Welcome to this week’s edition of The Friday Five! The Friday Five is a feature that I post every Friday in which I give my thoughts on a topic that’s related to NBA Live, NBA 2K, and other basketball video games, as well as the real NBA, and other areas of interest to our community. The feature is presented as either a list of five items, or in the form of a Top 5 countdown. This week’s Five is a list of five things that have been removed from the Next Gen version of NBA 2K21.
When it comes to the things that annoy us most in the annual basketball games, legacy issues and the removal of popular features rank high on the list. For that matter, seeing legacy issues remain while cool features disappear is a common gripe born of those two complaints. Generally speaking though, we understand that there’s only so much that can be done within one development cycle, and that certain changes won’t come about until a new engine is introduced. Likewise, we know that some features are dropped due to technological reasons, or a lack of popularity.
It’s the things that are removed due to design choices and philosophy that really make us grumble, however. NBA 2K21 Next Gen was advertised as being “built from the ground up”, but it does bring back many familiar features, modes, and mechanics. A few things have fallen by the wayside with the series’ jump to the next generation, though. There may be technical reasons for their absence, but it’s inconvenient at best, and lacking in goodwill at worst. There’s a chance that we’ll see some of these things reintroduced if the demand/backlash is strong enough, but until then, here are five things from the Current Gen version that you won’t find in NBA 2K21 Next Gen.
There was a time that MyCOURT struck me as a gimmicky feature; a rather quaint opinion in retrospect, given what’s been introduced in MyCAREER since then! MyCOURT was a part of The Neighborhood, but it’s completely absent from The City in NBA 2K21 Next Gen. One might argue that it’s an unnecessary feature. Certainly, you can play MyCAREER without it, and with so much going on around The City, why spend all your time indoors on a private court? The fact of the matter is that MyCOURT was useful for practicing moves and testing jumpshot animations. It could also be used to earn some extra VC, and play private games with your friends.
Those last two points in particular are what make the removal of MyCOURT in NBA 2K21 Next Gen so grating. You see, you can still play private games in The City…if you rent out the upstairs courts in the Gatorade Gym. It’s as little as 20 VC for half an hour, but it means that functionality that was free and readily available is now rented. You need to bring your own ball, too. This year we get one free, but in the future, who knows? It also means that another source of grinding VC has been removed, so it’s costing us VC in more ways than one. I’m surprised that there hasn’t been more of a stink about this, but then again, we’ve been conditioned to accept this as “progress”.
2. Rumble Feedback on Shooting
Both the Current Gen and Next Gen versions of NBA 2K21 have introduced new shooting mechanics. It’s a familiar approach, albeit making greater use of stick aiming with an option to remove timing completely, but the Next Gen version of NBA 2K21 includes a couple of wrinkles that Current Gen doesn’t. Next Gen is stricter about the release window and accounts for stick speed in its placement, though the latter idea was patched into Current Gen post-release. As is often the case, the onboarding could be clearer about all of the mechanics, and personally I’ve found what they tried to do with right stick aiming in both versions of NBA 2K21 to be too contrived to use.
On top of everything else, NBA 2K21 Next Gen removes the rumble feedback that provided an additional cue for the perfect release window. This may be conjecture, but I’ve read that this was done in an effort to curb cheating with modded controllers. If so, it apparently hasn’t put an end to it, making it a useless move that’s only served to punish everyone else. I’m hesitant to accuse developers of removing features just so that they can reintroduce them, but this does strike me as one of those things that gets removed, only for a future dev blog to hype up its return. Also, the latest Current Gen patch removed rumble feedback in online games, so it does seem like a design choice.
3. Steal Window Indicator
NBA 2K20 made a couple of nifty upgrades to the player indicator on defense. An arrow provided a heads up on the direction a ballhandler was planning to move in, with its accuracy and timing depending on a player’s defensive abilities. The other handy new feature saw the player indicator change from a solid circle into a broken line when ball was unprotected. Although this didn’t mean an automatic steal – the persistent “press steal to foul” mechanics ensured that – it did indicate when the ballhandler was most vulnerable to a steal attempt, and assisted in the timing of the button press. It wasn’t foolproof thanks to the canned steal mechanics, but it helped.
Just like the helpful rumble feedback on jumpshots however, it was removed in NBA 2K21 Next Gen. Considering how many mechanics Next Gen still shares with Current Gen, and the fact that the steal window indicator is in the Current Gen version of NBA 2K21, it’s puzzling that it’s been removed. One might suggest that it was done for balance in online play, but it was only ever used for CPU players, who already have the advantage of button reading our steal attempts. Again, this smacks of taking out a feature for the purpose of reintroducing it next year, when it could and should have remained in the game. Its removal has done the defensive game no favours.
4. VC Balance While Adding Upgrades
This is admittedly the least troubling of all the things that have been removed from NBA 2K21 Next Gen, but it’s nevertheless an annoying change to something that was working fine. While upgrading attributes on the Progression screen in Current Gen’s MyCAREER, you can see both the accumulating cost, and your current VC balance. Not so in NBA 2K21 Next Gen, where you’ll need to proceed to the cart in order to check that you have enough VC. Obviously you can back out and make changes if you are lacking funds, and it’s not too much of a hassle to open up the cart to check your balance. Still, it’s an extra step thanks to its removal from the Progression screen.
I’d be lying if I said I didn’t think this was by design. Like any other game that utilises recurrent revenue mechanics, NBA 2K employs various psychological tricks to try to get us to spend money on VC. Once we’ve opened up the cart, there’s only one more button press to complete the purchase. It may sound like a moot point if we don’t have enough funds, but it’s only a couple of steps from the cart to buy VC, and hey, we’re already there and we’ve seen how much a boost we can get. Maybe it’s just oversight, but it really wouldn’t surprise me if it’s another tactic to get us looking at the cart and eager to check out. Even if it isn’t, it’s added an extra step to checking our balance.
5. Daily Bonus Tasks
Still on the subject of VC, and back to the issue of cutting down on our avenues to earn it, the Daily Bonus tasks have also been removed in NBA 2K21 Next Gen. I’m not talking about the Daily Prize that has replaced the wheel spin, and can be picked up by visiting your Park affiliation’s statue once every 24 hours. I’m talking about the tasks that were randomly chosen each day, which provided an opportunity to earn extra VC: things like achieving a triple-double, making five dunks, dishing out 25 assists, and so on. There are NPCs around The City that give you challenges to earn extra VC, but if you want to stick to the NBA side of things, you’re out of luck. You can still earn some virtual currencies by winning them on http://laabadia.org/.
Of course, this feature was all but removed from NBA 2K21 Current Gen as well. Broken since launch, 2K’s idea of “fixing” the issue of VC not being rewarded upon completion of tasks was basically to switch the feature off, so the Daily Bonus is now always listed as “None” in The Neighborhood menu. In some ways that’s worse than quietly removing the feature in NBA 2K21 Next Gen, but dropping a legitimate way of earning VC from both generations of MyCAREER is a huge slap in the face. We can still grind VC and the Daily Prize will give some away at random, but this is a deliberate tactic to strongarm gamers into giving in and buying VC; shame on 2K.
Have you noticed or been affected by the absence of these features in NBA 2K21 Next Gen? Has anything else been annoyingly removed? Have your say in the comments below, and as always, feel free to take the discussion to the NLSC Forum! That’s all for this week, so thanks for checking in, have a great weekend, and please join me again next Friday for another Five.