NBA 2K13 Review (Xbox 360)
Delivering year after year on expected greatness is no easy feat, but even harder is daring to gain new ground without losing the blueprint that originally paved a successful path. This year’s iteration of NBA2K certainly looks to dazzle, but also features one of the biggest gameplay changes arguably since the franchise’s inception.
With a two-pronged attacked aimed to both satisfy basketball gaming enthusiasts and also increase pure entertainment value, 2K Sports seeks not only to produce another great hoops title, but to also engrain the franchise deeper in today’s pop culture.
Does NBA2K13 accomplish this full on takeover?
Production value is a high note for 2K Sports yearly hoops franchise as NBA2K13 boasts some of the best presentation elements ever seen in a sports game. The game’s introduction features executive producer Jay-Z in a sizzle trailer to behold. Showing off Steve Novak’s “discount triple check” move and Ricky Rubio’s passing flair to the tune of Jay-Z’s “P.S.A” is sure to get you pumped and ready to ball each time you turn on the game.
NBA2K13 literally feels like a star-studded event, as you’ll even spot a few celebrities courtside during games like Justin Bieber, Bow Wow and the aforementioned minority Brooklyn Nets owner, Mr. Shawn Carter.
On the court, textures are cleaner and more colorful than previous years, and player faces are improved upon minus a few surprising mishaps like LeBron James, which is odd since they pegged him just right in NBA2K12. The commentary trio stays the same (Kevin Harlan, Clark Kellog and Steve Kerr), but their talking points are new and relevant to today’s NBA world.
Don’t be surprised to actually learn something new from the game’s commentary like I did hearing the guys discuss Phoenix Suns forward Michael Beasley mentor sessions with former Lakers guard Norm Nixon during the offseason. All these factors plus an enourmous amount of new animations we’ll get to later takes NBA2K13’s presentation to that point where it looks and feel like a real game, and also pushes to entertain like a primetime cable TV broadcast.
Since its inception in 1999, the NBA2K franchise has been renowned mostly for its authentic and deep gameplay. So it’s little surprise that NBA2K13 features the richest version of gameplay to date. With an all-new control scheme, the game comes with more intuitive moves and freedom to gamers.
The main change to the new control scheme is having formerly known isomotion dribble moves mapped to the right stick or “control stick”, taking the place of the “shotstick” in past versions of 2K hoops games. The change makes for a more natural combination of dribbles moves, but there are a few downsides. In addition to a steep learning curve for new and old gamers alike, there are some dribble combinations that are doable, but don’t quite mesh well together visually. A few dribble animations just stop in mid-motion looking like what would be called a travel or palming violation in real life.
It’s a minor hiccup in a game that’s laced with mostly spectacular animations. Equipped with what’s known as the dynamic shot generator, there aren’t a ton of shots in NBA2K13 that look exactly alike. Be prepared to see something new every time you take a shot with a defender in close proximity.
Not only is it refreshing to experience different shot types as an offensive player, this gameplay addition also pays dividends on defense as well. Too many times in past NBA2K games, you’d play great defense on a player only to see him rise up and bury his signature jump shot in rhythm like you’re not even there. Well in NBA2K13, sticking to your man defensively and putting a hand up at the right moment will cause the offensive player to actually react to the suffocating defense being played and be forced into a hanging fade-away or a double-pump heave just to get the shot off. This reduces the shot’s chances of going in and will make the offense go to something more efficient next time down court.
No-time-left-on-the-clock shots are now also properly implemented so you no longer have to worry about losing a game with 1.5 seconds remaining simply because your star player’s jump shot animation takes about 2 seconds to launch.
Even though the advancements on the offensive side of the ball far outrun the defense, playing D in NBA2K13 is rewarding when done correctly. It is by no means easy, but user on-ball defenders are given the necessary tools with the trigger buttons to be disruptive either by crowding the ball handler or cutting off driving lanes. Steals and pass deflections are rightfully toned down this year as defenders could repeatedly go for pass interceptions without repercussion in NBA2K12. In 2K13, attempting a lunge to the side, or jumping high to take away the post-entry pass incredibly undermines your defensive position so perform those moves wisely.
Blocks are more emphatic this year with new spiking animations. In the past, most blocked shots seemed to just appear because the defender’s hand happened to be in front of the ball. In NBA2K13, blocking animations actually have the defender jump and reaching to spike the incoming layup like Anthony Davis did to every shot in the nation while at Kentucky last year.
All of these fine gameplay additions are tied together by even more animations that make the gaming experience that much more realistic. From Carmelo Anthony’s “ball inspection” to LeBron and D-Wade’s sparring sessions just before tip off, there are a ton of pregame rituals in NBA2K13 that demand your attention every time they’re on screen.
Player activity in between plays are also new and fairly engaging to witness. It was quite impressive seeing Paul George make hand gestures in an attempt to figure out his coach’s instructions from the Pacers’ bench, while teammate Danny Granger was shooting a free throw. This sort of attention to detail makes NBA2K13 one of the most accurately replicated sports games ever.
