Posted in: Game Reviews by Michael Durr on December 16th, 2012
Another year for the franchise NBA video game of the console, portable and pc world has come. NBA 2k13 is automatically the best NBA game you will play this season before you even flip on the game menu because no other outfit can get their act together long enough to produce a viable game. With that aside, I suppose NBA 2k13 could have rested on their laurels but instead we get a game that is introducing a lot of new concepts. Let us go forth and play this hardwood smash of putting the ball into the ole peach basket.
Ultra realism is the mark of the hour for NBA 2k13 graphics and they are arguably the best the game has ever been in that department. Player’s faces look reconditioned, custom animations have improved dramatically and uniforms are tailored to the slightest detail (with updates). It looks and feels like a television broadcast worthy basketball game. There are so many players to get right (including members of classic teams) but I think we can safely say that all of them are covered correctly here.
I have always been critical in the past of who I can create under the MyPlayer/MyCareer mode to play with on a “storied” NBA career. This year, it is also easily the best it has ever been. I might not be able to get all features of this pushing forty model-esque body *caugh*, but I can adapt him into a good looking basketball player with a smidgen of talent (more on that later). Chances are whoever you are trying to create (whether yourself or something more classic), you will come a lot closer this year than in years past.
Audio is naturally provided in 5.1 Dolby Digital sound and has not really changed at all since last season. Sound is loud, abusive and sure to wake up a few neighbors if you have it loud enough. Again, to use the analogy, it sounds exactly like a NBA game should. There are plenty of squeaky shoes, bricking backboards and touchy rims to please any player. The game picks up at tense moments and never lets go until the final buzzer. It really is a sensational audio experience unless that is if you want to turn it down just a little bit.
This year, the game is executive produced by the one and only Jay Z. As such, one should expect the soundtrack to include a lot of rapping beats. We get guess what, plenty of Jay-Z music (I count 6 tunes), and the likes of Kanye West, NAS, Eric B & Rakim and Mobb Deep. There is also some odd stuff including U2, Roy Ayers and Coldplay. My recommendation is to go into the 2K Beats menu, turn off Coldplay (and any other annoying tune) and save. Your ears will bleed less and you will earn an easy achievement.
Back to what I was mentioning before with turning the audio volume down. This sounds simple enough and there is a choice in the menu to do so. Once you get through the confusing menus (more on this later), there is a choice to turn down in-game music (or other part of the audio presentation), but it only works for the mode you are currently in. Say, you played an exhibition game and then switched over to MyCareer, the volume levels will not keep unless you go in and change it for every mode which is highly annoying.
Despite the shortened season last year, we still got an NBA Finals that culminated on June 21st when the Miami Heat finally got some of their hardened critics to shut up by winning the NBA Finals and their first championship with the big three of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. But how does the saying go, what have you done for me lately? As the Heat try to repeat (which does not happen very often unless your name is the Los Angeles Lakers or the Chicago Bulls), we break down the newest installment of NBA2K.
The first thing one will notice when walking into an exhibition game or any other mode in NBA 2K13 is that the game has been considerably revamped and improved upon. Gone is the classic mode which I so adored and the analog sticks are forced upon the player for the most difficult movements. Of particular interest is the right analog stick which is used to control dribbling moves and then on defense hand-checks and other guarding type moves. Those who liked the buttons like I did will still find them but they will be integrated into the new scheme.
As to how to use these new controls for dribbling and pulling off some fancy moves? Well unless you study the manual(which is still small but at least a little more detailed concerning controls) or go off to find the “buried” practice mode, you are limited to a couple of screens and then a whole lot of pain and suffering through the game mode of your choice. A pull-up jumper can be as simple as the left trigger and the right stick (or press X for the button enthusiasts) but it can get complicated in a hurry when trying to do a cross half-spin in the dribble (twirl counter clockwise to clockwise with the right stick).
