When it comes to basketball games the choice has traditionally been between EA’s NBA Live series, and 2K’s NBA series. This year, however, EA pulled NBA Live at nearly the last moment, much like NBA Elite in 2010, leaving 2K an open court in which to assert dominance. What 2K and developer Visual Concept have created this year is a very good basketball sim, but one with some major interface issues.
Of course Season mode, where you control a whole team during complete matches makes a return. Association mode, which is the more in depth management sim also returns, though it really feels like it’s for the more hardcore NBA fans, tweaking the team’s style of play in quite an in depth way. However, there’s also the addition of NBA 2K13’s MyTeam mode, which is comparable to FIFA’s Ultimate Team mode.[drop]When you first start you’re given a booster pack with 12 players, a coach, a playbook, home & away kits, and an arena. It’s an interesting mode to play around with, gaining points in matches against others online which you then use to purchase packs or players to improve the team. It’s a bit of a challenge to navigate and feels quite basic but, if 2K Sports keep adding to it, then it could be a brilliant mode on its own.
However, MyTeam isn’t the biggest change in NBA 2K13, that comes from the controls. The right analog stick can now be considered the main tactical control when playing on the court. The stick handles everything from changing the way you dribble the ball, to trying to outstep and outsmart the opponent, to performing different types of shots.
Though this new control mechanic can be considered a good system, it takes quite a bit of getting used to, although you can still use the normal buttons for shots and passing. Apart from a quick introduction, there isn’t a tutorial to show how this works, or really how to properly play NBA 2K13. The only real way to learn is by playing.
It sounds a bit harsh that you’re expected to learn everything by yourself, but the challenge can be enjoyable, if a little frustrating at times. The best way to learn to play the game is through the MyCareer mode, which at its most basic level is like Be A Pro from FIFA, but at its best it could be considered a sports RPG. You begin by creating your player, from the looks to the type of roles he plays within a team; it’s quite a deep customisation system.
From here you don’t select which team you play for. The team picks you. In the MyCareer mode the first game you play is a rookie match, where coaches and general managers of the NBA teams view potential stars for their teams. The rookie match gives you the first taste of exactly what you have to do to become noticed.
When playing in a match you’re give a rating, which constantly changes depending on what you do in the game. Scoring points, assists, stealing the ball and blocking shots all give you a positive score, while giving the ball away, missing shots and allowing opposing players to score will impact negatively on your rating.
After the rookie match you’ll get interviewed by some GMs of different teams, and depending on your answers they may show interest in you. These meetings do have full voice overs and answers have consequences. Once the interviews are done, you’re taken to the NBA rookie draft, where you will learn your fate. My player was picked by the Orlando Magic.
Once your drafted the real depth of the MyCareer mode makes itself known. You set up a fake social media account on what is an in game Twitter-like application, and try to juggle keeping your fans and team mates happy, whilst improving as a player.
When you first start you won’t get much playing time and you’ll almost never play a full match as coaches will sub players depending on the needs of the team. When you’re not on the court you sit on the bench and watch the game unfold through a first person view, or you can sim the match until you re-enter the game.[drop2]
After each game you’ll attend a press conference where you’ll be asked one question, dependent on how you played, the final score and the team effort. This part is actually quite tricky to navigate with different answers having different effects, and sometimes the answer options feel a bit ambiguous so you’re not sure what your player is going to say.
One example of this was when I and the team had performed poorly and lost a match. I was asked what we could have done better, and chose the option that the team needed to practice more. I thought this answer would be about how we’d work harder. Instead my player went on a rant on how he was one of the greatest and how his team mates were letting him down. Not great for the Team Chemistry.
Team Chemistry is a major part of the overall performance and your inclusion in a match. A low team chemistry will mean miscommunication and you’ll get less minutes on the court. Even if you do get those minutes, team mates are less likely to include you in plays. Off the court, you can meet with the GM to discuss team matters, including praising or expressing your contempt for the coach or another player, adding some drama to the mode.
Presentation wise the game looks amazing, and players look almost exactly like their real life counterparts. The animations and player movement are smooth and the arenas themselves look incredibly well crafted. You’ll hear trainers squeaking on the floor and the commentary makes it feel like you’re watching a match on TV, the commentary team just reacts so well.
The soundtrack has been produced and compiled by Jay Z, which you can’t miss as that fact is on the game’s case and cover. There’s a few hits and misses in the soundtrack but it is generally good. Loading screens consist of either concert footage or music videos mixed with game highlights. This all adds to the great spectacle.
However, the actual menu interface is a bit of a bloated mess. When I first started up the game I got to the home screen, saw a quick match mode, the MyCareer mode and the MyPlayer creation centre. It wasn’t until I flicked the right analog stick that the main menu popped up with all the other in game modes and options. In every mode you’ll access the main menu by flicking the right analog stick, and even then the menus just seem a bit too big with options that could have been streamlined.
- Brilliant in game presentation.
- MyCareer is an incredibly in depth experience.
- Gameplay is challenging and flows smoothly.
- Commentary is some of the best in any sports game.
- Menu interface is bloated.
- No tutorial introducing newcomers to the game.
- A bit too much focus on Jay Z’s contributions.
NBA 2K13 is a brilliantly fun basketball game and one for all basketball fans to pick up. Casual sports game fans should also pick this up as it’s good to play against others. Sure there are a few things 2K can improve, like the menu interface and the inclusion of a tutorial, but once you get a hang of it NBA 2K13 is a great experience.