Giant Bomb Review

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NBA 2K13 Review

4
  • X360

NBA 2K13 lacks the big, flashy hooks of its more recent predecessors, but it's still a pretty terrific basketball game all the same.

If you needed further proof that some developers are perhaps beginning to run dry of ideas in regards to what to do with current generation console hardware so late into this generation's lifespan, just look at the sports genre. When you take a long, hard look at 2012's sports titles, pretty much all you see are a lot of stopgap solutions and wild stabs in the dark at something, anything different to do with the hardware we've been saddled with lo these last several years.

NBA 2K13 looks as good as ever.

The NBA 2K series has perhaps fared better than other franchises, but even the developers at 2K Sports seem to be running short of ideas at this point. After a brilliant set of gameplay upgrades in NBA 2K11, and a host of mode and feature changes in NBA 2K12, NBA 2K13 feels...well, a bit samey. Which isn't to say that the quality of 2K13 has taken a nosedive. On the court, 2K13 is as strong an entry as there's been in this series. But the changes it does make largely feel like changes for the sake of change, rather than anything particularly beneficial to the cause. This is certainly a very good basketball game, but it doesn't make the definitive argument for itself the way 2K11 and 2K12 did.

At the very least, NBA 2K13 does fix some things that were wrong with 2K12. Most notably, passing is a lot better this time around. Last year there was perhaps an over abundance of intercepted or borked passes, even in seemingly safe circumstances. This year, you're only going to get intercepted when you're careless with the ball, or up against a particularly sneaky defender. Online play has also finally seen an overhaul for the better. Lag has killed this series time and time again, and I'm happy to report that 2K13 really does seem to excise those demons. Save for one or two matches that suffered from a bit of stuttering now and again, I was pretty much able to play without any real issue online.

Other changes were perhaps less necessary. The right stick, for instance, has been switched from a pure shooting method to a home for dribbling moves. Moving the stick in different directions and combos lets you dribble the ball from side to side, through the legs, and whatever other fancy moves you might be looking to do. Players more enamored with the stick as a shooting method can return it to that form by holding down the left trigger button. It's an interesting change that admittedly does give you a bit more control over your dribbling, but it's also largely an unnecessary one. It's the sort of thing that sounds great on the back of a box, but doesn't really add much to the equation.

To be fair, NBA 2K13's controls are already a dense equation to begin with. 2K Sports has had to map so many different things to so many different control schemes over the last several years, and in that time it hasn't removed very much. That leaves NBA 2K13 feeling a bit overwhelming to all but the most dedicated players. If you're just the sort that wants to play along with the season in some pick-up games and maybe dabble around with The Association mode, 2K13 presents a depth of complexity that is, at times, harrowing. For those willing to learn the ropes, there's a great deal of reward here. But getting to that reward is a daunting process that requires more tutorials than is perhaps reasonable for a mass market game.

Mapping the dribble moves to the right stick sounds more interesting than it actually is.

That said, NBA 2K13 is still a blast on the court. The controls are tight, the AI is smart, and the presentation is second to none. It's not just the graphics engine, which is still great, but the little details in the players. Their mannerisms, their personalities actually shine through. LeBron looks, moves, and feels like LeBron. And he's just one of dozens of players that look and feel wholly authentic. Between the visual presentation, and the still stellar commentary from Kevin Harlan, Steve Kerr, and Clark Kellogg, NBA 2K13 does a better job of emulating an NBA TV broadcast than even last year's game.

One of the best things about the 2K series in recent years is how it's handled the league's legacy. In 2K11, there was the fantastic Michael Jordan challenge, and last year's game went even further by including a huge crop of classic teams, paired up with their most noteworthy rivals of the era. By comparison, this year's inclusion of the dueling Olympic Dream Teams (the 1992 squad, as well as this year's squad), is a bit of a let-down. Not because there's anything wrong with including those teams, but just because it's not nearly the educational, nor entertainment experience that last year's rivalries mode was. There are still classic teams here, but they're only available in quick matches, and none of the nifty presentation nor detailed histories of those teams are present.

Outside of the USA Basketball inclusion, the only major new feature is the MyTeam mode. Ostensibly a riff on EA's Ultimate Team cash-grabs, MyTeam lets you buy card packs of players you can use to build out your own team. You buy those packs with VC, a new in-game currency that, in a smart divergence from the Ultimate Team formula, you can earn via multiple game modes. The MyPlayer mode, for instance, implements VC by including player upgrades you can buy. But those same VC points can be carried over into MyTeam. You can, of course, also buy chunks of VC for actual money, if you're the impatient type. Thankfully, you'll earn decent enough amounts of VC just by playing, so you won't have to crack open your non-virtual wallet.

