Having not played a basketball game for a few years, back when this game genre was merely finding its feet on the current generation of consoles I was rather apprehensive as they used to bore me to tears. However I do have faith in the experienced 2K Games who publish NBA 2K13, surely over the years they’ve managed to create a balance between pure simulation and fun by now?
With no real idea on how to play the game of basketball other than making slam dunks and the basic jump shots, I was more than welcoming of the in-depth tutorial showing various necessary moves I’ll need to know. First thing I noticed was the varying types of shots you can make nowadays, whilst moving away from the basket, whilst being man-marked or whilst running towards an opposition defender. Dribbling is very much enhanced with as much control as you could expect using the right analog stick, adding a realistic touch so if you fancying tricking a defender you can switch the ball to another hand, fake switch, have a little spin round your back it’s a whole lot of fun using each of these techniques. As long as the player you’re using is up to the standard of course, then he might occasionally forget to take the ball with him, which is what you’d expect from a rookie. But as with all tutorials there are some things that have to come naturally in a real game, so where better to jump straight in than this year’s big draw (in my opinion), MyCareer.
I very much doubt they can add anymore realism to a mode like MyCareer where you are the central character and every move you make on and off the court can make a difference in your illustrious career. I’ve played many sporting games with the focus on one single professional sports man but this takes it to a whole new level. Prospective clubs will drill you for answers on whether you’re a suitable candidate for them to choose you in the draft after a talent show-off style match featuring fellow rookies. Once you’ve signed on the dotted line (starts off with a basic contract but wheter this turns into a huge deal depends on how good you are) that’s the easy part over and done with, over time your character must improve by doing training drills or drills taught by legendary ballers (at a cost) like Larry Bird.
Then when you get on the court it’s up to you to earn fans (via social media, cleverly answered questions or publicity stunts), more money and build up a real chemistry with your team mates. During the beginning of my career I was used mainly as a sub, the pressure really is on to make your mark on the game no matter how little time you get given. This is where I noticed the massive improvement on the A.I. as I was on defending duty after a turnover, it told me who I should be marking and I felt more than confident that he was in my pocket. How wrong was I? As he dropped the shoulder, lost me to go on to receive the ball and throw it easily into the net. The movement of both teams is incredible to create themselves space to receive the ball and decision making on it; I’d go as far as saying the most intelligent gameplay in a sports game.
NBA 2K13 features two rather similar game modes for controlling the full team but one suits the more experience NBA enthusiast (The Association mode) and the other for rookies like myself (Season mode). The Association mode seems to put you in the role of GM and a bit of a jack of all trades, having a real hands on approach to all aspects of being part of an NBA team from playing the matches to setting up training exercises. That’s not all, contract negotiations are also part of your role so there are some big decisions to be made with regards to who you keep on or want rid of. Should you prefer to simulate the actual game it allows you to have more control than ever by setting tactics beforehand like who’s the point man and defensive strategies. Well I don’t have much clue about that yet, although I understand a bit more each game I play.
Season mode follows basically the same structure but without the added General Manager themed activities, that certainly suited me more. The only problem with this and to an extent even MyCareer was the mess navigation which is for some reason mainly accessed using the right-stick. Half the time you can’t just go back to the last page you were on you have to bring up a menu then choose another option. Hopefully this doesn’t make me sound too stupid but there was a point in Association mode where I couldn’t even begin to understand how to start my next match. That’s one of the major flaws, plus most of the modes aren’t explained so you have to experience them to know what they are.
If you’re an avid sports gamer then you’ll know what Ultimate Team is, well on this game there’s something similar and it’s MyTEAM. Basically it’s gets you going with a starter pack of players from all different teams and you use these to win coins which you can then use to purchase more players. The better they are the more expensive they’ll be though and this is a great mode to build that dream team that you’ve always wanted.
A major positive on the online side is the ability to play Association mode with other Xbox Live gamers/friends, that’s a complete season using a team each. I can only imagine the fun and competitive nature that could bring to a group of friends, playing a match every so often for the ultimate bragging rights. They have also included the regular quick matches and I’m not sure if this is new but a 3 on 3 Blacktop mode that pits two teams of three human characters against each other in a race to 21 points using street rules.
Massive creative influence this year from the legend Jay-Z and you can certainly tell by casually listening to the game’s soundtrack, not only songs from his own catalogue but he’s managed to pull in Coldplay “Viva La Vida”, Kanye West & Rihanna “Run This Town” and U2 “Elevation”. In addition to these big hitter mainstream artists there’s a few I’ve never heard of but it all makes for a fantastic soundtrack to get you in the mood for a bit of basketball.
I’d never of thought I’d enjoy being a pro baller as much as I have done during an intensive few gaming session on NBA 2K13. For a newbie to the series it’s incredibly confusing to navigate and to figure out what everything is, but there is a huge amount of modes to get through which means there are a whole lot of hours of gaming in store for when you do find a mode to suit you. Such fluidity in gameplay that I’ve not seen in many sporting games, they’ve come a long way and I’m excited for what they can bring in the future
NBA 2K 13 Reviewed by James Birk