Published on January 4th, 2013 | by Oliver Skjelborg0
Review: NBA 2K13
It’s that time of the year again: With another NBA 2K game and no sight of any competition from EA, has 2K pushed the boundaries of basketball, or has it decided to stay put and reap the rewards of its monopoly?
2k13 seems to have emerged victorious this year. The overall presentation is great, with executive producer Jay-Z adding to the amazing soundtrack along with huge names like Coldplay, U2 and Daft Punk. Not only does the addition of these artists add to the soundtrack, the sound production also adds to the pre-game atmosphere, with montages of past achievements before each game. Mixing this with the some rather entertaining commentators, it adds a real NBA feel to each game you play.
While the graphics are not going to win any awards, they are far from bad. The only real problems came from some of the textures, and certain non-player characters such as the GMs and coaches suffer from a problem that afflicts many titles in this genre — looking like wax heads glued onto a mannequin. The visual presentation, however, really shines through in the player movement and animation quality. Seeing LeBron James dunk, Steve Novak sink a three pointer, or your player miss feels not only genuine, but real. Movements are fluid, with none of those odd animation switches that are abundant in some sports games. Apart from the odd animation bug here and there, there is not much to break your level of immersion.
This year’s major gameplay change is the addition of the “Control Stick”. This allows you to use the right analog stick to perform crossovers, spin moves, behind the back crossovers, and anything else that your NBA idols can do. It does this while keeping all the main movement and basic dribbling on the left stick. This allows you to still do basic moves and play the game while coming to terms with the more intricate moves required to get past the defense on higher difficulties and human adversaries. Holding down the left trigger will completely change the nature of the “Control Stick”, changing it into a brand new way of taking shots. Depending on the direction you move, the stick you will take a different type of shot. Of course, this requires you to get to know the stick, but once you do, you will be sinking basket after basket.
One of NBA 2k13‘s largest changes over its predecessors is the much-improved “MyCareer” mode. This turns the game into a rather deep “Sports RPG” — if such a genre existed. You start off by customizing your character with everything from the usual points allocation and position choice, all the way up to choosing the different animations for 3-pointers, dunks and the like. This allows you to create a player that looks, plays and moves exactly like you want him to. From here you get to follow your character all the way from the NBA Draft to eventual Hall Of Fame glory. Throughout your career, you can talk to the team GM, hold press conferences and– new to this year– make your own sneakers and use an in-game “Twitter” to rile up your fans and read tweets about your current performance. While the “Social Media” and sneaker aspect of the game aren’t all that necessary (or interesting), they do add a bit of extra depth to the game mode.
Completely new to this year’s game are “Signature Skills”. These skills add an extra layer of customization and differentiation to the players on the court. For example: “Dimer” will increase the chance that the player you pass to make the shot, while a more aggressive skill like “Ankle Breaker” will make it more likely that the defender trips after your dribble moves. While these skills aren’t game changing and won’t turn your rookie into the new Magic Johnson, they can make a difference in how you find yourself playing.
Most of the game modes from previous installments return — with the exception of the “NBA’s Greatest Mode” from NBA 2k12. Aside from this, you still have all the “Playoffs”, “Seasons” and NBA Blacktop you could ever ask for. New this year is the ability to play MyPlayer Blacktop, which allows you to take your custom player online and play a game of twenty-one against a friend or random opponent to prove that your player is the next Michael Jordan.
After an extensive gameplay test, I could only find two real problems with NBA 2k13. Firstly, the menu is needlessly complicated and contrived, taking you a lot longer to find or get to the items you want. Of course, this problem lessens as you get to know the game, but for the first few hours this can really hinder your enjoyment of the game. The second problem is less game breaking but personally, it sullied my enjoyment of the MyCareer mode and the entire MyPlayer aspect of the game. This is the addition of “VC” or Virtual Currency instead of the good old fashioned Dollars. This will probably only be a problem for a small minority of people, but something seems off when your Rookie signs a two-year contract for 500 golden pirate coins. Last time I checked, Black Beard was not the owner of the Philadelphia 76ers.
All in all, NBA 2k13 really pushes the basketball genre to a whole new level, with unrivaled customization from the “MyPlayer” side of the game, and intuitive new controls with the “Control Stick. The few flaws that it has, however, are minute compared to the fun it is possible to have with this title. If it is possible for 2k Sports to pull this off while having a monopoly on the genre, it is hard to see how EA will ever be able to enter the court again.
This review is based on the Xbox 360 version of the game.
Summary: Even with another year without any competition, NBA 2k13 doesn't let up with its relentless pace and shows that world that it truly is a franchise to look out for.