Review: NBA 2K13 is the best there currently is, but still room for improvement
Now that NBA LIVE 13 has been canceled, there's really only one game for NBA fans to turn to. Thankfully, that game happens to be NBA 2K13, the newest installment in a series that many already consider to be the best basketball simulation on the market. Without much competition, there really wasn't a lot 2K Games had to do to win over consumers, but that didn't stop them from making improvements on last year's already solid game.
The most noticeable improvement in NBA 2K13 is the presentation of the game. Executive produced by music icon Jay Z, NBA 2K13 now offers a complete NBA simulation package. From the impressive soundtrack to the game intros, the entire presentation just feels more polished.
Jay Z's vision is everywhere in NBA 2K13, though sometimes it's a little much. Menus are still nuance as you must navigate through a series of menus just to get to the option you want. For newcomers to the series, it might be a little difficult to sort through the glitzy mess on the main menu. The soundtrack, while impressive, might have a little too much Jay Z for its own good. Although it's fun to listen to, 25% of the game's soundtrack consisting of him seems like a bit much to me. With that being said, all that flash definitely creates a good basketball vibe when booting up the game
Glitz and glammer aside, gameplay in NBA 2K13 remains solid. Several new mechanics have been incorporated, most notably the Control Stick which now functions as a simplified way to perform complex ball handling moves. Crossovers and spin moves are now performed with precise movements of the right stick.
Actually shooting the ball in the game is another story. It's initially awkward, requiring you to hold the left trigger while pushing up on the Control Stick. With that being said, once you get used to it, it's easy to see the benefit. Although NBA 2K13 is, for the most part, a realistic basketball simulation, I can't help but feel perimeter shooters make an insane amount of their outside shots. I know that's what they specialize in, but when anybody with a little "3" by their name drains 3-point shots every possession it can get a little unrealistic.
NBA 2K13 has done something unimaginable: simplifying the control process while still creating a complex shooting system. Mapping ball-handling to the right stick allows you to seamlessly transition from driving to the basket and shooting the ball. The result is a smooth, fluid shooting or dunking motion determined by the dynamic shot generator. Although it's technically easy to perform the action, the game still requires you to plan your shot and wait for the right moment to drive to the basket or dish it out to open man. Decision making is as important as ever: do you trust your ball-handling enough to make it to the rim or do you dish it out to the open man?
In addition, each player has a unique feel to them when controlling the ball. Some are better ball handlers allowing you to navigate to the basket easier. Others, meanwhile, should remain on the perimeter for the three. Adding to the individuality are Signature Skills, or traits that give players temporary boosts like "Corner Specialist" which adds accuracy when shooting threes from the corners or "Finisher" who can finish contact layups and dunks at a higher rate than others. Although several big stars have these Signature Skills, this is most noticeable in the MyCareer mode.
Speaking of MyCareer mode (formerly known as MyPlayer), there have been some upgrades that make it even better than last year. This is easily my favorite mode in the game, though I do admit it needs more polishing. For those unfamiliar, MyCareer is like an RPG adventure through the NBA with you creating a custom player, participating in a rookie game, getting drafted, and developing your skills.
Starting off in the Rookie Showcase, you are graded on your performance along with all of the other rookies in the 2012 NBA draft. Following that you'll be interviewed with a couple of team GMs, that all look exactly the same. Then it's time to get drafted and begin your NBA career. From there you can earn VC (virtual currency) based on your play, the all-new endorsement paths, in-game achievements, etc. Using VC you can upgrade your player and learn new abilities that will help you compete against the best for more playing time. Right now, my player is awful, but I'm improving!
As good as this mode is, it can be better. First off, the amount of depth is amazing. It's a lot of fun reacting to interview questions from the press which, in turn, effect your team chemistry and fan approval. With that being said, the animations are sometimes a bit wonky and out of synch and it looks like 2K cut a few corners with some of the off-the-court presentation. Plus, I'd really like a few voices to choose from for my player. Let's just say the voice doesn't really match my player which not only ruins the immersion, but creates a laughable experience.
Also new to the game is the MyTeam mode. Though I personally don't care for it, it's a must-have for the game which now brings the fantasy-type game mode to all team sports games. MyTeam is very similar to that of EA's "Ultimate Team"; you acquire the best players in a virtual marking using currency that can be earned through completing and winning games. The difference with NBA 2K13 is that player value is determined based on their real-life performance. Since the NBA season hasn't started, it renders this feature moot at this point.
Keeping up with the franchise's homage to the past greats, NBA 2K13 brings together the entire 1992 Olympic Dream Team. Having the ability to play as these iconic superstars is thrilling, even if I did have them go up against the Celebrity team rather than the 2012 Olympic Team like everyone's been waiting to see. Needless to say, seeing Justin Bieber dunk on Jordan is quite hilarious.
And because I reviewed it on Xbox 360, I feel compelled to talk about its Kinect functionality. You know how they say everything is better with Kinect? Well, I don't think that's true with NBA 2K13. Aside from having to learn the commands, the Kinect really doesn't pick them up that well. And even when I don't say anything, it somehow picks up what the game says as a command (or just doesn't understand and shows a red X for no reason). I should also note that on the Xbox 360, the game froze once while in MyCareer mode.
There's also been some debate about getting a technical for cursing at the Kinect. After purposefully shouting curse words at it, it recognized nothing. However, my co-worker at the desk next to me randomly muttered the word "Sh*t" and I was hit with a technical; so yes, it does punish you for cursing. It just does so when it wants. Just Kinect being Kinect I suppose.
The fact of the matter is this: there's no real competition to NBA 2K13. If you want a basketball game this year, this is the one you need to get. That's definitely not a bad thing. Despite the lack of competition, 2K Games improved upon already stellar gameplay to deliver an authentic NBA basketball experience that might be the best we've seen to date. When it comes to basketball games, NBA 2K13 is as good as it gets. With that being said, there is still room to improve upon.
[Reviewed on Xbox 360]