MyTeam is a fun enough distraction, but like Ultimate Team, it doesn't have much staying power. Instead, you'll likely find yourself more engrossed in the MyPlayer and Association modes. Last year's MyPlayer mode was something of a revelation, and this year it's no worse off, though no better either. Some new things, like superstar players being able to design their own custom shoes, are nifty additions, but that's about all. Mostly, these are the modes you remember from last year, which in my estimation is still a good thing.

It's great to have the two dream teams, but it doesn't suitably replace last year's excellent NBA's Greatest mode.

If you're wondering about the "Executive Produced by Jay-Z" emblazoned on the box, Young Hov's involvement effectively boils down to a fancy wrapper. He apparently presided over the game's look and feel by selecting the soundtrack, giving some insight on visual design, and awkwardly including concert footage of him in the game's opening movie. It's a meaningless distinction that has no real bearing on the game you're playing, outside of the in-game inclusion of longtime holdout Charles Barkley, and a celebrity team that includes two Jersey Shore cast members and Justin Bieber.

I remember when ESPN NFL 2K5 did basically the same thing. It was the end of the last console generation, and the developers, despite having a terrific game in front of them, must have been running out of improvements to make. So, they resorted to getting people like David Arquette and Carmen Electra to do some annoying voice-over for games you played against their custom-built teams. It was a lame idea then, and it's still a lame idea now.

And like then, the game itself is no worse off for it. Where it matters, NBA 2K13 is phenomenal, if familiar. Go in with the right expectations, and you'll be enjoying it all season long.

Alex Navarro on Google+
47 Comments
Posted by RareMonkey

Looking forward to the PC version so I can get my ultimate base mod going with the new game.

Posted by YOUNGLINK

It just keeps getting better since the first 2K on Dreamcast!

Posted by Morningstar

Go spurs!

Posted by insane_shadowblade85

The faces still look bad to me. I might pick it up when it comes on Steam since it's been over 10 years since I last played a sports game.

Edited by ArtisanBreads

It's also a bummer that Barkley wasn't given his own historical team and is just on the 92' Olympic team. I play by throwing a lot of the historical players into the league and then doing a fantasy draft with them. I can't do that with Barkley because you can't put the Dream Team in there, which is too bad.

I also agree that they should have just left the historical games from last year in how they had them. It's definitely an omission and the NBA 2K series' most unique feature at this point.

I will say though that Alex doesn't mention how much better in game offenses are. Movement off the ball is WAY better, especially with people cutting to the rim. He also didn't mention the Signature Skills, which are a great addition too.

Posted by Ghost_Cat

The only sports game I will ever play.

Online
Posted by steelerzfan101

Well, I still think I am more excited for the actual NBA season to start! I also think that putting Jay-Z's name on the box is pretty pointless considering all he did for the game was select the soundtrack. Other games don't have their composers on the box so I don't see why it is necessary to include Jay Z's. Unless, he paid a lot of money...which he probably did.

Posted by shades846

so only this and maden for sports games on GB i guess no fifa review then by a guest editor

Posted by iceman228433

God help me I can't stop playing this game, it's like crack.

Posted by Dad_Is_A_Zombie

Justin Bieber and the Jersey Shore guidos are there but no Barkley in his vintage Sixers #34? That is... disappointing. Will still probably end up grabbing it eventually.

Edited by ArtisanBreads

@steelerzfan101 said:

Well, I still think I am more excited for the actual NBA season to start! I also think that putting Jay-Z's name on the box is pretty pointless considering all he did for the game was select the soundtrack. Other games don't have their composers on the box so I don't see why it is necessary to include Jay Z's. Unless, he paid a lot of money...which he probably did.

I bet you 2K payed him. Doesn't do anything for me but I bet you there are people that took notice of his name being on the box for whatever reason.

Also if he designed the menus they should ask for some money back because they are AWFUL. They look like Pimp My Ride or something. Gross.

Posted by Vrikk

@shades846 said:

so only this and maden for sports games on GB i guess no fifa review then by a guest editor

You should really learn sentence composition.

Posted by Napalm

@shades846 said:

so only this and maden for sports games on GB i guess no fifa review then by a guest editor

i mean yeh i gues whattyadoo expect from gb ha

Posted by DystopiaX

@RareMonkey said:

Looking forward to the PC version so I can get my ultimate base mod going with the new game.

Note that they gimped the PC version- no VC (myplayer uses Skill points only), no My Team, and the blacktop stars are locked since there's no VC to earn. Most of that will probably get fixed by modders but just a word of warning.

Posted by AlwaysBeClothing

Yup, even Alex can tell the sameness from just 2k12 to 2k13. Its not any better when that focus is expanded even further. I feel like 2k is just resting on its laurels because they have no other competition. Its still the same great base formula game, but it feels like they're just removing features and adding them back in (I'm looking at you pre-order dlc dunk contest).

