Knowing they've produced one of the best sports game series of all time, 2K Sports seems comfortable resting on their laurels, as NBA 2K13 remains great, but could have been much better.
- The new control stick is delightful
- My Player mode should be emulated by all other sports sims
- The game remains the best basketball simulator ever made
- The game fails to innovate on many levels
- For the most part, the game is a carbon copy of 2K12
- There is a Coldplay song on the soundtrack
- No, really, Coldplay
NBA 2K13 Review:
I truly enjoyed NBA 2K12. So I wasn’t surprised that I truly enjoyed NBA 2K13 as well. The gameplay remains flawless, visuals are fairly realistic and MyPlayer mode is the best player sim in the biz. Unfortunately I only liked 2K13 because I felt, at most times, that I was just playing 2K12. 2K’s most recent installment in their stalwart basketball series fails to innovate on so many levels that sometimes it feels like just an expansion for 2K12.
Do I look like a rookie to you?
There are improvements though. My Player mode has become even better this time around. This emphasis is clear from the jump, as the moment you boot up the game you are directed toward the player creator. Of course, my character was immediately given his signature bright red Mohawk. And just like last year, 2K Sports didn’t get my suggestion to make the Mohawks higher. Well there’s always next year.
As I’ve come to expect from 2K Sports, the gameplay is flawless. A large change hasbeen made in the Control Stick, which gives even more specific control of your player. One joystick is used for dribbling moves and breaking ankles, and then when it was time to shoot, I could simply pull the left trigger and seamlessly execute a shot using the same stick. This made for some fantastic double moves that were surprisingly easy to execute. This gave me the unprecedented ability to do exactly what I wanted to with my player, which is saying something since the controls were already spectacular.
Beyond control of my player in-game, I felt like I had total control over his life. This is due to just how much more experiential My Player mode is this time around. A pseudo-Twitter feed gives you responses from fans, analysts and other players, all of which depend on how you perform in every game. This featureactually took a toll on my psyche as every time I had a bad game, five people would tell me how poorly I had done, citing stats and everything. Along with a demoralizing Twitter feed is the new in-game coach feedback. Now when you get benched, your coach definitely lets you know why, with a cruel pop-up that generally follows a bad play (or a good play).
Game Goals, once an opportunity to rack up some experience points, are now gone. The Dynamic Goals that are given randomly in game are still extant, although they don’t really replace the constant benchmarks Game Goals offered. Gone too is the usefulness of drills. Drills were once requisite in improving your player, but they now offer so few skill points that there’s no point in even doing them.
Unfortunately, the entire economy of skill points has been upset in 2K13, and not in a good way. Skill points are harder to come by, and upgrading your player takes far more time. There are now Signature Skills—abilities of which you can equip three that boost a certain stat such as dunking, rebounding, shooting, etc. It’s actually a really neat idea that gives the game even more of an RPG feel. Unfortunately these Signature Skills are so expensive you could spend half a season saving up just to buy one. Because the signature skills are so expensive, no matter how much you play, you'll probably never earn enough points for some of the upgrades. On one hand, you'll always have more upgrades available, but on the other hand, they'll always seem out of reach.
A bench-worthy effort
If you played NBA 2K12 and you’re buying NBA 2K13 and expecting major changes in anything other than My Player mode,you’re going to be sorely disappointed. Indeed, the hot buzz surrounding the game this year was that it was produced by Jay-Z and included a soundtrack handpicked by Jay-Z. Turns out Jay-Z has no business producing a video gamesoundtrack. Including the 1992 Dream Team was one of his more inspired ideas, but the soundtrack? Not so much. The meager 24 songs include some okay rap songs, some good rap songs, a U2 song, a Daft Punk song and a Coldplay song. Yes, you read that right. There is a 1/24 chance when watching players warm up pre-game, you’ll be watching them do it to the morose, overwrought whining of “Viva La Vida.” For the most part the soundtrack feels like “Now That’s What I Call Music NBA 2K13 edition.”
Which brings me to my main gripe with the game—it seems to lack effort. Sure, 2K had a good thing with NBA 2K12, but instead of improving that game, they simply remade it with new characters and while there are improvements, they don't add up to much in the overall experience. Online multiplayer and dynasty mode have seen no change. 2K has a monopoly on the market, and with the recent cancellation of EA Sports’ NBA Live, it’s likely they’ll be the only player in the space for sometime to come.
NBA 2K13 feels like it suffers from sports game sequel malaise. Take, for example, the voice for My Player mode. It's the same racially ambiguous caveman voice it’s always been and many of the questions in post-game interviews are lifted directly from the previous game. And the post-game interview feature, once innovative, has become an enormous waste of time. With a year to improve the feature, 2K literally did nothing. There are still only two character models for reporters, and they’re still boxy and would look at home in an N64 game. When many games are now featuring hundreds of hours of voice acting, it’s baffling that 2K couldn’t even pony up to pay for more than one guy. Or to pay that guy to read any new lines this year.
And while I’m talking about voices, the Xbox 360 version of the game features Kinect support. This allows you to call plays and timeouts, and is really nothing more than a token effort. Indeed, the only time I used it was when my roommate would yell “timeout!” to screw up my shots.
I don’t mean to harp on one specific example, but it’s simply a perfect representation of what bugs me about with NBA 2K13. It’s still a great game and I’ll still be plugging over a hundred hours into it before the next one comes out. Many of my complaints are just the dozens ofthings the game could have done to make it truly great. Put in more than two reporter models. Pay for more voice acting. Make even token improvements to the visual aspects of the game.
A superstar gets complacent
NBA 2K13—building on the successful and delightful NBA 2K12—remains a fantastic basketball simulator. With a robust My Player mode, already-great online multiplayer and gameplay that just won’t quit, it’s clear why 2K is the only name in the basketball video game market. However, this dominance has bred complacency, and 2K13 fails to improve much over 2K12. While still great, making only minor improvements 2K13 makes it clear that it’s not doing anything to break the mold.
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Editor's Note: NBA 2K13 was reviewed using an Xbox 360 copy of the game; however, we also played the PS3 version, and found no differences. If further investigation reveals any differences between the 360 edition and the PS3 edition of the game, this review will be updated to reflect those differences.