Game modes & Lasting appeal
Although there isn’t a lot that’s new on paper and, to the dismay of many, My Crew doesn’t make a return, NBA2K13 holds the deepest variety of game modes for the series to date. The Association returns with some new customizable features, most notably “total sim control” which allows users to dictate their team’s playing style in a simmed contests. Users can set their team’s first, second and third options on offense, playing tempo and a defensive gameplan under this new system.
Next is the MyCareer mode which immerses your MyPlayer deeper into the NBA experience. General manager visits that play out in pretty slow and badly acted cut scenes is one of the new off-the-court activites added to your MyPlayer. Others include social integration with your teammates (taking them out for dinner), your fans (participating in charity events) and even interaction with social twitter-like personas from players around the league. The more success you get in MyCareer, the more popular you become among fans, followers and teammates.
These additions are all handled by the new virtual coins system that’s integrated throughout the whole game. In essence, you rack up points or “coins” the more you play. So playing games in another mode or even online rewards coins that users can spend on MyPLAYER attributes, new animations or even upgrade the wardrobe with a nice suit for a team dinner or a charity event. 2K Sports also allows users to buy attributes boosts with real money in the XBOX marketplace or Playstation store.
On the court, MyPlayer is pretty much the same over the last few years. When your number is called, you get in the game and try to improve your teammate grade by taking good shots, setting good picks, filling the right passing lanes and much more. 2K Sports ventures into the trading cards business with the all new MyTEAM game mode.
The overall premise of this mode, much like EA Sports’ games “Ultimate Team” is building the best possible custom team through purchasing players, coaches, playbooks and more accessories. Each MyTEAM season gives you 12 games in the “Road to the Playoffs”, win at least three of these 12 games and you’ll become a No. 8 seed.
One unique aspect to this mode is having to pay your players’ salaries. So for a player like Chris Paul, you’ll have to pay a decent amount of virtual coins to get him on your team and also break bank to keep him on your roster. Player values are based on real-life performances by their real life counterparts, hence making for a flexible player market that encourages smart strategizing when building your MyTEAM.
With this new addition, NBA2K13 builds on an already familiar custom team mode and gives more reason not only to keep playing, but also keep up with real NBA hoops so you know the right time purchase a player – sort of like the waiver wire in fantasy sports. With game modes this deep in content, variety, and mostly all tied together with the virtual coin system, NBA2K13 is a title that is sure to keep gamers on the hardwood all season.
Usually this sports franchise’s Achilles heel, playing online in NBA2K13 isn’t as problematic as years past. It’s certainly not perfect, but the online servers have held up well in my brief playing time so far, although your mileage can obviously vary depending on connection type, location and time of day.
As far as content is concerned, online features are standard from last year’s game with the new additions being MyPLAYER Blacktop and the ability to compete with both the “Dream Teams” as well as classic teams like the Allen Iverson’s 2001 Sixers or Jerry West and the ’72 Lakers. Unfortunately, you can only play with those teams in a regular head-to-head matchup as a tournament setup still doesn’t exist online.
The online version of The Association doesn’t receive much of an upgrade apart from commissioner options that were big omissions last year. However, one of the most egregious features still sadly exists in this mode – the ability for ANY league member to veto a trade. Being able to anonymously veto a trade is a huge downer for online deals. Such power should be reserved for league admins or a select few.
Overall, despite mostly the same experience, the stable servers at least show the NBA2K series is headed in the right direction (finally) online.
It’s hard to keep improving on a game that has been consistently very good to great in recent years, but with stunning presentation, way more attention to gameplay detail, and the promotional backing of entertainment mogul Jay-Z, NBA2K13 not only retains the sports gaming title, but also increases its presence in today’s pop culture. It’s still a few steps behind the popularity of “Madden” here state-side and “FIFA” internationally, but with such a realistic experience coupled with high production value, this 2K Sports franchise could very well be on it’s way to that level of fame.
The all-new dribble control stick takes some getting used to for 2K gamers, but its intuitive system makes it an enjoyable learning experience. Computer AI on higher levels are not to be taken likely.
Despite a few ghastly looking faces, the overall look is fresher and players’ skin don’t look as “greyed” out as previous versions. Very impressive presentation elements like the Nike+ replays and great player interaction during and after plays. Recommend heading over to the animations menu and watching the large variety of new animations one by one. Yes, they are that good.
Soundtrack is great … for those who are hip-hop fans. Players can be heard in games trying to exaggerate contact to get a favorable call or calling out defensive assignments. In-game commentary is fully equipped to engage, entertain, and educate gamers while playing. Clearly the best commentary sports games have to offer.
Although there aren’t a ton of new modes, the select few are implemented adequately and the layers of depth added to returning modes makes for a deeper gaming experience. Despite only a few online additions, servers are much improved over past years.
Score: 9.5 (All-Time Classic)