When you think of authentic sports videogames, the NBA 2K series has to be brought up in the discussion. From the plethora of animations showcased in each game you play to the overall “feel” of the game, 2K Sports has done a fantastic job capturing the culture of basketball in recent years.
We’ve seen the incredible addition of Michael Jordan in NBA 2K11 and legendary teams in the near lock-out year that NBA 2k12 released, but what does NBA 2K13 bring to the table? For gamers looking for a huge overhaul, you’re looking in the wrong place with this year’s title. Instead, NBA 2K13 improves in a more subtle way across the board but still takes a few small steps back.
The involvement of Jay-Z in NBA 2K13 is apparent from the beginning and it’s mostly enjoyable. The music selection in the game is the best its ever been and the pre-game video montages are mostly fantastic. The self-promotion of some of Jay-Z’s videos can be a little annoying and ultimately lead you to skip straight to the gameplay.
Once you’re on the court, NBA 2K13 proves to be the best-playing basketball title that has ever been released. The attention to detail from a player’s moves to his attitude are absolutely incredible. While NBA 2K shined in the past mostly on layup, dunk, and jumpshot animations, you’ll find that the improvement of branching animations transitions you to feeling as if this is a real live NBA broadcast.
Playing on the “All-Star” difficulty or higher will truly give you one of the most realistic experiences you can imagine in a basketball title. Playing against teams like the Thunder, Lakers, or Heat can be incredibly frustrating as you struggle to cover all of their weapons. Playing smart and realistic basketball will tend to make your life easier. For the first time in a basketball simulation game, it feels that trying to shoot threes and dunk every possession actually hurts your chances of winning.
Though it may not get the “back of the box” attention it deserves, NBA 2K13 sees the dribbling mechanics moved to the right analog stick. One of the most frustrating parts of the series in recent years has been the lack of feeling that you’re truly in control of your players. Crossovers and dekes are now incredibly fluid, and low-post play becomes an impressive game of “cat and mouse”. While there still needs to be a bit of tuning, it’s a fantastic first year implementation of a feature that was long overdue.
Stat-overlays showcase up-to-date league statistics in your association as well as other small nuances that you wish actual broadcasts might include. The over-stylish feel of certain elements of the presentation can quickly sour your opinion, however. The NBA 2K series could severely benefit from having an actual broadcast network, such as NBC, to bring their authenticity to a new level. For a game that prides itself so much on being an NBA replica, this oversight in presentation is a bit bothersome. Screen-wipes, branded logos from an established network, and similar features can go a long way into immersing a gamer on the virtual court that the NBA 2K series provides.
Looking at the modes, the two biggest attractions this year will be Association & My Player. Association returns with the ability to play offline by yourself, or online with every team being owned by a human player. 2K has taken quite a few steps to ensure that commissioners of these leagues have much more control than in years past.
If you’re more interested in playing just as a single player this year, then My Player will not disappoint you. Regardless of the position you play, you’ll need to ensure you don’t shoot every single time down the floor. In years past, playing as a guard or small forward seemed to be the only enjoyable positions. However, playing as a center or power forward this year feels much more important thanks to your teammates actually giving you the ball.
As you progress through your career, you’re also given the ability to purchase Signature Skills via the Virtual Currency to upgrade various aspects of your game. For big men, having the Eraser skill proves viable as it allows you to dominate on defense down low with powerful blocks. Skills range across each position allowing you to crossover defenders much easier, become a lockdown defender, or hit enough corner threes to make Ray Allen jealous.
Press conferences are still fun, and the shoe creator proves to be amazing as well. Create your own shoe and become a popular enough player and you just might see other NBA players wearing your shoes. Yes, you can literally start your own shoe empire just like Michael Jordan in NBA 2K13. The game allows you to pick color schemes, materials, and even allows to you take legendary Jordan shoes and personalize them to your liking. The endorsements deals that you ink in your career, such as Nike or Jordan brand, help your influence both on and off the court. Playing well, having a killer shoe, and answering questions correctly can quickly turn you into an NBA icon.
The balance of defining what kind of player you are on the court versus how you shape your personality off the court is unrivaled in any sports title to date. While GM interactions and press conferences may hold visual textures that make you want to vomit, the benefit gained from those experiences is great. Mad that your coach didn’t play you enough or your teammates let you down? Take the high road or literally give them Hell and see how your fans and team react. The beauty of this section of the game is that you can truly be the player you’ve always dreamed of being. You don’t have to always be politically correct with your answers to questions from the media, but you may see that your teammates or coach lose trust in you. Be enough of an idiot when it comes to answering these questions and you may see your playing time dip or your teammates not passing you the ball that much. It’s one of those features that lends a heavy RPG aspect to allow players to dig deep and become invested in the mode.
Fans looking for the famous My Crew mode to return will be extremely disappointed to learn that it wasn’t added to NBA 2K13. While the online experience runs fairly solid this year, fans are still looking for the return of Crew mode to play with their friends as their My Player that they’ve built up. As mentioned earlier, Online Association will definitely keep you satisfied this year if you have active members but we still need to see more depth of quality modes in the online arena.
While other modes are included in the title, such as Ultimate Team clone known as My Team, fans will enjoy the meat & potatoes of what NBA 2K13 offers. A quantum leap won’t be found here, but the argument can be made that NBA 2K offers such an authentic experience that it doesn’t need to reinvent the wheel.
NBA 2K13 was developed by Visual Concepts, and published by 2K Games. An Xbox 360 copy was provided by the publisher for the purposes of review.