Back in June when Sony showcased the PlayStation 5, a trailer for NBA 2K21 displayed how the next-generation hardware would enhance the character models. The trailer shows a lone Zion Williamson on the practice court in what might be one of the most hype loaded NBA 2K trailers of all time. Including, a new level of detail allowing more precise facial features. As well as more accurate body mass and hair. The trailer claimed to be running on PS5 hardware but, in reality under what scenario would we ever be playing this game under the circumstances shown in the trailer? All too often trailers from AAA publishers get a little carried away with their marketing. Can the PS5 really deliver these upgrades with only one year of development time? Besides the PS4 version looks nothing like that trailer. Did 2K really go back and upgrade every player? Or just Zion?
To gauge any visual improvements I started by capturing NBA 2K21 footage directly out of the PS4 Pro. In the gallery below you will notice how a number of players appear on the current platforms. The captured footage comes from the latest version of the game as of November 8th. One of the things I want to see is, will visual upgrades be limited to just popular players like Zion, LeBron, and Damian Lillard. Then we have a number of players that are probably a nightmare to recreate in-game. Players like, Boban Marjanović, Jarrett Allen, and, Anthony Davis. Each of these players has a very unique and distinguishing look.
NBA 2K21 PS4 Pro Footage Versus PS5
To be honest I am shocked by the improvements here with the next-gen version of NBA 2K21. Given the year we had with new challenges along the way every month you have to give 2K credit. They could have very easily added in ray tracing to the court, higher frame rates and resolution then shipped this game as a next-gen version. Instead, there are more colors used in this version of the game to more accurately represent skin tone. Then you have what appears to be all-new fabrics for the jerseys. The shorts look significantly more detailed at the waistline. The textures of the fabrics are more clearly defined. The power of the new consoles has allowed the developers to better capture that unique fabric that makes up NBA jerseys.
Another thing you will notice is more pronounced sweat. While every player seems to have the same sweat lines, it still appears more photorealistic than the previous version of the game. This explains why the sweat is so pronounced in the June PS5 trailer. In addition to that, you have all the new hair textures. The increased pixel density allows the developers to more accurately detail both facial hairs as well as unique hairstyles. The changes to the hair vastly improve how Jimmy Butler and Jarrett Allen look. Then you see an expanded level of detail on Luka Doncic, Kevin Durant, and Damian Lillard.
But Does It Live Up To The Trailer?
While NBA 2K21 on next-gen consoles has made a significant leap in visual improvements. It doesn’t quite live up to the trailer. This version of NBA 2K21 makes more improvements than its last five years combined. Yet we still might be a few years away from what 2K tried to convey as PS5 gameplay earlier this year. If you take a look above at Zion Williamson, yes this is a significant upgrade from the PS4 version of the game. Even so, the level of detail on the jersey and sweat is not there. Not to mention you will never see any player in NBA 2K21 display the level of emotion Zion does while dunking in the trailer from this summer. 2K has done a great job delivering a next-gen experience here. They may just want to tone down the rhetoric for next year.