Definitely a fair review, Alex. My only stickler is that someone who has annual 2k fatigue, I would probably only give it three stars. Then again I keep buying the damn game, so I'm the only one to blame.

Posted by zeekthegeek

As a casual player I still find these games dense as hell - getting a good play rating in My Player is tough as hell when you barely know what each position does.

Posted by csl316

Haven't played a basketball game all gen, so jumping into this will probably impress me. Even if the features are five years old.

Posted by felakuti4life
Posted by NickNotch

@felakuti4life: Nice soundtrack, except for the fact that most of the songs are extremely censored. I had to turn the soundtrack off because it was so annoying listening to half of the lyrics to some of these songs. "Victory" might as well be an instrumental version.

Posted by ripelivejam

I TOOK ALL MY MONEY AND BET IT AGAINST THE HARLEM GLOBE TROTTERS!!!

Posted by Animasta

charles barkley, huh?

is this part of the barkley's shut up and jam: gaiden canon?

Online
Posted by jozzy

@DystopiaX said:

@RareMonkey said:

Looking forward to the PC version so I can get my ultimate base mod going with the new game.

Note that they gimped the PC version- no VC (myplayer uses Skill points only), no My Team, and the blacktop stars are locked since there's no VC to earn. Most of that will probably get fixed by modders but just a word of warning.

Its only $29 for the PC version though, which makes it a little less sketchy. Shame the digital version is still not out for another week (16th).

Posted by cb1115

This game is VASTLY superior to 2K12. Still can't believe 2K12 received so many high scores. Game was garbage.

2K really took the time to nail the fundamentals this year. The pick n' roll game works as it should, speed finally matters, and the control stick is a great addition.

I agree that there isn't really a headliner mode this year, but I'm totally OK with that. Save it for next year.

Posted by Molenator85

This is the first basketball game I've played since some college game around 8 years ago, and the first NBA game I've ever owned. I'm having a good time with it, but Alex is right in saying that the controls are dense. I play a lot of games, but it probably took 3 hours before I felt completely comfortable playing. I'm having a blast in MyPlayer mode now though. 3pt Specialists seem almost broken in how many points they can put up, even on harder difficulties.

Posted by DystopiaX

@jozzy said:

@DystopiaX said:

@RareMonkey said:

Looking forward to the PC version so I can get my ultimate base mod going with the new game.

Note that they gimped the PC version- no VC (myplayer uses Skill points only), no My Team, and the blacktop stars are locked since there's no VC to earn. Most of that will probably get fixed by modders but just a word of warning.

Its only $29 for the PC version though, which makes it a little less sketchy. Shame the digital version is still not out for another week (16th).

True, but they don't mention that anywhere either, and didn't even after the game launched, so I feel like I should just warn everyone. Plus given how pervasive VC is this year it sucks that you can't unlock a lot of things, including the top stars, MyPlayer Closet stuff, etc. I really liked putting as much dumb unneccessary gear on my player year after year so that he was covered head to toe in pads and armbands and shit.

Especially since previous versions had everything in them (minus DLC), so there was no reason to expect anything different this year, and as I said 2k literally never mentioned it.

Not to mention that they didn't mention that:

1. the game wouldn't be available for download until 2 weeks later

and

2. they only shipped enough PC copies to cover pre-orders.

My guess is that they want to get as many people as possible to buy the more expensive console versions, and only after that make the PC version available.

Like I said a lot of this is ok for a cheaper version, the sketchier/shittier part is that they didn't make any of that clear.

Posted by I_Stay_Puft

Not sure if anybody else noticed this but in the association mode the opposing team AI when it comes to trades has gotten better. The AI will take into account salaries of players and team needs of that position and won't necessarily okay a trade if the player you are trying to trade has better trade value but his contract is a few million too high. Game feels a little bit easier then last years iteration too, with a decent team I can easily obliterate the other team on the pro settings. Last years game had some obvious rubberbanding with pro or higher skill level. I've seen games in 2k12 where I have easily been up by 20 points and it became a close game towards the end of the 4th quarter. Tiny tweaks here and there but any 2k fan will notice the changes to the gameplay and presentation.

Posted by DystopiaX

@Molenator85 said:

This is the first basketball game I've played since some college game around 8 years ago, and the first NBA game I've ever owned. I'm having a good time with it, but Alex is right in saying that the controls are dense. I play a lot of games, but it probably took 3 hours before I felt completely comfortable playing. I'm having a blast in MyPlayer mode now though. 3pt Specialists seem almost broken in how many points they can put up, even on harder difficulties.

People have noticed that 3 point shots are particularly easy to hit this year, you can go into the settings and adjust sliders though so they're harder to make- simulation sliders does this too I think although that also adjusts a load of other things.

