previews\ Sep 26, 2012 at 9:00 am

NBA 2K13 Demo Impressions


Yesterday, 2K Games released the demo for NBA 2K13, and although my somewhat limited knowledge of basketball may have handicapped my gameplay, it certainly didn't hinder my experience with the brief time I had with the highly-anticipated game.

While interest to basketball is directly correlated to the recent success of my home team, the Miami Heat, winning the championship, I've had my eye on NBA 2K13 for quite a while now. The team at 2K Games has made some really big changes with this year's installment that impact the overall gameplay experience. Needless to say, I was excited when I was able to play the demo and get my first real hands-on time with NBA 2K13.

Unfortunately, the demo consists only of one five-minute quarter. It's a rematch of last year's NBA Finals between the Miami Heat and Oklahoma City Thunder. I, of course, took control of the Miami Heat and the big three. Although only two teams are available for just one quarter, the demo does feature an online play option to test your skill against players from around the world.

The most obvious thing 2K Games wanted to show off was the game's impressive soundtrack led by Executive Producer Jay-Z. The simplistic setup of the demo didn't reveal too much in terms of menu navigation, but it did get us a good feel for the highly-touted soundtrack. I did think it was a little odd that a soundtrack as badass as NBA 2K13's kicked off with the somewhat underwhelming track of Coldplay's "Viva la Vida". Over time the soundtrack did win me over with the likes of Jay Z's "Public Service Announcement".

The demo did give a brief glimpse at the broadcast presentation. A smooth intro brought us to the American Airlines Arena where 2K Games successfully recreated that Miami Heat atmosphere. From Lebron James signature chalk powder throw to the Heat fans' inability to coordinate wearing the team's colors, 2K Games nailed the environment. I did notice a few hiccups and slight pauses when the game transitioned between scenes, however. I'm also pleased to announce that the crowd actually looks better than most sports games! Seeing as how close they are to the action in basketball, it's nice to see 2K pay a little attention to that aspect. 

Speaking of details, the gameplay animation and graphics are extremely impressive. Even for a demo which was likely scaled down to save space, NBA 2K13 looks fantastic. Character models, save for a few lesser knowns like Shane Battier, are pretty accurate. Lebron James, Dwayne Wade, and James Harden, for instance, all look quite impressive. 

Players each have their own distinct movements that make each of them feel unique and different than the others. For instance, doing a crossover with Russell Westbrook is quite different than performing one with Shane Battier. Collision animations are more realistic and players are more likely to react rather than going through each other like ghosts.

NBA 2K13 Control Stick

The animation improvements are complimented with the all-new dribbling controls. 2K has made some serious changes to the Control Stick functionality on both the offensive and defensive side of the ball that provide a more fluid gameplay experience which, in turn, creates a more authentic and realistic basketball experience. 

While the Control Stick functionality allows for more control on both offense and defense, it truly shines on the offensive side of the ball. Let's be honest, professional basketball is all about the offense anyway. The new control stick does take a bit of getting used to. Whereas the Right Stick used to be used for shooting, it's now been changed to control dribble moves. This allows for quick and easy crossovers/spin moves, as well as seamless transitions into your shot. When combined just right, the final outcome animation is a thing of beauty.

There's no more awkward stopping and shooting. Now, when you're Lebron James driving to the basket you can crossover and take it right to the hole all in one seamless motion. I must warn you, this isn't as easy as it sounds. While fancy dribbling moves are done with a simple right stick movement, shooting requires you to hold down the shot modifier. Although it's designed for fluid transitions, the result early on can be some accidental, awkward shots.

NBA 2K13 lebron james dunk

Dunking is even more complex, requiring you to hold the shot modifier (Left Trigger), turbo button (Right Trigger), and right stick all at once. Muscle memory did eventually kick in, but it was a little awkward at first. I suggest you pay close attention to the brief game control overview prior to the demo.

In all, the changes made to NBA 2K13 add another layer of realism to the already impressive NBA 2K franchise. The new controls do take some getting used to, but the improved gameplay more than makes up for the slight learning curve. Although the demo was brief, the improvements made to NBA 2K13 are not only noticeable, but welcomed as well. The developers of this year's title have worked hard to make every aspect of NBA 2K13 more entertaining than its predecessor, and from my short experience it looks like they are well on their way to achieving that goal. 

You don't have to take my word for it. The demo for NBA 2K13 is now out on Xbox LIVE and PlayStation Network. The full version of the game is set to release on October 2.

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