All That And A New Pair of Shoes
I’ve always said that it’s hard to innovate in sports genres. The rules of basketball never change, so making basketball games feel different year after year is a bit of a challenge. Luckily, the NBA 2k series has never been afraid of experimenting with new things, and this particularly holds true with NBA 2k13. 2k12 was already an awesome basketball game that felt as if it covered all the bases. 2k13 is built on that same great system but throws in a whole bunch of wacky new extras that give the game more of an arcade NBA Jam sort of feel. These extras aren’t integral to the gameplay, but instead act as shiny diversions that keep you interested in the game long after you have gotten bored with random exhibitions. Heck, you might even get a brand new pair of shoes while you are at it.
The single biggest gameplay innovation in NBA 2k13 is the new dribble stick. Essentially, you can now control your character’s dribble with the right thumbstick. Normally, this stick would be used to shoot, but now you have to hold a trigger down in order to enter shooting mode before using the stick to shoot.
There are both pros and cons to this new control scheme. Being able to control your dribble at all is obviously a vast improvement. However, the game doesn’t actually tell you how the dribble stick works. There are no tutorials or instructional videos on how to use it to your advantage. The game literally tells you to just try waggling the stick around and see what happens.
In addition, the need to hold a trigger in order to shoot actually makes shooting feel less responsive than it did before. In the middle of a heated game you may find yourself late on the trigger press, causing your chosen player to simply fiddle the ball around rather than make the game-winning shot. It’s nothing you can’t get used to, but it’s certainly an annoying adjustment early on.
That being said, I think the decision to add a dribble stick to the game was a good one. It makes the game feel a bit more arcade-y, so to speak. It feels like you have more control over your player overall, even if shooting feels a bit laggier as a result. I’d actually like to see them keep the functionality in for the rest of the series, with possible tweaks to how shooting works hopefully added in the future.
That’s pretty much it when it comes to gameplay changes in 2k13. Everything else is just bells and whistles, and this game has a lot of them. My personal favorite is the game’s new shoe creator. With this tool you can design your own custom footwear for your created player to wear. You can tweak the colors and design but you can’t get too detailed. Still, it’s pretty awesome to see your player wearing the dream kicks that you thought up.
Oh, and get this. You can actually purchase these shoes in real life. The game links up with NikeID, which allows you to order the shoes you created, for yourself, in your own size. This has got to be the geekiest function I have ever seen integrated into a basketball game, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t order my own custom rocket shoes! Dorky footwear indulgence… what will they think of next?
The much acclaimed My Player/My Career mode has been improved upon as well. Now you can spend points to purchase “Signature Skills” which affect the way your player handles on the court. Examples are “Brick Wall,” which makes you harder to get past; “Pick Pocket,” which increases your chances to steal the ball; and “Finisher,” which makes you better at layups and dunks. There are 31 skills each with three levels of proficiency. Of course, the stock players in the game also have these skills, but you don’t ever get a chance to fiddle with them.
A new type of event in the My Player/Career mode is the meeting with a general manager. In these meetings you get to update the GM on the progress of your team, your relationship with your coach and teammates, and the particulars of your ongoing NBA career. Your responses here flesh out your player’s personality. You can act like a total dick and blame every single loss on your coach. Heck you can even try to get your coach fired. However, the attitudes of your teammates, the public, and the media change based on how you respond. For me, the meetings were always kind of awkward. I just sort of stammered over myself whenever I was asked a question and tries to placate the GM in any way I could. It’s good to know that NBA 2k13 has gone the extra mile to add its own awkward social situation simulator.
A whole bunch of classic players and teams were added to the game this time around. It’s nice to finally be able to play as Charles Barkley again, which is something most of us haven’t been able to do since Shut Up and Jam! Controlling dream teams from the past is also a blast, and is great for nostalgia buffs (read: old people) like me who enjoy the days of Jordan more than they do the days of LeBron. There’s even a celebrity team lead by… uggh… Justin Bieber. Yes, just like in NBA Jam, these celebrities are way better than they should be. They are easily some of the best players in the game and… it just feels wrong. It feels wrong in all the right ways though. Goofy stuff like this seriously ups the game’s replay value. It’s just… Justin Bieber… really?
Now it’s time to talk about the elephant on the court, and by elephant I mean Jay-Z. Jay-Z was credited as an executive producer on this title, and of course he had a lot to say in the game’s soundtrack. I can wholeheartedly say that the game’s tunes are competent, but that’s about all I can say. Jay-Z really didn’t wow me here. The music still gets repetitive at times and sometimes it doesn’t really feel like it fits the subject matter. I get that hip-hop and basketball go together, but some of these beats just don’t seem to drive home the competitive feel the game should have. Don’t get me wrong, the soundtrack is stellar. It includes hits from Nas and Mobb Deep and even music from Jay-Z himself. Still, I felt like it just took me out of the experience sometimes. I mean, Coldplay’s Viva La Vida? U2’s Elevation? Daft Punk’s Around the World? I don’t know, those songs just don’t say “basketball” to me.
Everything else about the game, though, is a smash hit. The voice acting by the announcers is spot on. The animations on the court are smooth and realistic. The online play has perfect netcode and it never takes too long to find a match. It’s a hands-down improvement over NBA 2k12 in every way. I’d say that NBA 2k13 is easily worth the trade-up even if you are only a casual basketball fan. The RPG elements in My Career add a new level of strategy to the game, the dream teams give the game a very arcade-like feel, and you get to make your own shoes! Any video game that was good enough to get me to design and purchase my own custom footwear is fun enough for me.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 3.8 Graphics
Though you still get ice-skating players at points, the graphics are smoother than ever. 4.0 Control
I like the new dribble stick but it’s an adjustment. 3.7 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The soundtrack is questionable but the voice acting is amazing. 4.7 Play Value
This is easily one of the best 2K basketball games yet. 4.3 Overall Rating – Great
Not an average. See Rating legend below for a final score breakdown.
|Review Rating Legend|
|0.1 – 1.9 = Avoid||2.5 – 2.9 = Average||3.5 – 3.9 = Good||4.5 – 4.9 = Must Buy|
|2.0 – 2.4 = Poor||3.0 – 3.4 = Fair||4.0 – 4.4 = Great||5.0 = The Best|