In a nutshell
The 2K NBA series knocked the competition off the court some time ago, and it was no surprise either. The 2K series has for a long time been the quintessential basketball simulation game with no equal. The control-mechanics and gameplay impressed and won fans over, and has over the years been tweaked and evolved to one of the most, if not the most, simulator-perfect control schemes. 2K usually implement a theme into the game of some sort; like 2K11 featuring Michael Jordan’s playable career. 2K13’s theme is a musical audio visual experience that was executive produced by the man, Jay-Z!
Developer: Visual Concepts
Publisher: 2K Sports
Distributor: Megarom Interactive
Reviewed on: Xbox 360
Also available on: Playstation 3, PSP, Wii, Wii U (upcoming)
If we had to give it a numerical score: 9.5/10
Gameplay and Controls
NBA 2K13 sees the evolution of the ‘Control Stick.’ You were able to perform varying shots with last year’s title, but the control stick has now wonderfully evolved to include the various dribbling skills. This was probably the best move for the series, as the control stick’s various dribbling moves are obvious in design and easy to come to grips with. For example to side-stepping while dribbling, you need to flick the stick in that direction to pull the move off. The trick stick works fluidly and the gameplay is now smoother because of it. You have more control than ever with the series with the new addition.
Another new addition to NBA 2K13 is the ‘Signature Skills’, which lets you add to the player’s arsenal of special skills. So you can for example make a player an even better rebounder or blocker. This is limited to the top players, and while it definitely helps, it won’t make a player something he is not. So you could for example make Dwight Howard a more consistent free-throw shooter, but he’s never going to be the next Larry Bird from outside the arch.
The gameplay is fully geared to replicating or allowing you to simulate the sport, down to the tee. Where the 2K series has always shined, and probably why sim-fans flock to it, is the ability to realistically portray the matches as they would play out in real life. The controlling-mechanics are flawless, allowing for every last aspect of the sports’ moves to be played. Things like proper post-up moves, the array of deft moments like side-stepping, all the fakes and more are portrayed perfectly. The game really does play out like a real match, delivering a great challenge and ultimately gratifying. In a real NBA match for example, the players are not always able to fly over each other and dunk every other point. The players need to work for space and use traditional plays and moves throughout the game, both offensively and defensively, and no other basketball has ever been as bang on the money in this department as the 2K series. Despite playing many of the series’ titles over the years, I still needed to go to the tutorial and learn the moves and plays.
The Game modes have received a few changes here and there but for the core modes offer a similar experience – from being able to play exhibition games offline and online, to competing in online tournaments. There’s the All-Star weekend with the game, the three-point shootouts and the dunk competition. The Association Mode is the most thorough mode that has you manage the chosen team and playing through the seasons. There is an endless amount of tweaks or settings which can make this mode as realistic as you would want – things like having to do all the trading yourself, to going through the Draft season manually. You can also switch the assistance on to help with all these aspects. So you can have the AI suggest trades for example, and then you can approve the trade yourself after the suggestion is made. In the games themselves you can switch auto-subs on or off, again either making it as difficult or as assisted as you wish.
My Player mode has been tweaked and is no longer the singleplayer career mode where you created your player and follow his journey from being a Rookie to All-star. My Player is now specifically where you can create and customise a player before entering him into My Career, the new singleplayer career mode. There is also My Team now where you can customise an entire team, the line-up and more. NBA 2K13 generally offers refinements in most areas over revolution, except for in one department that goes hand-in-hand with the sport – the sneakers. You can even try your hand at creating your own sneakers in this one, together with a ‘Nike id creation tool’ to create unique concepts.
Basketball first caught my attention around the time the sport started to gain a following in South Africa (around the early nineties) and I ended playing competitively. The Olympic Games around that era saw one of the greatest sports teams ever assembled – the American ‘Dream Team’. Featuring Michael Jordon, Scottie Pippen, Patrick Ewing, David Robinson, Charles Barkley, Larry Bird, Magic Johnsonn, Karl Malone, Clyde Drexler… basically the NBA’s finest players. By then I was properly infatuated and understood the sport, and let me tell you, the Dream Team looked liked they were playing against high-school teams in those days. Nowadays the US Olympic team actually faces firm opposition in the game, but not back then. You will have to leave your controller switched off to lose a game whilst playing as the Dream Team. You want exhibition-like matches, play as the Dream Team. This inclusion alone makes NBA 2K13 for me and I would imagine any basketball fan over the age of thirty, who remember the Dream Team of 92.
Sound and Visuals
NBA 2K13 was executive produced by Jay-Z, and wonderfully so, particularly in the audio-visual department. While I am by no means a Rap or R & B fan, when Jay-Z strings together lyrics, I listen, because they’re always fantastic. Other big names featured in the soundtrack from the genre include Rihanna, Puff Daddy (at the time) and more. There is also a stunning selection of Rock artists like Coldplay and even U2. The soundtrack includes some of the biggest tracks from the music world.
The visuals presentation of the game continues with the musical theme, and even some of the sub-menu screens include a digital amplifier in the background. I have always thought the Fifa series has boasted some really great soundtracks, but nothing like this. The difference is that the Fifa games “include” great tracks, while the sound and visual musical theme was “produced” into NBA 2K13. The game is an absolute audio-visual treat and never have I played a sport game where I didn’t skip the loading screens the moment I could until this one. NBA 2K13 even features music videos mixed in with in-game NBA footage in the loading screens, so I found myself watching entire videos. The entire game is an audio-visual feast thanks to the musical theme, making the game more than just a basketball title.
The gameplay is also a highlight in the visual department, playing out with such fluidity and realism. The player-likeliness is uncanny as are their animations – true to their real-life counterparts. One could easily mistake the footage for actual games, especially when you take the commentating into account. The matches look and sound extremely authentic. The only aspects of the visuals that let the game down are the cheer-leaders; who look bland, short on texture and unrealistic. Do we care? No. The menu system can also be a little confusing if you are not familiar to the series. The menus are not traditional i.e. you need to hit B on the controller to actually pull up the main menu, so what you see when you boot up are the quick-fire options.
It’s a shame that this title will not outsell some of the record-breaking sports titles. While the sport’s following is massive in the United States, it enjoys nowhere near as much of a following as football [soccer] does around the world. So it has no real chance of selling anywhere near as much as say a Fifa, and maybe even a PES title. With that said, the latest UKIE charts do pin NBA 2K13 as number one in its debut week in the UK.
Still the game cannot compete with football game numbers, and this is a shame, as in my opinion, NBA 2K13 is actually the finest sports game of the year, despite the football games being absolutely worthy titles. The football titles are brilliant, as are other sporting titles I’m sure, but 2K13 is just such an outstanding simulation of the sport, that it leaves me more contented.
The Jay-Z touches also make this the best audio-visually entertaining game. Which other game do you get to see Jay-Z, Rihanna or P. Daddy music videos while your game loads.
Read about our ratings here.