Allow me to reintroduce myself.
From year to year, sports games sometimes change very little. Maybe add new uniforms here, update the rosters there, finished off with a different cover—it’s a copy-and-paste technique many franchises can get away with. This doesn’t mean games aren’t getting better; they have just come to a place where creativity has come to a crossroad. On one hand, they can stick with what has been working and bank off guaranteed success. On the other hand, there’s the opportunity to go big or go home. Creating something completely new and untried can worry some, but for others, it’s that next step to greatness.
NBA 2K13 wants to look greatness in the face and laugh. This year all the stops have been pulled out and the road not taken is currently been walked on by one of the baddest—that is, the best—basketball games to ever come to town. Sure, there are plenty of areas that aren’t so great, but the completeness of it all will have you satisfied for months and still leave you screaming for more.
The presentation is excellent at drawing you in and having you brimming with anticipation. Plenty of games have had good soundtracks, but I don’t know how many of them have been executively produced by a multi-platinum selling artist. 2K Sports decided to hand over the music reigns to Jay-Z himself, probably with little restrictions, and told him to make it hot. I’m sure this is exactly how the conversation went…
Man in suit: So jigga, is alright to call you "jigga"?
Jay-Z: Call me Hova.
Man in suit: OK, Hove. So as you know our 2K brand can be pretty bland when it comes to the soundtrack and we were wondering if you could make it hip, so we could all… you know… hop. *chuckles at joke*
Jay-Z: You want me to make a song for it?
Man in suit: No, no, we want you to produce the playlist. Something the kids can really boogie down to.
Jay-Z: (Lights up a cigar, takes a few puffs)
Man in suit: We could make it worth your while.
Jay-Z: I’m one of the richest entertainers in the world, son.
Man in suit: We’ll put your name on the cover and buy up Kanye West’s contract.
Jay-Z: The Roc is in the building!
Okay, maybe that's not exactly how it went, but with big lips on board, we now can enjoy tracks from Jay-Z such as "H.A.M." and "The Bounce". Other artists can be heard as well: Too Short’s "Blow the Whistle" and Mobb Deep’s "Shook Ones (Part II)" make the cut among a plethora of known songs. Presentation doesn’t stop with the music, though. Visually, the sights take your attention, and keeps it. All game modes are neatly categorized in the main menu setup and even have tags on what’s new.
In-game sights and sounds simulate real-life NBA atmosphere almost flawlessly. Many of the pre-game traditions are shown with the same flash and swagger you witness on TV. Whether it’s LeBron throwing power in the air while at the scorer’s table or KG hitting his head with the ball, everything is mimicked to life.
Unfortunately. I can’t say the same for actual gameplay. Sure, the players look as real as ever, but movement still leaves much room for improvement. Controls don’t seem to respond as quickly as you would want. On defense especially, while guarding an opponent, you are made to stay with your man, but if you're caught guessing the wrong direction, recovering is nearly impossible mostly due to the stiff mechanics of the player engine and focus on offensive movement.
On offense, shaking and baking has never been this easy. A tweak in controls has now made it possible to use crossovers and hesitation moves using just the right analog stick. Before, the right analog stick was primarily for shooting—this too has changed. Now shooting can be achieved by holding LT/L2 and flicking the right analog stick. It's a funky combination at first and it does take some time getting used to, but you've once practiced it enough, your subconscious kicks in and does the work for you.
After learning these new additions, you’re ready to take your game to the next level. “MyPlayer” is the newest and biggest addition to the series and is almost the focal point of everything. Past NBA 2K titles have had somewhat of the same mode but has never been as showcased. The process of becoming a Hall of Famer is a long one, but if you play MyPlayer long enough, you can get an idea of what it takes—you’re able to go through pre-draft interviews, workouts, and a whole lot more. Come draft day, your player will even have his name called and eventually walks up to the podium to shake hands with NBA commissioner David Stern.
Along the way, you earn tokens to spend in the MyPlayer store where you can buy new shoes, shirts, and accessories to play with in-game. Other big name modes include Creating A Legend, Blacktop, and the new MyTeam, which is much like MyPlayer but instead of raising one player to be the best, you are strategically grooming the best team possible. It is an online-connected community that will pit you against human-controlled teams of the same level. The better you do, the more unlockable content becomes available, with higher-skilled players being the most important.
One of the best parts about NBA 2K13 is the player and team licensing. When it comes to sports game licensing, EA tends to have them all, but not this time. With EA’s NBA Live taking some time off to rethink creative ideas, 2K13 is this year’s basketball mecca. Old-school players and teams make appearances, some for the first time in decades, to keep things spiced up. Michael Jordan of course has been remaking a name for himself but even better is Scottie Pippen, Charles Barkley, and the rest of the 1992 Olympic Dream Team. Other classic teams show their faces as well, like Iverson’s 2001 Finals team, Magic’s ’87 Lakers, Mutombo’s underdogged Nuggets, and so much more. Everything and anything you could possibly ask for players is here.
Even the attention to detail has been accounted for, little things like special player traits. Kobe is one of the best ever and what’s the best way to show that? Give him skills not many other players have. Personalized skillsets have been added to better represent each baller individually, with traits like dimmer, defensive stopper, and so on. For guys like LeBron, physical contact with other players seems not to bug them as much, so they will have the finisher trait, which allows them to score at the rim with better ease.
The most notable improvement are the announcers—didn't expect that, huh? Never has the script had so much info on one team. While playing with my beloved Warriors, commentators Kevin Harlan and Steve Kerr wouldn’t stop going on about the Bay and its bridges—there’s even a side note about Bart. I bet Boston fans will hear about the Bean, Detroit about Ford automobiles, and I’m sure Brooklyn will have plenty mention on relocating and Jay-Z ownership.
There is no doubt that NBA 2K13 is one for the ages. Without any other true competitors to stand in its way, the sky is the limit. If you haven’t already picked up a copy, you are sorely missing out. I can’t ever truly say if a game is worth $60, but with this one, it might be worth even more.