It’s a safe bet to say that 2K Sports have had it their own way for a couple of years due to EA’s last basketball outing being NBA Live 10, which was released just before the dreaded and now dead to the world NBA Elite 11, and the recently cancelled NBA Live 13. 2K Sports with the NBA 2K series have pushed the sport of basketball in video game form to new heights every year and with EA out of the picture yet again, have the guys at 2K Sports again pushed the series even further? Or have they rested on their laurels? Read on to find out if NBA 2K13 is Michael Jordan in his prime or a missed open slam dunk.
Game: NBA 2K13
Developer: Visual Concepts
Publisher: 2K Sports
One thing that the 2K series is famous for in the past is the way that everything, from court designs to sounds from the commentators and the crowd, are all implemented so authentically so that from a distance, it looks like a real-life broadcast of an NBA game on TV and nothing changes with NBA 2K13. Only one game can rival the presentation that is in the NBA 2K series and thats the PS3 baseball sim, MLB: The Show. NBA 2K13 is stunning when it comes to the look and feel of capturing the sport in video game form. Not only do the crowds move with the action, each of the NBA’s superstar players have their own signature moves animated in 2K13. Even when a game isn’t being played and it’s the end of a quarter for example, there are cutscenes that include advertisements for upcoming real-life NBA matches and sponsor notifications. There is also court side entertainment in the form of mascots, cheerleaders and my favourite of all is the ‘Player of the Game’ video segment at the end of each game. This shows clips of the game you have just taken part in with a funky and edgy black and white look. These little additions are what make NBA 2K13 what it is in the looks department. This is just a few of the brilliant additions that the talented team at 2K Sports have implemented to make the game as realistic as possible.
Brooklyn Nets part-owner and rapper extraordinaire, Jay Z, was an executive producer on the game, advising on the look and feel of the game along with the soundtrack. Although his input might seem a bit odd to some, it fits very well in the context of his involvement in the NBA with the Nets and it comes across very well indeed as an overall package. Not only does the game now show more of an artistic style with music videos alongside montages of NBA 2K13 gameplay at the start of a game, which look breathtakingly brilliant, but the soundtrack also features tracks that supplement the game well and fit right alongside the sport and the spectacle as a whole with Jay Z, Rihanna and Coldplay featuring for example. Graphically, NBA 2K13 is beautiful to look at and it cant be faltered at all. There is so much going on on screen yet everything looks polished and runs at a very constant frame rate without any issues. It’s clear that 2K want to show the glitz and glamour of the sport and they seem to improve this every year, but I think this year, they have taken it to a whole new level.
Along with the graphical beauty within NBA 2K13, the team at 2K Sports have a thing about making sure that the whole overall experience is as authentic and as lifelike as possible. They have paid as much attention to the sound that has been captured as they have done with the graphical presentation. Everything from entrance music, to crowds reacting to the famous NBA Basketball audio from the PA inside each arena. It’s all there and so brilliantly implemented for each team. It’s staggering as to just how much detail has been added with audio to make it feel like a real life basketball game. As well as the ambience in each arena, the commentary team are the best that I’ve ever heard in a sports title. They never repeat themselves and the timing of important calls are superb. Last year’s commentary was pretty good but this year’s audio from them really is special. They not only comment on what’s happening on the court, but they also talk about various players and their season performances in so much more detail. It flows so effortlessly without any breaks in the play or awkward pauses where audio has been edited together. It’s that good that there were plenty of situations where during a game, they were talking about a player and then when there was a scoring opportunity, they would effortlessly fall back into the action without any hesitation or error. It’s clear that the commentary has been recorded in the same booth on the same day as it’s so fluid and natural and this is without a doubt, the best audio commentary I have ever heard in a sports game, period. It’s so lifelike, it’s scary.
The main aspect of NBA 2K13 is, of course, the gameplay and I can be sure in saying that for those that plan to buy the game, you will not be disappointed. It’s super fun to play like it always has been but it has been tweaked in such a way with the new right stick dribble system, that it adds an added layer to the gameplay. After playing with the new control system, I’m miffed how I’ve been playing this series without the new control system, as it really does make you realise just how good this addition is and how much it opens up the way the game ebbs and flows, just like a real life game of basketball does. The pacing has been toned down since last year’s title and it’s all for the better. There were times while playing NBA 2K12 where the pace was a tad too fast and it felt like every game that you played in, was being played with players that pre-game, drank a bathtub full of Red Bull. But in 2K13, this has been toned down to give it a more natural and subtle pace and this helps towards the better feel on the court.
