With little uproar or reaction, EA Sports cancelled (once again) its latest effort at a basketball sim, putting NBA Live on the shelf for another year (sadly, no awesome Andrew Bynum Jesus glitch this time). You know why that really doesn’t matter? Because NBA 2K13 is such a fantastic, well-designed, and all-encompassing basketball experience that I can’t fathom why you’d want anything else.
Simply put, NBA 2K13 feels almost perfect, like this is as good as you can get for a basketball simulation in this current generation. With everything from playground 1-on-1 to multiple lengthy career modes, NBA 2K13 should appeal to casual and hardcore fans alike, so long as you have even a passing interest in basketball.
On the court, NBA 2K13 looks and feels like real thing. The visuals are dynamic and fast-paced, with very slick graphics and animations creating authentic looking NBA action, with the exception of the player generated characters, which are fairly generically ugly.
The biggest change in this year’s game is the addition of the new Control Stick (the right analog stick used in combination with different buttons), which gives you access to a huge assortment of actions on and off the ball. While this may seem daunting at first, it should eventually feel even easier and more intuitive than previous control schemes, though you’ll still probably never master it.
Wrapped around the stellar on-court experiences is the presence of Executive Producer (and Brooklyn Nets minority owner) Jay-Z, who worked on the interface, the hip-hop feel of the game, and handpicked the soundtrack, which ranges from Kanye to Coldplay, and naturally, plenty of Jay Z himself. This is the NBA, which has arguably more megawatt stars than any other sport, so it’s quite impressive that this addition feels natural and organic, and not just tacked on to capitalize on Jay-Z’s popularity.
While there are a number of different options for playing in NBA 2K13, the focal point is MyCareer, which if you only played this one mode, would still be completely worth the $60 price tag. After creating your own player, you’ll start off in the rookie showcase game to try to impress NBA general managers and get drafted, then establish yourself as a contributor, a star, and potentially a Hall of Famer.
This career mode features RPG elements, as you use points earned in-game to upgrade your abilities or purchase signature skills that will help you to further customize and specialize your character. Those signature skills are pricy though, and the whole process can quickly start to feel like more of a grind than a constantly rewarding process.
This is where it gets dicey though, especially considering you’ve already dropped $60 for the game: you can purchase packs of “virtual currency” using real money to jumpstart your character’s progress. Want to jump into your first second of game action as the second coming of Michael Jordan? You can do that, if you’re willing to pay for it. If you’re not, then you’ll have more of a challenge, and the aforementioned grind. But you can customize your own shoes and someday afford to buy new clothes, so there is that.
Besides the MyCareer mode, there’s also a second career mode where you play using any existing NBA player, a franchise mode focusing on the front office aspects of the game, single games, and NBA Blacktop, which takes the action to the playground for 1-on-1 to 5-on-5 schoolyard battles. With local and online multiplayer options built in as well, it does beg the question of how many people will actually have time to really play all of the different modes.
Team rosters include the current season’s NBA squads, several classic rosters, and the opportunity to host the much-debated matchup between the ’92 Dream Team and the 2012 Olympic Team. There is even a celebrity all-star team featuring Justin Bieber. Yeah, Justin Bieber is in the game, which finally answers the age-old question: who would win a one on one game between Bieber and Wilt Chamberlain?
With its wealth of options, NBA 2K13 is definitely a great choice for basketball-loving families. Other than the sheer horror of watching the Charlotte Bobcats take on the Sacramento Kings, there’s nothing in this game that kids shouldn’t be seeing. The only caveat is that because this is more of a basketball sim, the controls (especially the new control stick) are not very easy to jump into, and definitely take some practice. And of course, there are the microtransactions described above, which are always something that parents should be aware of in the games their children are playing.
Documentation is also somewhat limited, so if you are coming into the NBA 2K series with fresh eyes, it will take some poking around to figuring out everything that’s available. And even then, you’ll still stumble upon some surprises, because there’s just so much depth to this game. There’s a full manual downloadable off the web, but when the included pamphlet doesn’t even give a basic overview of what’s available within the game, that’s an airball.
The GamerPops Recommendation
Unless you have an unquenchable urge to know whether the 2012 Olympic squad could have beaten the aliens from Space Jam, there’s really not much more that NBA 2K13 could realistically offer a video game basketball fan. I could definitely live without the microtransaction cashgrab, but with its wealth of gameplay options, slick presentation, and on-court accuracy, 2K’s latest NBA offering is as good as it gets. Until 2K adds more bells and whistles for next year’s version.
A review copy was provided to GamerPops.[box]
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ESRB Rating Summary
Rating: E for Everyone
Content descriptors: No descriptors
Rating summary: This is a basketball simulation game in which players can select teams from real NBA rosters, customize players, compete in tournaments, and play through regular seasons. Players can also manage individual franchises and control the careers of real-world athletes.