NBA 2K13 Review
Written Thursday, October 11, 2012 By Richard Walker
As sports franchises go, NBA 2K is utterly unchallenged, with EA giving up on its rival NBA Live series not once, but twice having once been the basketball game of choice, years ago. Year on year, NBA 2K builds upon increasingly accomplished foundations, growing into what has inarguably become the FIFA or Madden of basketball games. In short NBA 2K has become definitive, which must make it more and more difficult to innovate and expand upon what's gone before. This year, has Visual Concepts poured enough newness into NBA 2K13 to warrant another purchase?
With Jay Z on board as Executive Producer, NBA 2K13 benefits from the Team USA license amongst other things, and the hip-hop impresario has seemingly influenced everything in the game, from the garish menu graphics to the short pre-game intros with Jay Z video and music laced over the top of it all. It's slightly incongruous to the rest of the NBA presentation, but it does lend the overall package a fresh look and style that's bold and impressive.
Stellar presentation has always been a hallmark of the NBA 2K series though, and for 2K13, MyPlayer has been slightly rejigged, and the game's home screen has been pared down. It's all part of making NBA 2K13 even more slick and stylish than its predecessors, and it's successful. On the court is where the improvements really matter though, and the most significant change for this year's iteration is the reassignment of the shot stick as the dribbling stick, which means the PS3's annoyingly spongey L2 trigger now has to be held to use the right analog stick to shoot.
"Everything's just Rose-y with the Bulls."
It sounds unwieldy, but it really isn't. Holding the L2 when shooting rapidly becomes second nature, so much so that you don't even think about it after a short spell using it. In essence, NBA 2K13 plays better than any other NBA game to date, although it really is only an incremental improvement over NBA 2K12. There's still noticeable refinements at work in the game however, from the more fluid animation, increased flexibility in the control system and more realistic crowd reactions and atmospherics. It's as close to a broadcast quality presentation in a sports game we've seen to date, proving that this is a franchise that continues to go from strength to strength. That said, this year's iteration feels like a baby step over 2K12, with little in the way of real, meaningful evolution.
Once again, the real meat of NBA 2K13 lies within the MyPlayer mode, which is actually now the umbrella name under which you'll find the rebranded 'MyCareer' mode, wherein you'll go through the same rookie proving grounds, pre-draft interviews and NBA draft as MyPlayer in 2K12. This is all leading up to your created player's NBA career, which includes the usual ups and downs throughout your NBA season, with more off-court activities to engage in, as you secure endorsement deals granting you more apparel to wear on the court, attend certain events to earn more exposure, cement your team chemistry and accrue more fans, and speak at press conferences as per usual.
There's also an in-game social network component, where you can read fictional tweets from your fans and celebrities like (yeuch) Justin “Hellspawn” Bieber (seriously) to gauge your popularity, while you watch your fan counter (hopefully) accumulate rather than dwindle. Perform consistently well in games and your popularity will soar, earning you millions of adoring fans, while failing to pull your weight will leave you maligned by the NBA faithful, with derogatory tweets hitting your feed. You can also partake in Legends training camps, where you can buy personalised tutelage from the likes of Michael Jordan, Dennis Rodman, Magic Johnson, John Stockton, Bill Russell, Larry Bird, Jerry West and Hakeem Olajuwon.
"White men can jump after all then."
Naturally the ultimate goal in MyCareer is to be picked as an NBA All-Star and if you're good enough, achieve legendary status and retire into the NBA Hall of Fame as before, but there's more to do on your way up to the top. It all demands the use of your VC (Virtual Currency) that can be earned by completing dynamic goals during a game, winning games, achieving milestones and so on. VC can also be earned outside of the MyCareer mode, which means you can build up enough currency for Signature Skills and other abilities to ensure your success in the NBA.
Outside of the expanded MyPlayer...sorry, MyCareer...you'll also find MyPlayer Blacktop events to play online (the stability of the online aspects have been noticeably improved) or offline NBA Blacktop street basketball, although the three-point shootout and dunk contest have been relegated to downloadable content. Where NBA 2K12 revelled in historical NBA teams with the NBA's Greatest mode offering legends aplenty, NBA 2K13 scales it back, with some vintage teams available for quick play games, alongside the 1992 Dream Team and 2012 Team USA. Of course, the latter two Olympic teams wouldn't have made it into the game without the powers of Jay Z at work, so as well as the game's soundtrack, you have Mr. Beyonce to thank for that.
Association Mode and Season modes return too, with the same options and features intact, as well as the ability to formulate your own team strategies, such as assigning your first second and third scoring options. NBA: Creating A Legend and My Team are back too, although it's likely that Association and MyCareer will monopolise your time the most. Yet despite all of its modes, its on-court refinements, tweaks and improvements, NBA 2K13 still seems a lot like NBA 2K12. It simply doesn't feel like it's moved on enough this year, which on the plus side means a reliably brilliant basketball game, but one that doesn't make enough of a leap over its forebear.
"Please don't kill me, Kevin!"
Even the trophies are unchanged for the most part, with a whole host not only demanding the same objectives, but also recycling the very same tile images. Lazy, lazy, lazy. As trophy lists go, NBA 2K13's is a pretty dull and uninventive one, with winning a game here, scoring a certain amount there or pulling off a triple-double, double-double or whatever. A bit more thought and freshness needs injecting into the trophies, because this year's lot is incredibly stale and uninspired.
NBA 2K13 is yet another stellar basketball game, but one that's all too familiar. It's a game that only incrementally improves upon NBA 2K12, with an animation refinement here and a small adjustment there, adding up to a game that fails to present a compelling argument to part with your cash for another year. NBA 2K12 still plays fantastically well, and NBA 2K13 is obviously even better. But is it better by a broad enough margin to warrant an investment this year? Despite being every bit as engaging, fun and as content rich as it is every year, we're not so convinced by NBA 2K13. Nevertheless, NBA 2K13 is still undoubtedly the best basketball game money can buy and yet another authoritative slam dunk from Visual Concepts.
As ever, the commentary is utterly exemplary, and the best you'll find in a sports game by some margin. The soundtrack is pumping hip-hop beats for the most part, as picked and in some cases performed by Jay Z. And there's U2 and Coldplay too. Something for everyone. Almost. You can always add your own tunes if you like.
Player likenesses are right on the money yet again, right down to all the arm tattoos, and NBA 2K13 looks as close to a proper televised basketball broadcast as you're ever likely to get from this generation. Collisions and clipping seem to have been improved too, and the animation is more fluid, if a little delayed at times.
Every bit as playable as NBA 2K12, with the added bonus of the control stick now enabling you to perform dribbling moves as well as shots. It's really a case of minor improvements this year though, meaning that while it's still undeniably great, NBA 2K13 is just not all that different from last year's version.
There's still a glut of modes and content in NBA 2K13, but with the absence of the NBA's Greatest mode, this feels slightly lighter on content than last year. It'll still keep you occupied for at least a year with Season, Association, Creating A Legend, MyCareer, My Team and an improved online component offering plenty of bang for your buck.
A largely recycled list that doesn't do anything particularly exciting. It's a solid bunch of trophies that'll prompt you to visit all of the modes, but it's pretty standard fare that reeks of “been there, done that.”
NBA 2K13 scores big once again, although it fails to offer little in the way of sweeping changes or innovations. It's still the undisputed daddy of basketball games, but we'd have liked to have seen more ideas being brought to the hardwood.
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