Thankfully, if you know the all-mighty sliders, you can switch a couple of things like shooting and free-throws to the actual players percentage rather than how well you can twirl an analog stick. In addition, these dribbling skills in particular will eat up your energy (assuming you are playing with fatigue turned on). After a while (thanks to the option that you shouldn’t rely completely on the dribbling/defending stick), the player does get a little more used to it and can play a proper game. (Though I was a bit perturbed that putting something as simple as hands up on an inbound pass was way more difficult)
New to this year also is Kinect Controls. It’s not required at least, but it will help you with a few commands that you can spit out such as calling a timeout, intentional foul or even substituting a player or two. In MyCareer mode, you can even be a little bit of a hardass and tell them to pass the ball to you or set a screen so you can score. Unfortunately, there is no voice command for you to yell at the coach and tell him to play you more than 5 minutes a game.
Difficulty in this game really depends on how good you are with the modern day controls. For the record, the easy mode in the game is now ridiculously easy unless playing with really poor players. Pro thankfully feels about right for most players with some difficulty but not requiring the player to be a hoops legend or anything. The only place where it is still truly frustrating is in the MyCareer option but that has more to do building up a rhythm.
Before we even touch all of the game modes in this year, there is a new feature tied into every piece of NBA 2K13. Virtual Currency or coins. Playing everything from exhibition games to MyCareer to completing drills can earn you coinage. With this coinage you will be able to purchase things in the MyPlayer, MyCareer and MyTeam modes. One can even use real world money to buy packs of points which will net instant gratification. For those who would never go with this option (myself included), be sure to know how much you have and how much the item is so you are not thrust into a purchase screen.
MyPlayer is a style closet. That’s unfortunately all it really is. If you have ever played with your avatar in xbox live and bought them outfits, then one should be right at home here. One will be able to pick up team jerseys, hats and even some awesome shoes from the likes of Nike, Jordan, Converse and more. Then they can dress up their avatar, I mean player that much more and show them off as necessary. I would have preferred a MyCrib option (I think that was back in NBA 2K6) but it is fun if you have a few extra coins.
MyCareer which used to be MyPlayer has been revamped a little bit. One starts off in the Rookies game where one gets a sizable chance to show how good they are. Then they get interviewed by three teams around where the player is expected to fall in the draft. The draft takes place and then the career of your player takes off. As long as you play well from the get-go. If you do not then it is a ride to the bench where you struggle for playing time and the all important rhythm. Guess where I was sent very early on.
If you have a crapload of currency from other modes you can build up your player pretty well and then eventually he can develop into a greater player. It takes time and dedication and for the simmer in all of us, it is a bit addictive. But again, building up currency (unless you want to pay real money) takes a whole lot of time which is what this game expects you to have in spades in order to progress as one should in career mode.
I did notice that it is a lot easier to play the offensive side of the ball this time around. I was able to contribute points, assists and even a few other category type things like rebounds, steals and blocks (of course this depends on your position and height). Defense is still an absolute chore (because it is usually hard to keep up and missed assignments are way too easy) and one gets penalized for every little thing which is always frustrating. I still have yet to get anything beyond a B for playing in a MyCareer game. However, I find it hilarious that when you ride the bench, they still want to hear from you in post-game interviews.
There are also many more things it seems now that the player can do when not trying to score points or grabbing baskets. There is for the first time, Social Media where you can read tweets and do things that show you care for your teammates which will boost popularity among teammates, local and overall fanbase. One can also be a bit evil and ask to speak with the GM where you can argue things such as playing time to even telling the GM that he should fire the coach. I would recommend that one only takes this route if they are the superstar of the team.
MyTeam mode is also brand new and way different from other things I have seen in the NBA 2K Series. Essentially you are dealt a pack of cards which has players, uniforms, coach and some attribute boosters. Then one can sell back parts of that deck to the market and buy as much as they wish if they have the virtual currency. From that you can build a team and then play that team online and offline to build up even more virtual currency which can then be used on the market or to buy more packs for more cards.
