E3 2012: NBA 2K13 hands-off preview

With the NBA Finals in full swing (sorry, Heat…go OKC!), this current basketball season is just about to draw to a close.  However, another one is just a few months away, and 2K Sports is already getting ready for it with the latest addition to its NBA 2K series.  However, there’s more on the line this time around, as EA Sports is readying the return of its NBA Live series around the same time.  But it appears that 2K is ready for the challenge, as it showed us a very stable NBA 2K13 behind closed doors this past week at E3.

First off, everything you pretty much remember from the series in previous years is completely intact.  The gameplay is still very well balanced from what we’ve seen, between shooters taking three-pointers from the outside and power players like LeBron James not showing any fear driving to the basket.  However, 2K is making a few improvements in this area, working to open up more offensive opportunities when you have the ball, and a few defensive strategies when it comes to stealing it back, including a sort of timing system that it didn’t quite elaborate on yet.  Soon enough, we suppose.

Another huge change that’s being made involves the transition animations.  In past NBA 2K games, players would awkwardly go from one dunk animation to a celebration one, looking all robotic in the process.  With 2K13, that has changed, with better animations added so players look much smoother.  You’ll be able to notice this the first time you go running down the court, transitioning from slow trot to full blown blast to the basket.  It’s really quite something.

Perhaps the biggest thing that 2K showed, however, was the inclusion of the NBA All Star Weekend.  This is being introduced as a pre-order initiative for the game, and available free of charge to those who buy it day one.

The All-Star pack includes the Rising Stars Challenge, with various drills and contests; a three-point shooting competition; and the Slam Dunk Contest, in which you can take any player, legend or active, to the hoop with some crazy trick dunks.

Now, this isn’t based on a system where you have to manipulate analog sticks in just the right way.  Instead, you choose your dunk, whether you want an assist or not, and then take it to the hoop.  As you go up, a Guitar Hero-like mini-game breaks out, requiring you to hit buttons in succession while your player moves in the background.  The more buttons you hit, the better chance you have of landing the dunk.  It’s a bit gimmicky, but an interesting way to get the point across.  Plus, 2K is working on trying to get a Kia car in the game.  Hey, great, we’ll put Durant in there so he can shut Blake Griffin up, yes?

NBA 2K13 is set for release on October 2, and between now and then, the developers at Visual Concepts will unveil more information about the game, including new online features and other gameplay additions.  We’ll cover it in more detail then, but for now, get excited.  You’ll be slam dunking again in just a few months’ time.