Posted by DystopiaX

@Napalm said:

@shades846 said:

so only this and maden for sports games on GB i guess no fifa review then by a guest editor

i mean yeh i gues whattyadoo expect from gb ha

Didn't they do an NHL review too? I know they did one last year anyway.

Posted by RuthLoose

JAY-Z DID THE SOUNDTRACK GUYS! No, serious the game looks and sounds fantastic. One of the best 3-player co-op games I have played in years was 2k12.

Edited by RareMonkey

@DystopiaX: well that sucks might need to go 360 than, but i might still wait til a sale and hope the modders fix it all

Posted by Czarpyotr

Been loving it!

Posted by moffattron9000

@ripelivejam said:

I TOOK ALL MY MONEY AND BET IT AGAINST THE HARLEM GLOBE TROTTERS!!!

THE GENERALS WERE DUE

Posted by jozzy

@DystopiaX said:

@jozzy said:

@DystopiaX said:

@RareMonkey said:

Looking forward to the PC version so I can get my ultimate base mod going with the new game.

Note that they gimped the PC version- no VC (myplayer uses Skill points only), no My Team, and the blacktop stars are locked since there's no VC to earn. Most of that will probably get fixed by modders but just a word of warning.

Its only $29 for the PC version though, which makes it a little less sketchy. Shame the digital version is still not out for another week (16th).

True, but they don't mention that anywhere either, and didn't even after the game launched, so I feel like I should just warn everyone. Plus given how pervasive VC is this year it sucks that you can't unlock a lot of things, including the top stars, MyPlayer Closet stuff, etc. I really liked putting as much dumb unneccessary gear on my player year after year so that he was covered head to toe in pads and armbands and shit.

Especially since previous versions had everything in them (minus DLC), so there was no reason to expect anything different this year, and as I said 2k literally never mentioned it.

Not to mention that they didn't mention that:

1. the game wouldn't be available for download until 2 weeks later

and

2. they only shipped enough PC copies to cover pre-orders.

My guess is that they want to get as many people as possible to buy the more expensive console versions, and only after that make the PC version available.

Like I said a lot of this is ok for a cheaper version, the sketchier/shittier part is that they didn't make any of that clear.

Yeah, I was really disappointed when I couldn't buy it on release day. Took me quite a bit of googling to figure out why I couldn't buy it digitally, terrible communication.

Posted by wsowen02

Are celebrity "endorsements" really something that people are still taken in by?

Posted by DoctorWelch

The movement being moved onto the stick is actually a much much bigger deal than Alex realizes.

Posted by Zace
@DystopiaX

@RareMonkey said:

Looking forward to the PC version so I can get my ultimate base mod going with the new game.

Note that they gimped the PC version- no VC (myplayer uses Skill points only), no My Team, and the blacktop stars are locked since there's no VC to earn. Most of that will probably get fixed by modders but just a word of warning.

Really? Shit. Was looking to move from the 360 to the PC and I can't be bothered modding the game.
Posted by AndyMP

@DoctorWelch said:

The movement being moved onto the stick is actually a much much bigger deal than Alex realizes.

I completely agree. The right stick skill moves, along with individual player specific skill moves make pulling them off so damn easy. Almost too easy. But it's a positive move and works very well in my opinion.

Posted by JayDee

can we please just get a quick look? i realize alex is the only one who is knowledgeable/capable of sports games but why is there a madden quick look every year but no 2k quick look?

Posted by atomic_dumpling

@DystopiaX said:

@Napalm said:

@shades846 said:

so only this and maden for sports games on GB i guess no fifa review then by a guest editor

i mean yeh i gues whattyadoo expect from gb ha

Didn't they do an NHL review too? I know they did one last year anyway.

Also, don't Americans usually give a flying fig about soccer anyway?

Posted by nnnope

what? justin bieber? i need this game.

Posted by namesonkel

Alex´s review pic bothers me, especially that it's always the same, not to mention the seemingly out of place MP5k-ish gun.

Posted by StriderNo9

Great review!

Posted by CJduke

I bought 2k12 a few months ago because it was like $10, and that game pissed me off to no end. I would miss wide open lay ups while the computer would be draining 3 pointers constantly.

Edited by Cloneslayer

Still the best modern sport line. I agree with Alex though, more of the same, but its still good all around.  
 
Also playing Dream Team vs Team USA is really fun. Dream Team wins of course.

Posted by I_Stay_Puft

@CJduke: Rubberbanding is less apparent in 2k13. Trust me I think I'm pretty good at this game but no way I'd be up by 20 in 2k12 and eventually lose in the final minutes. It got to the point of frustrating that I turned down the difficulty.

Posted by jayspadez

2k13 is an amazing game and the soundtrack goes h.a.m., this year only proves why nba live is on the shelf and 2k is the best sports sim period.

Posted by MagicVolcanoGurl

lakerrrrrrrs!!! nash is sooo dreamy ^^