NBA 2K13 Features Preview -- Expanding Your Off-Court CareerBy Adam Rosenberg - Posted Sep 12, 2012
The last time I saw Visual Concepts' NBA 2K13, it was a purely hands-on session aimed at demonstrating how the quality of NBA 2K12's silky smooth gameplay has been further enhanced in 2012's follow-up. You can read that NBA 2K13 hands-on preview for yourself, but the short version is: it's still solid, with added improvements.
I returned last week to check out what's in the game when you're not on the court, and am happy to report back now that 2K13 offers all of the depth that you would expect from a first-class pro sports simulation.
The hook that drew me in for the preview appointment was a deeper glimpse into how Jay-Z's executive producer touch has helped shaped the game. It's something that becomes apparent the moment you fire up NBA 2K13, with an intro that weaves gameplay footage alongside looks at Jay performing live in concert. In other words, it's a music video.
This carries through to the pre-game sequences that run before each game. Like the intro video, you'll see a mixture of gameplay and live-action footage, blended to play alongside each other in creative ways. Sometimes it's concert or music video footage from one of the artists featured on the soundtrack. Sometimes it's a live-action aerial view of the arena you're playing in. When your created MyPlayer is in the mix, you might see him arriving in his off-court duds, which is actually one of the many customizable elements you can tweak to tailor your experience.
MyPlayer returns in 2K13 with a boost from a new feature called Virtual Currency, or VC. You'll earn these faux-dollars in every game mode as well as in upcoming companion mini-game apps for iOS and Facebook. Yes, you'll also be able to buy VC through micro-transactions. As you've probably figured out by now if you're familiar with this sort of feature, the not-money that you earn is used to purchase (mostly) cosmetic enhancements for your MyPlayer.
The store is divided into three sections, covering apparel, team gear, and accessories. There's a basic assortment of clothing and gear that is free, but the really unique pieces will cost you. This could be anything from team-, state-, or even country-specific tees to high-end jewelry to branded protective gear that offers small stat bonuses when equipped. All in, there are more than 1,400 clothing items featured in the store.
Once you've finished a shopping spree, you can then head over to your MyPlayer Closet to customize your look. You have options here as well, with different outfits available for game day, game arrival, and blacktop play. The impact on the actual gameplay with most of this stuff is minimal (stat-boosting team gear aside), but it all exists in support of Visual Concepts' goal of conveying the experience of being a pro baller.
There's also a large segment of fans that love how Visual Concepts handles custom sneaker options in its NBA games, and 2K13 takes a very cool step forward in this regard (no pun intended). The custom sneaker mechanic is neat, with up to 45 customizable "layers" that you can change the style, material, and color of. Even more neat, however, is the NIKEiD feature.
While it's undeniably a bit of shameless product placement, the separate NIKEiD mode allows players to customize the color layout of a set assortment of branded high-end Nike sneakers. What makes this especially unique is the ability to send your designs to Nike via the NIKEiD website and then purchase an actual pair of your custom kicks.
There are other uses for earned VC as well. New to NBA 2K13 this year is the MyTeam mode, which compares in some ways to the Ultimate Team mode that has become so common in EA Sports' various licensed sports sims. The first time you access the mode, you're handed a starter pack of "Holograms" containing a team of so-so players, an arena, and a coach. You also might get some attribute boosts that allow you to enhance the talents of your squad.
This is your jumping off point. Once you have your squad assembled, you can play in a variety of MyTeam modes to earn more VC. Exhibition games here are comparable to grinding; you won't earn much, but you can breeze through game after game to keep siphoning more VC into your account. The bigger rewards can be found in Road to the Playoffs mode; the more than you win here, the higher your seed ranking. Climb to number one and you unlock a Michael Jordan hologram for your MyTeam.
You can also boost your squad in the mode's market. This is where you start to see how MyTeam differentiates from EA's Ultimate Team. For starters, you're buying individual players rather than random card packs. You can buy booster packs, but that's where you get stuff like attribute cards, signature skills, and new arenas.
Things get really interesting when you start shopping for players. The value that their Holograms can be bought and sold at varies by each player's real-life performance. Not only can you snatch up developing players for your squad on the cheap in this way, you can also take advantage of changing values to boost your own VC, buying low and selling high.
The Association makes up the other half of NBA 2K13, with the key feature being its focus on the real-life NBA season-in-progress. The mode should be familiar to returning players--you pick a team and play a schedule based on the real-life NBA calendar. Added this year is the ability to jump in and start playing mid-season, with the option of either starting a fresh season of your own or picking up where standings and rosters are in that particular moment.
My demo ended with a bit more hands-on, with me taking control of 1992's U.S. men's Olympic "Dream Team" in a match-up against the 2012 Olympic team (we dominated). Before that, however, I took a closer look at a unique new entry in the Legends teams lineup: the Celeb Team.
Opinions on the Celeb Team are going to be split, I think. Some of you are going to love playing as them while others are going to love absolutely destroying them. Let's put it this way: the (likenesses-approved) starting lineup is: Pauly D, Justin Bieber, JB Smoove, Bow Wow, and Sean Kingston. And there's a whole team full of that. I didn't give the Celeb Team a spin, but I can tell you that in-game Bieber is delightfully creepy to look at.
That covers just about all there is to know in the realm of what's new for NBA 2K13. Visual Concepts clearly isn't taking a lazy attitude after last year's hit. The added MyPlayer customization features are cool, but elements like MyTeam and Virtual Currency seem like they could really add a whole new layer of depth to the game. Look for NBA 2K13 in stores on October 2, 2012.