Platform | Release Date
360, PS3, Wii | October 2, 2012
Developed by Visual Concepts
Published by 2K Sports
NBA 2K13 is a simulation basketball video game set in the National Basketball Association. The fourteenth release in the franchise history, it has been the most popular NBA video game in recent years, and is the first to feature multiple players on the cover – Kevin Durant of the Oklahoma City Thunder, Blake Griffin of the Los Angeles Clippers, and Derrick Rose of the Chicago Bulls. Additional features include: current and past NBA superstars, optional Kinect sensor support, new mapping of player/character moves to the right analog controller stick positions, dynamic shot generation, signature skills, a revamped passing system, and more.
The decision to put Jay-Z’s name on the front of the NBA 2K13 box is a curious one. Sure, I get the fact that his name is marketable to the target audience. However, it could also be interpreted as something more insidious. For a series built around its finely-tuned simulation of basketball, did 2K Games put swagger over substance this year?
As the executive producer, he is credited for overseeing the soundtrack, in-game presentation elements, and overall style of the game. Some aspects of the presentation are amazingly well done, such as all of the pre-game reels that splice in-game action with music videos. Other aspects of its presentation don’t have the same level of polish. In particular, the menus for this game are its biggest pain point, as they are extremely confusing to navigate through. Even after hours of play, I’m still struggling with where things are and what buttons to press to move forward.
Thankfully, he did not muddle with the gameplay (at least that we know of), which still does a tremendous job of mimicking the real deal. As an avid basketball player who was a member of my high school team, I love how my knowledge transfers over to the game, as it helps me understand why certain actions worked and others didn’t.
My favorite example of this occurred during an online match, where my opponent tried to exploit his superstar point guard’s ability to score off of layups. Upon recognizing this, I switched to a 2-3 zone defense to neutralize him. For whatever reason, he didn’t adjust his tactics, which led to me snuffing every single one of his dribble drives. Thanks to this stroke of defensive genius, my lowly Toronto Raptors destroyed his San Antonio Spurs by a wide margin. It’s moments like that where the game scratches the same itch that I get from actually playing the sport.
While we’re on the subject of online play, it’s worth noting that 2K Sports finally sorted out their lag issues. Most of my online matches ran without a hitch. During the rare instances where the connection faltered, the effects were only minor hiccups in the action. Now that the game is playable online, you can get a lot more out of the numerous online-only modes.
On the court, the Control Stick for offensive maneuvers and the Signature Skills system are this season’s new additions. The former isn’t all that interesting, as EA Sports pioneered the use of the right analog stick for moves in all of their sports games many years ago. As for the Signature Skills system, it grants certain players with upwards of 5 unique defensive or offensive boosts. This isn’t a revelation either, but it does help differentiate players with an added layer of granularity.
If you’re in this for the single player experience, there’s a ton of content to sink your teeth into. You can guide your created character through the My Career mode, where managing your off-the-court exploits such as post-game interviews are a big part of the overall experience. Or you can jump into the game’s elaborate season mode, which gives you control over virtually every variable you can think of. Between those two modes alone, you can easily sink dozens of hours into guiding your player or team to glory.
However, if you enjoyed the modes involving the NBA legends from the last few iterations, you will be sorely disappointed by their absence this time around. Without them, the importance of the legendary teams available (including the 1992 Dream Team) is mostly lost. You can use them in exhibition mode, but there’s no additional fanfare to recreating a classic match-up or participating in a dream match between classic and modern teams.
Once I stopped over-analyzing the prominence of Jay-Z in NBA 2K13, it still stood tall on the strength of its tried-and-true gameplay. While it doesn’t push the envelope as far as recent installments have, there are just enough meaningful tweaks to make it worthwhile. It’s been well worth the many hours I’ve invested so far and it’ll definitely keep me busy throughout this NBA season.