This starts off kinda daunting but this has the potential in at least my mind to become the most addicting feature. Of course, everybody wants to build a team of their favorite (or best) players. However, this will not come cheap and it will require dedication to the cause to get it that way. The pack of cards idea touches into a lot of us adults who collected the cards as a kid and were always trying to complete our collection of favorite players. It really shines and is probably the best new feature.
Also if you played a lot in the last two years, you will see that the focus of classic teams is going away very quickly. There are a lot of classic teams still in NBA 2K13, but gone are the legend challenges which were so fun to play. The major attraction as most are already aware is that you can pit the classic 1992 dream team against the current 2012 dream team. Which means one thing, I can finally play as Charles Barkley, my basketball hero growing up who has not appeared in a game since the Sega Genesis days. Thank you 2K and Charles for giving me that back of my childhood.
Along with the new entries to NBA2K, there is still Association mode, Season mode, NBA Today, and lots and lots of exhibition play to simulate whatever game one would like today. This carries over online as well as there are season leagues and general online play that can further enhance the experience. However, since all of these modes as well as online seem to communicate with an online server anytime you earn virtual currency, I am concerned that once the new season starts up, 2K will shut it off and leave us with a mostly dead game. I have read reports that 2K shut off their 2K12 servers as soon as they headed into this new game, so there is certainly sufficient cause for concern.
Also, before I dabble into the achievements, I want to make mention of the confusing menus to get to all of these modes. It is a horrid mess of choices in a very cluttered format. The only thing easy is to get to MyPlayer, MyCareer or the featured NBA Today game. Everything else, one better go get used to the clutter. Oh and who is the bright person in the MyCareer mode that put “Play Next Key Game” before “Play Next Game” in the choices? Seriously. In addition, anytime you save something, it stays in there and one has to back out carefully.
The achievements this year are not as similar as 2k12 was to 2k11 (which was pretty close to a mirror image) but there are still plenty of repeated achievements. Remember the triple double, two double doubles, below 40% shooting and the difficult 5×5 achievements? They are all back, and all can be obtained pretty much the same way. However, sad to say there has been reports early on of some of these not popping the way they should. Oh, by the way, Kevin Durant’s new career high is now 52, not 48. This has been a public service message.
The achievements once they are popping are a fairly consistent bag. There are really only two gimme achievements this year in creating a 2K Beats playlist and a custom shoe. Other new achievements center around the virtual currency (“Runneth Over” worth 30 points for obtaining a balance of 20,000 coins) or the MyCareer mode (“Some More Special Than Others” worth 30 points for purchasing and equiping 5 special abilities). However, I think there should have been way more than 2 MyTeam achievements (playing a MyTeam game online and purchasing 15 boosters are honestly all there is).
Somewhere in the early 2000’s, baseball became the type of sports video game where realism essentially translated into a game which only the hardcore could play. Most of us, including myself had to gravitate towards football or basketball to satisfy our sports needs. Since, I could never get into Madden except once every 5-10 years, I naturally chose basketball. NBA2K has been a fantastic series for over a decade now. However, in the last two to three years, I have certainly seen it grow into a game that in order to achieve realism has required the player to adopt these absolutely terrible analog sticks.
Thankfully, I believe that the people at Visual Concepts do understand that concept and have integrated the classic controls as well as the flashy analog ones into a control scheme that works pretty well. It is still frustrating to figure out at first thanks to the terrible menus and lack of explanation but eventually the player starts to get it. At least when it comes to realism, the graphics and sound (minus that god awful Coldplay song) are beautifully creating a great game.
Gameplay is getting better in this series and the amount of modes (once you navigate the menus) contains plenty of reasons to keep coming back. Virtual currency is highly addictive but I am concerned for the players like myself as whether or not once they turn off the servers will we be left with a dead game sooner than later. All things considered, this is a great basketball game and for those who like to play, I do recommend it. Just be sure to dedicate some time to the cause and have lots of patience like LeBron James winning another championship. Yeah, I went there. Enjoy kids.