ideal shot arc will give players an accuracy bonus, so there’s the incentive for what otherwise seems to be a granular control.

To help with shooting, the game’s shot meter in next-gen versions “gets a new look and plays a bigger role in your makes and misses,” Wang wrote. It’s more readable and, importantly, “no longer scales in world space (meaning it won’t be really small if you’re in a far away camera view),” he added. There’s a lot more detail on how that meter will change; it’s become more necessary in NBA 2K21 with the inclusion of Shot Stick Aiming, a feature that many novices and casual players have been slow to grasp.

“The changes that we made here make it much easier for us to help players understand the difference between a good and poor shot,” Wang said, “and also allow us to re-tune shooting to accommodate the wide variation of skills levels of the 2K community.”

Wang’s developer blog deals strictly with gameplay; additional game content, modes, or mode features are not discussed. In a conference call with reporters in August, executive producer Erick Boenisch confirmed that next-gen versions of NBA 2K21 would allow for the creation of playable women avatars in the game’s MyCareer suite.

But Boenisch said additional information about that, and any WNBA tie-ins, would be revealed later. NBA 2K21 will also share a player’s MyTeam collection and virtual currency account across both console generations, provided they’re from the same family.

Separately, NBA 2K21 on Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One received another patch on Wednesday. As far as new content, the 2K Beach neighborhood now has a Halloween theme and more than 60 NBA and WNBA players have gotten makeovers to their player likenesses.

NBA 2K21 is available now for Google Stadia, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Windows PC, and Xbox One.