"A Slam Dunk"
The NBA 2K series has asserted itself as the dominant basketball simulation in video games. The EA Sports counterpart is little more than an afterthought as millions of players buy the 2K installment year after year. Winning the competition comes with its own set of challenges, chief among them is making sure that they never rest and instead focus on improving the game despite being really the only show in town.
I'm here to tell you that the NBA 2K series has done that and more with NBA 2K13. I will begin by simply saying that this game raised my expectation for sports games of the future. There were so many things I wished the game would do that the prospect of buying this year's effort gave me cause for concern. However, I've never been more pleased with a game. Does that mean that I'm about to sing this games praises? Not exactly; I wouldn't be doing my job if I simply focused on the positive. However, I will point out that any complaint I file in this review is tantamount to splitting hairs.
Jay-Z is listed as NBA 2K13's Executive Producer, though how much involvement he had in the game is somewhat unclear. Still, I have to tip my hat to him for the games solid presentation. What impressed me about the presentation the most is how smooth the interface has become. The developers built on what worked and discarded what didn't, which makes a ton of sense. The only thing that seems to not work perfectly is the new universal MyPlayer function. This function allows you to make a MyPlayer that is the basis for all the players you will create in what is now called MyCareer mode. This decision, in all honesty, seemed a bit unnecessary and I still fail to see the importance of the feature.
The MyCareer mode is better than its predecessors by leaps and bounds. The most glaring issue in games past was the persistent feeling that my player was like Neo in the Matrix, able to affect the game without actually being a part of it. The play-by-play team never talked about me, and the halftime report would fail to mention my on-court achievements. Luckily, all of these issues have been addressed, as now the game seems to recognize performance instead of arbitrary player ratings.
NBA 2K13 has also introduced Virtual Currency or VC, which has replaced Skill Points from games past. This new feature kinda stumbled out of the gate; the door is wide open for players to hustle the game. If your shooting guard is having trouble earning VC, don't fret, simply earn VC with a center and spend the currency on your guard. The up side of VC is that the developers expanded what the player can spend VC on. This includes regular clothes, casual off the court clothes, as well as accessories ranging from knee braces to head bands. It is a little disturbing that VC can also be purchased with real money via Xbox LIVE, but what you choose to waste your hard earned money on is your own prerogative.
2K did far more than adjust the bells and whistles; the game has also made strides in the on-the-court action. The most impressive development comes on the defensive side of the game. The computer A.I. is far more realistic. One thing that sets teams apart is how they play defense. In 2K games of the past, there was no unique nature to this aspect of the game. However, now defenders miss assignments, they play off of their man at times. Great defenders set themselves apart from mediocre ones. 2K also put the power back into the player's hands to play great defense. No longer does the player have to hold on for dear life, hoping that the computer doesn't arbitrarily decide to do them in for eight straight points. It is far easier in NBA 2K13 to put a body on your man and pester him all night.
On the flip side, 2K has tweaked the player controls again. The thing I'm most excited about is the ability to move without the ball; the opposing player is no longer the strongest freaking guy in the universe who simply decides that you can't move through the paint despite the fact that you're seven foot one and he's Tony Parker. They seem to have also chosen the lesser of two evils when it comes to actual movement. In previous games, the player kind of felt like they were sliding around the court; now I feel like I'm under water. However, this creates a far superior representation of movement on the basketball court. The only real complaint in NBA 2K13 is that certain aspects of the control scheme lack precision; sometimes you want to take one step but instead take three.
With the new approach to the MyCareer mode and a healthy dose of online play features, NBA 2K13 did what any annual game should do, raise the bar. The universal challenge that all video games face is simply this: how do you make a game that is challenging without the player feeling like they were cheated. NBA 2K13 is an excellent example of a game that worked overtime to diminish the cheapness of playing against the computer and therefore created an immersive experience that will keep players coming back for more.
Is the game perfect? Nope. But for the first time in years, I'm left with the feeling that perfection was the goal.
GameDynamo's Score for NBA 2K13 (X360)
|Dante' R. Maddox
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