NBA 2K11 added Michael Jordan and his historic moments. NBA 2K12 brought back classic matchups from some of basketball’s most memorable teams. NBA 2K13 was left with the difficult task of trying to top that.
Developer Visual Concepts somehow did that. The team added the most historic team ever, the Dream Team. Along with new features and game modes and a little help from Jay Z, NBA 2K13 is another huge step forward for the franchise.
NBA 2K13 has major changes to everything from the menu system to in-game cutscenes. Executive Producer Jay Z played a major role in the new presentation style and his influence is obvious. It is evident as soon as the menu music begins playing. Jay Z hand selected popular tracks such as “Mercy” by G.O.O.D. Music, “1901” by Phoenix, and “The World is Yours” by Nas to appear on the game’s soundtrack.
The main menu system has been oversimplified. A new drop-down system is much less intuitive than the interactive menu used last year. The expanded MyPlayer mode takes over the main screen.
In-game presentation is over-influenced by Jay Z. Announcers are great, as usual, but lack much improvement over the last few years. Players have their pre-game and free throw rituals digitally recreated to perfection with extra options for pre-game routines available for created players. Cutscenes are introduced with overlays that include microphones and sound bars. It might work in NBA Baller Beats but feels out of place in a straight basketball sim.
Player models and animations are much improved from NBA 2K12. Models are bigger and more like their real life counterparts. Gamers can feel the difference between a 6’2″ guard and 6’11” center. Facial features are as lifelike as ever. Animations are smooth and gamers have full range of motion. Developers worked hard to make sure players are never locked in to animations. Players on the court never suffer from the ghosting effects typically found in sports games.
It is rare for a game with almost no flaws and no competition to reinvent itself. While NBA 2K13 does not completely do that, the game does implement a new control scheme. In past installments of the 2K series, the right stick was used as a shooting stick. For NBA 2K13, the right stick is still used as a shot stick but the left trigger must be held down as a shot modifier.
A new dribbling system using the right stick alone gives players more control over dribble moves. Gamers can now perform dribble techniques such as a step back, spin move or crossover with one simple button flick. Moves that were previously reserved for more advanced players are now easier to accomplish. Defenders in one-on-one situations can be taken off the dribble with relative ease
Making such a drastic change is risky, but it works in this case. The controls take some getting used to but gamers will be pulling off ankle-breaking dribble moves in no time. Of course, players also have the option to modify the controls back to the old scheme.
NBA 2K13 focuses heavily on the expanded MyPlayer mode. In fact, the mode formerly known as MyPlayer is now called MyCAREER. Once the game is booted up, gamers will immediately be asked to build a MyPlayer. This walks players through the basics with more in-depth creation abilities available upon starting a career. MyPlayer has spilled over to other aspects of the game, including online and blacktop modes.
Despite adding playable historic NBA moments in the past two years, the real bread and butter was with MyPlayer. Now known as MyCAREER, the build-a-superstar mode greatly reflects the life of an NBA player. In addition to post-game press conferences and pre-draft interviews, NBA 2K13 includes the chance to meet with the GM of the team and give pre-game pep talks to pump up the team. As progress is made throughout the career, players will gain more Twitter followers, including celebrities such as Justin Bieber and Magic Johnson. Endorsement deals can be made with shoe companies such as Jordan and Nike.
Achieving success and reaching specific milestones nets players Virtual Currency (VC) to use towards improving abilities. Contracts are also paid out in VC. Gone are the Skill Points earned in the past. Unlike Skill Points, however, VC can be used for more than just improving stats. Players can use hard-earned VC to purchase new Signature Skills, clothing and pre-game rituals. Signature Skills apply bonuses in certain situations. If a player is a “Corner Specialist,” his three-point accuracy from the corners will be better.
A completely new game mode has been added to the franchise, emphasizing online play. MyTEAM is an online team builder similar to EA Sports Ultimate Team.
Gamers are given a starter pack with low-tier players, a coach, a stadium, jerseys and playbooks to begin. Teams can compete in an online Road to the Playoffs against other MyTEAM owners to earn VC and additional packs. VC earned in any game mode in NBA 2K13 can be used to purchase players on the market. Adding elite players such as Dwight Howard or LeBron James will cost a lot more than the likes of Ronny Turiaf or Steve Blake. Legendary players and vintage uniforms are also included in MyTEAM.
Although this is an interesting feature, it seems like a money grab for 2K Games. Packs of VC can be purchased using real currency, allowing players to essentially buy a good team.
As usual, NBA 2K13 raises the bar for basketball gaming. With no competition on the NBA market, it would be easy for the developers to simply rehash last year’s game with new rosters. Instead, NBA 2K13 offers an expanded MyCAREER mode, new controls and new features. It is a major flaw that the game must be connected to the servers in order to earn VC, which essentially means there is no point to purchase the game without an online connection. However, it is merely a hiccup in another finely tuned entry into the franchise.