The NBA season is currently in pre-season mode and 2K Sports has released their latest edition in the NBA2K series. With the demise of EA’s NBA Live 13, 2K Sports was handed the entire NBA video game market.
From the opening scene introductions and all the way through the entire experience, it’s obvious that Jay Z Productions was heavily involved. The entire library of music was hand picked by the Jay Z team, and not all of it is Hip Hop. The artists range from the likes of U2 and Coldpay to Jay Z and Kanye West. You can customize each arena around the league with its own sounds, and this isn’t limited to the in-game library. You can create custom playlists from the XMB and then use that in the game. You want nothing but hip-hop for the Lakers, but something nice and slow for the Clippers? Create two different playlists for each team using your own music, then assign them accordingly in-game. It would have been nice if you could use an individual song instead of a playlist, but it’s still a great feature.
The menus have been revamped a bit, but are easy to navigate with the next menu level available to view just to the right of the current menu. All of the new modes are earmarked on the menu to show you what’s new this time around. The menu can be a little underwhelming, but once you get an idea of where everything is, they become much more useful.
You’ll probably want to start out by creating your future Hall of Famer in MyCareer. After you decided what size and shape, and what position you’ll want to play, you’ll get to participate in the Rookie Showcase. How well you play, and how well you interact with your teammates, will help decide your position in the draft. Once the showcase is over, several teams will want to sit down with you to ask you a few questions. You can straight up tell them you don’t want to play for them, you can beat around the bush and leave them undecided, or you could profess your undying love for them by answering all of their questions with what you think they want to hear. It’s an experience I’ve never went through in any other sporting franchise, and now I wish I had. It puts an interesting twist on what is usually a bland video game occurrence.
Once the Draft is underway, it’s time to sit and listen to all the guys that get picked in front of you. David Stern takes the podium and starts calling team names and players picked. If you totally owned the other rookies in the showcase, and if the team that wants you has an early draft pick, you might go early. There’s a trophy for being a lottery pick, so going early has its rewards. Once you are drafted, your road to being an NBA Superstar can begin. Your rookie contract is non-negotiable, so no big decisions there. After each game you’ll participate in a news conference. How you answer questions will help determine your local fan base, overall fan base, and your team chemistry. Questions are simple: How did you feel about your playing time? Answers, not so much. Saying, “I’m happy for now” is a response that can be construed as “These guys suck and once it’s my turn, I’ll prove it” and therefore can cost you fans and team morale. This little wrinkle in interview logic mimics real life, so always think before you speak, even in a video game.
New this season is the Legends Training Camp. If you want to be the best, you have to learn from the best. These are tutorials that introduce you to some of the new control aspects, as well as to basic and advanced NBA moves. There are nine different camps you can attend, but unfortunately you can’t run through them all at once. Legends like Larry Bird will teach you jump shots, while the great Michael Jordan will teach you lay-ups and dunks (no tongue wagging lessons though). Other greats included are Bill Russel, Magic Johnson, the always flamboyant Dennis Rodman, John Stockton, Hakeem Olajuwon, Isiah Thomas, and Jerry West. There’s quite a bit they can teach you, and each camp helps boost your overall attributes.
Clothes and jewelry make the man? Never has this been more apparent than in NBA 2K13. Available for purchase on the PlayStation Network are four levels of jewelry. Gold gives you a +3 to all attributes while Platinum gives you a +6 and Blue Diamond gives you a +10. These don’t stack, so no need to own all three. Items that can also boost your attributes are available in-game and are purchasable with virtual currency (VC). While new shoes won’t necessarily increase your attributes, they will look cool on the court once you create your own custom kicks in the new shoe creator. 45 different components are customizable for each shoe. VC is earned while you play and accumulates across all areas in-game, as well as through mobile apps and a Facebook app. The line between sports game and RPG seems to be blurring now.
Similar to MyCareer is Create a Legend mode. The difference is you can start out as a rookie legend like Michael Jordan or Magic Johnson, and then proceed to build your career with any team you want. Jordan as a Sacramento King? Why not? The Maloofs haven’t moved the team yet. The selection of players to choose from is huge. Any player on any roster within the game can be selected, and just about every great team, ever, is on the list. 60’s, 70’s, 80’s, 90’s and now. Pick a decade, pick a player, have fun. It might take you longer to pick a player than to play a game.
All of these great teams can also be played in the Play Now mode. Be like Mike from the 80’s and take on Kobe, or jump in with the celebrities and have Bieber and Pauly D take on the Dream Team. Both the 92′ dream Team and the latest 2012 team are there, so see what happens when they go head to head. Old school versus new school or run-n-gun versus shutdown D.
All of these bells and whistles are great, but where the game truly shines is in graphics and game play. The game looks great. Right down to the label on the basketball, the highly defined graphics are to notch. Uniforms look real, with clothing moving as it should, as well as hair (for those that have any). Animations are slick, with replays looking as good as ever. These replays can be saved and then shared in a variety of ways. Snapshots can be saved and shared as well. Controls have been tweaked to use the right stick for more accurate moves like cross overs and behind the back moves.
Another new addition is the MyTeam mode. This is a trading card style of game where you are given a basic set of cards to start with and can grow your team by spending VC on game card packs. More VC can be purchased through the PSN if you want some quick cash, but playing through the game will also net you plenty eventually. Online tournaments also award VC, so hone your skills and get out there.
With no real competition in the NBA video game arena, 2K Sports could have phoned this one in and still dribbled away with a boat load of cash. Instead, they took a well designed NBA 2K12 and polished it up, threw in a few more needed additions, added some bells and whistles, and finished what could possibly be the Sports Game of the Year.