For several years now the NBA2K series has dominated when it comes to the genre. This has been so true in recent times that even a company as big as EA has given up the race and cancelled their possible contenders. So with next to no competition out there and an incredible track record, the question is less about whether NBA2K is the best and more about how it could possibly get any better?
Enter NBA2K13, by far the wackiest but also (more importantly) the best entry into the genre since 2K became king of the court. But despite its extremely high level of quality, there are a few things that really should have been fixed in this franchise long ago, so let’s get these small flaws out of the way first.
First of all, despite the new pulsing art style (which draws your attention wonderfully to the awesome new soundtrack) the menus here are not great. Often you are unable to back out of whichever option you happen to be in, making navigating them frustrating on occasion. As there are so many modes now available, it can also be very difficult to find the one you want, especially if you are a newcomer to the franchise.
This in turn leads me nicely to the title’s only other small flaw, an issue that will be worse for some (namely new players) than others. This game is hard but that’s not the problem, the problem is there is a distinct lack of competent tutorials for new players, or even to teach the game’s new systems to veterans. The only tutorials available barely scratch the surface of what is truly possible with this amazing control system. This can be very frustrating if you are new to the game as you are forced to learn by getting beaten by the computer (or your friends) until you get better. Although this will ultimately make you a better player, I’m sure some will be put off by the difficulty curve if they are new to the franchise.
These small gripes however are literally all I can moan about when it comes to this game as 2K do very little else wrong here. This year’s version has all the modes you might expect if you have played any NBA2K game before and they are better than ever, but it is the new features that really make this a landmark entry into the franchise. These new features are not all expected (or even needed) but they serve to give the game a great sense of identity.
Before we get into the new features though, it is worth mentioning how great this game looks. From a small distance you would be hard pressed to tell the difference between this and watching a real NBA match. The animations, crowd and textures are all top notch and this is probably the most impressive looking NBA game we are going to get in this console generation. I should also mention the commentary here, as it is of such high quality that it too could be mistaken for the real thing.
Another point worth mentioning is the fantastic multiplayer. The online service is great and a match is always easier to come by, however, personally I am a fan of the local option. Nothing quite compares to shooting a 3 pointer at the buzzer to beat your mate when he or she is in the same room only to have them demand a rematch almost instantly.
In terms of new features, there is the usual stuff like an expanded career mode and new team updates. These are all not surprising upgrades however great care and attention has clearly been taken with each. Things such as added conversations between matches and the opportunity to double cross your manager in career mode, all only enhance the experience of an already great system. The all-star teams have also been expanded making for even more amazing what-if scenarios to be played out.
Now, here’s where things get interesting and a little crazy. Even though the 2K franchise has never stagnated, it is clear that the game’s makers wanted to do something a little different with this entry. First of all the game is Executive Produced by JayZ meaning there is an even heavier focus on the soundtrack. There are tracks from the here and now as well as times gone by that will be sure to only make the game more enjoyable. Plus having JayZ on board any venture is never normally a bad move. There is also a new celebrity team included with some unexpected members, but I don’t want to spoil anything for you so I will let you discover them for yourself.
Although there are these and many more new features in 2K13, my favourite has to be in the customisation menu. No word of a lie, it is now possible to create your own trainers for your character and then send the design off to Nike to have them actually made for you in real life! This could be my favourite feature of any video game ever! There are not many other games that can boast such a refreshing option and 2K should be commended for thinking outside the box.
With regards to the control system, the new feature is the skill stick. This now means the right control stick is used for ball control rather than just shooting (as per other NBA2K titles). If you wish to shoot, you must now pull the left trigger first and then use the right stick. This sounds strange and may take a bit of getting used to for both fans and newcomers but it is so worth the effort. Once mastered you will come to realise that you are in control like never before making every point earned and every basket extremely satisfying.
Although the level of quality is high every year in this area, the post release support for these games also cannot be praised highly enough. Match and roster updates are very important to the veteran NBA fan and it’s great that 2K do not forget this after the game is released.
Despite all its crazy new features, what you know and love about the NBA2K series is all here and it plays better than ever. If you are a veteran fan, an NBA lover or just want a great sports game experience to play with friends or alone, look no further than 2K13. Sure the menus aren’t great and there could be a more competent tutorial, but these are very minor points in other wise amazing experience. Make no mistake 2K are still very much king of the court.