Entertaining despite some frustrating gameplay flaws
Up until NBA Live fell off the wagon, I was never really a fan of 2K basketball games. This was mostly because I wasn't willing to take the time to learn how to play a game with a distinct look, feel, and control that was so different from the Live franchise I had grown to love. When EA stopped putting out NBA Live games, I had no choice but to switch to the 2K series. Several years later, I can say that I probably wouldn't go back to a new NBA Live game now. The 2K games have grown on me with their level of realism, fluid gameplay, and fidelity of control that have set the bar high for sports simulations. NBA 2K13 is no exception.
If you've played recent NBA 2K games, you will notice a few subtle differences in the gameplay. Dribbling seems more realistic and the NBA Live style dribble stick has become a new focus for the 2K franchise. You can still choose to have the right stick mapped as the shot stick, but having it control dribble moves feels more natural in my opinion. I still use the shot stick often, since you can switch between the two control schemes by holding the left trigger. This allows you to seamlessly perform a crossover and a stepback jumper without thinking about it. The AI also seems improved, although help defense is still lacking in many cases. This might be dependent on the style of each team's coach (which can be changed) but sometimes the defense seems to just stand there and not slide over to help. In other cases, they will help when they shouldn't, leaving their man wide open. The graphics are obviously terrific, with only a few questionable face models. However, when trying to increase realism, some gameplay aspects go too far. For instance, dribbling off a defender's foot happens way too often even with maxed out dribble attributes. There is also a huge amount of loose ball fouls when going for rebounds, often done by the AI I'm not controlling. This can be extremely frustrating in a close game. Also, when attempting outlet passes or alley oops, players will often heave the ball like a cannon way over the receiver's head. I understand what they were trying to do because this can happen in real life games, but too often I see a good passer throwing an absurd pass that hurts the sense of realism rather than heighten it. Passing in general seems to often be slow and dumb, with even the best passers throwing lazy passes far too often. Lastly, way too many shots bounce off the rim and go over the backboard out of bounds. I mean come on. It happens very rarely in real life and I see it at least once or twice a quarter, often more. However, it only rarely feels like the game is screwing you over. Most of the frustrating gameplay quirks are spread out and can be worked around. Overall, the gameplay mechanics are solid, with the fluidity and level of control we've come to expect from a 2K game.
There have been a few new additions to the game modes this year. There are several more classic teams to play with including the Dream Team. All these teams have the classic jerseys and real courts from when these teams played which is very cool. My Player mode has been expanded to My Career with a few new tweaks. You can now meet with your team's GM to ask for trades or address issues with the team. A new social media feature adds some amusement for the first few times you see it, but fades quickly. Endorsements return and you can now create a shoe with the all new shoe editor. The most notable change is the addition of VC. VC is the in-game currency with which you buy attribute boosts and player upgrades, as well as player gear. Everything you do online and in My Career earns you VC. It acts as a new way to encourage online play as well as connect everything back to your My Player. Gamplay in My Career is essentially the same as in past years, with noticeably better teammate AI (from what I've seen as a PG and C). You can also bring your created player online in a 3-on-3 blacktop game. Creating a Legend mode is back, which allows you to place a current or historic player on any team and progress through their career your way. Gameplay is identical to My Career, without the extra features. The last notable game mode addition is My Team which is a card style mode similar to FIFA or Madden. I havent played much of this, but it seems fine. It has a stock market style trading menu where you can buy and sell players using VC. Most of the prices are just outrageous however, so I haven't taken the time to build a good team. All of these new game additions are neat, and none feel like a step backwards. My Career seems more immersive, even if the social media feature is a little pointless. I just wish they could change your player's voice. Holy crap that voice.
In the end it's all about gameplay. As you might expect, 2K nailed it for the most part. With the smooth feel of the dribble/shot stick and being able to seamlessly switch between the two, it's very easy to learn a few moves and feel like an all star. Sure there are the usual issues with defensive AI and passing, but these aren't enough to ruin the experience, even if they do detract from the realism occasionally. Online play is fairly smooth with the usual slight lag that takes some getting used to. It can be frustrating trying to time jump shot releases online but it's easy to work with after a few games. The game mode additions feel just right, and the plethora of classic teams is always a plus. If you like sports games, or are an avid NBA fan, I would highly recommend that you play this game. If not this one, I recommend picking up the next installment. This is a series that should not be missed.