The controls within have been given a little addition to give the player more control and ultimately, more realism as players now move more naturally than ever, thanks to the new ‘Control Stick’ dribbling and shooting system. Main player control is still used with the left analogue stick but now in conjunction with the right analogue stick, you can pull off more varied and tuned moves to shimmy between players, open space up, execute signature moves and most importantly, have more control over the player and ball. Along with the new ‘Control Stick’ for dribbling, it can also be used for shooting like I mentioned briefly above. By using the right stick and holding down L2/LT, you can now pull off a variety of precise shots all in the context of the right analogue stick. For those that would prefer to use a face button for shooting, the option is still there but with the new right stick shooting system, at least you have the option to learn it later on if you so wish to. One criticism I have for the way 2K has implemented the new ‘Control Stick’ element is the fact that there isn’t even a hint of a tutorial of any kind for those that maybe are new to the series and wanted to have some help, or even to those like myself that have been playing the series for a number of years, but would have liked to see the ins and outs of exactly how the new addition works. I’m surprised that 2K didn’t add this and it’s a shame that they didn’t in all reality.
As well as your standard affair of game modes like quick game with new and old line ups for a number of NBA teams, season and online, MyPlayer returns and it’s even more engaging than last year’s take on the same mode. Play as a rookie, get drafted and then see yourself attending press conferences to answer a various amount of questions regarding performances and how you are progressing. There is so much detail included, that you can even talk behind your coaches back saying that you don’t like him, or that you don’t like the way he is doing things with the team. It’s all very detailed and adds even more depth to what was an already solid mode. The whole MyPlayer mode has been given that added content to make it feel like more of an RPG behind the scenes, but this is never a bad thing as it works very well indeed. It’s very similar to last year’s offering but with so much more depth and a deeper sense of the tools you have at your disposal, it’s pleasing to know that it received even more time to make what was an already great mode, so much better.
Also involved this time round are the 1992 USA Dream Team that includes legends such as Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson and Charles Barkley alongside the current 2012 Olympics USA team who also make an appearance. This is a great addition as arguably, the 1992 Dream Team are the best ever and to have them in the 2K series is a great addition and it brings the nostalgic levels through the roof. Again, like everything else on a presentation front, the whole element is beautifully replicated within NBA 2K13. One very odd choice of team that has been added as well, and after god knows how many hours sitting down and playing this, I’m still baffled why, but there is a celebrity team that, I kid you not, includes Justin Bieber and Sean Kingston amongst others. Why 2K decided to add this is beyond me. Very strange decision indeed and to give them basically the same overall rating as both the 1992 Dream Team and the 2012 Gold medallists that consists of LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Kobe Bryant, is even more baffling.
Although the game is a stunning sports title in every aspect, there are a few slight issues that still persist. The first one is that some transitional animations can become awkward and look, at times, a little rough. This is a very small problem though as for most of my time with the game, I didn’t notice it a huge deal and it’s probably more of an issue with the engine and the hardware it is running on, being at its maximum. It is in there rarely but it doesn’t effect the superb gameplay that NBA 2K13 is great at. The online side of things isn’t perfect either with lag still present on quite a few match-ups I was involved in, although it has been improved more since last year’s offering and it seems to be happening like that on a yearly basis. Fingers crossed next years game will resolve these issues fully. The other issue and this is an annoyance is the menu system itself. It’s cluttered and feels horrible. Like previous releases, it’s something that hasn’t been addressed and something that needs to be for NBA 2K14. It’s a struggle and at times becomes as frustrating as being on hold while listening to the whole back catalogue of James Blunt albums back to back.
To sum everything up in a small paragraph, NBA 2K13 is a stunning technical achievement that has a rich and fun gameplay element alongside the best presentation ever represented in a sports title on any console title ever. Even if you’re not a fan of basketball as a sport, if you like sport on a general level, then you need to play this. It’s that damn good that nobody should miss out. Yes, it has its slight annoyances, but even with these, it’s still the best sports simulation title out there by quite some distance. A few months back, EA cancelled NBA Live 13 and on this showing, I think that they made a very good decision indeed as it will take some doing to knock this off its stride.