The new NBA 2K21 trailer is a showboating sneak-peek at the next-gen computing power of the Xbox Series X and PS5. Annual sports releases don't change much from year-to-year, but next-gen upgrades will help them make a genuinely massive step forward.
Beyond the impressive photorealism, the sheer number of lifelike fans, coaches, cheerleaders, mascots and refs generated in one shot without a frame rate drop show that next-gen sports games could actually feel more alive and real than ever.
The NBA 2K21 release date will be November 10 for Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S, November 12 for PS5 owners in select countries like the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, and November 19 for PS5 owners globally.
- Our NBA 2K21 review for current-gen consoles
- Xbox Series X games we know so far
- PS5 games we know so far
2K Games says they have added "150 unique AI-driven characters" to the court, which tracks with what we saw in the trailer: cheerleaders, floor moppers, coaches, cameramen, nearby fans all moving around the court during a timeout. While not essential to enjoying the game, it does add some cool ambience.
The trailer doesn't show perfect gameplay. Close-ups on players sweaty faces look excellent— Curry's gross mouthguard chewing aside — but in the rare zoomed-out footage players move or stop unrealistically quickly, like the character models can't quite keep up. And the movements look similar to what we've seen in previous games.
That said, 2K Games is selling major differences beyond graphics that it attributes to the power of the PS5 and Xbox Series X. It claims to have added "new on-court animation and collision engines", "next-gen lighting, textures, and physics", a new Rail Cam, and an "expanded soundtrack with 202 songs at launch",
More info to come
The new trailer is just the opening salvo in 2K's push to make NBA 2K21 stand out from the version that came out for PS4 and Xbox One X.
The company plans to release more information soon in "Courtside Reports" that explain the new game engine and AI. More importantly, NBA 2K21 will have a revamped MyPLAYER Builder for building your own NBA star that could actually look something like you.
2K also promises new changes to MyCAREER, the WNBA, MyGM, and MyLEAGUE, along with a major expansion to, and renaming of, the Neighborhood.