The NBA is due to tip off at the end of the month, and with it comes the release of NBA 2K13. Last year developers Visual Concepts produced a fantastic game, packed with incredible player detail and deep gameplay. So, the question is, can they do it again? While the short answer is yes, there are a few things that stop the game being as great as it could be.
But, before we get into the NBA 2K13’s small issues, it has to said that NBA 2K13 is a fantastic game. All of today’s biggest stars, as well as plenty of legends from the past, are reproduced with amazing care and detail. They look and move exactly right, whether they're shooting from the perimeter or dunking over the opposing centre. In NBA 2K13 the number and accuracy of player animations is remarkable.
Add to this a great control system that lets you perform the basics easily, but has the range to cover an incredible amount of complex screens, steps, and shots, and you have a game that can’t be faulted. If all you want is a game that looks fantastic, and plays smooth and intuitively, where you can match the Heat against the Thunder with every player recognisable and unique, then NBA 2K13 would be an across the board 10/10.
So why isn’t NBA 2K13 10/10? What’s better than last year? What’s worse? What’s missing from last year? And what’s new?
Starting with the new stuff. On the cover of the game, above cover stars Griffin, Durant, and Rose, is Jay-Z’s credit as executive producer. What this means is you get to play as the 1992 Dream Team; apparently they needed Jay-Z to come up with this. And, you get a lot of Jay-Z songs on the soundtrack. So it’s a good thing we all like Jay-Z so much. At least until you dig through the menus a bit and find the playlist editor.
The second and arguably more important addition is the new control system. This year your basic player movements are still handled with the left stick while the right stick lets you cut and step. Now, if you press the left trigger you can also shoot and dunk with the right stick. Although it takes a bit of practice, the setup allows for an amazing amount of dynamic moves and highlight reel dunks. But, thankfully, if you’d rather ease your way into the new controls, you can just switch back to last year’s system. Or just stay with pressing the B button.
Also added this year are some extra features within the extremely enjoyable singleplayer career mode that lets you take your created player from the rookie draft to retirement. This year, as well as making the starting line-up and upgrading your skills with drills and special coaching sessions, you also have to deal with the game’s business side. So throughout the season you’ll talk with sponsors, negotiate contracts, and - new this year - you can go to the GM at the end of a game and bitch about the other players, the coach, and how you’re not getting enough playing time.
If playing singleplayer career mode is too easy, NBA 2K13 has plenty to offer online. With various quick match options, including 3 vs.3 BlackTop matches, and a quick link to the Virgin gaming tournaments, there is plenty to challenge you. New this year is the MyTeam mode. Like EA’s Ultimate Team you get issued with a set of players and then have to earn Virtual Coins to build a team to be competitive with online.
When you get your first set of players, you know you’re in trouble, as Kyle Korver is the best of them. To help, you are issued with one thousand Virtual Coins which you can use to buy players, skill packs, uniforms, coaches, and playbooks. Of course, LeBron or Kevin Durant will cost you 20,000 VC, so you don’t even think about them until you’ve won a heap of games. The best thing about getting VC is that you can earn it in all sorts of ways. No matter whether you're playing online games or advancing your singleplayer career, every assist and rebound gets you a couple of coins.
But NBA 2K13 hasn’t just decided to add things to this year’s game. Unfortunately, they have also taken things away. Just about the best thing about last year was the whole Michael Jordan theme. All the classic Jordan moments were brilliant and Jay-Z or not, there is nothing this year that’s as engaging. Although the Dream Team is there, simply selecting them in the quick game option and playing against the 2012 US team is not the same.
Although, this year you can spend half an hour dominating Team USA with a celebrity team that includes Jersey Shore’s Pauly D, Bow Wow, and a giant dominant Justin Bieber. It’s surreal and pretty funny, but it also highlights how friendly the game is this year compared to last.
In 2K13 the difficulty seems to have been taken down a notch across the board. From the moment you start, not only will you be out playing Kevin Durant with the Bieb, but draining threes and dunking are both noticeably easier. Like EA found with big hits in their NHL game, 2K Sports have come to realise that foregoing a bit of realism for a few more dunks is a trade most gamers will be happy with.
What a lot of gamers haven’t been happy with, at least those with the 4GB Xbox, is the failure of MyCareer mode. Up until the fix came online midweek, the game froze at the end of your player’s first NBA game. A crap start for a lot of gamers, and along with a few minor issues like the screen going black after a highlight replay, and a bit of confusion navigating the menus, there’s the possibility that 2K13 may have its fair share of problems.
Despite these technical niggles, there has been an effort to clean up the online lag and connectivity issues that 2K12 suffered from, and the good news is I didn’t have trouble with either. But, we’ll have to wait and see what it’s like when the whole world starts pounding on 2K’s servers.
And the world should, because NBA 2K13 is a fantastic game. That’s without going into details about the brilliant commentary. Commentary that not only keeps up with the play, but also drops in references about your previous game and things you said in the press conference that might alienate your team mates. Add to this the ability to design your own shoes, tweets from opposing players calling you out before a game, and a whole new set of signature skills that can do anything from boost your outside shooting, stop you fatiguing in the first quarter, or just power up your dunk.
So, this season the Thunder are more experienced, more people have warmed to LeBron, and Shaq has already started hating on Dwight Howard. And, while there are still some issues on the bench and in the locker room, on court, where it counts, NBA 2K13 still dominates. Throw down, in your face, domination.