In what was supposed to be the first year since the 2009-10 NBA season that Visual Concepts’s NBA 2K series was to be challenged by EA Sports’s NBA Live franchise, hoops gamers were anxious to see which title would stand out the most.
“NBA 2K13” was such a huge hit in its demo alone, EA Sports suspiciously cancelled NBA Live 13 just days after the “NBA 2K13” demo released online — making it three consecutive years EA nixed its basketball title.
With the full edition of “NBA 2K13” released on Tuesday, NBA 2K established itself as the ultimate hoops series for at least the next several years.
Unlike in past years, “NBA 2K13” shows much improvement over its preceding title. With rapper Jay-Z being one of the game’s executive producers, “NBA 2K13” integrates some of Jay-Z’s signature tracks like “Run This Town” and “Public Service Announcement,” and the title’s soundtrack features artists selected by the hip-hop mogul himself, including songs by Kanye West, Puff Daddy, Mobb Deep and others.
Under Jay-Z’s lead, hip-hop transcends as the game’s main theme. The menu serves as a visualizer to the background music, and the in-game scoreboard is animated with music bars as well. Not to mention, “NBA 2K13” added pop star Justin Bieber as a playable celebrity and even included him as a courtside fan at Lakers home games near the team’s bench.
Then there is the enhanced gameplay. Visually, the athletes’ motions are smoother than ever and the lighting on the players is glossier to resemble bright arena lights. On-ball defense is a noticeable improvement, which makes it easier for users to stay in front of the opposing ball-handler.
Visual Concepts has also revamped the use of the right analog stick for many different controls. For the PS3 and the Xbox 360, the right stick is now primarily set to accommodate an array of dribble moves, but the players can also hold the left trigger to activate the shot stick. This allows players to use a variety of crossovers and shoot on the dribble quicker, just like real basketball players.
In previous titles, there were always problems with passing the ball through the defense with NBA 2K’s limited trajectory options. In “NBA 2K13,” passing is a lot more hands-on, as users can now choose to throw a bounce pass or use the right stick for directional passing. Dishing the ball to a cutter is a lot less frustrating this season.
The right stick also makes post moves even more hands-on to control, and post-savvy centers and power forwards like the Lakers’ Pau Gasol now seem a lot more valuable.
“NBA 2K13” kept all of the game modes to “NBA 2K12” and added more legends to its roster (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is noticeably absent, however). The game allows users to customize their “My Player” avatar and use VC Points to buy upgrades and accessories, and in “My Career,” users can now negotiate with the team’s general manager at any time to satisfy the avatar’s needs in his playing career.
The only notable problem with this year’s edition was the limited use of Team USA from the 2012 Olympics and the 1992 “Dream Team.” The feature to play the two teams against together was heavily hyped in the days leading to the release — since it was a popular sports debate topic over which was better — but its use for exhibition-only makes its playability quickly tiring. This would be corrected with the addition of other national teams and a FIBA tournament, like in NBA Live 09.
NBA 2K has always set the bar for all sports game each year since it has monopolized the basketball genre. With the release of “NBA 2K13,” that bar seems higher than ever.
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