- Publisher: 2K Games
- Developer: 2K Sports
- ESRB Rating: T (Teen)
- Genre: Sports
- Pros: Fluid Graphics, Stunning Presentation, Perfect Broadcast Team, Depth of Modes
- Cons: Occasional Dream Plays, Serious Rubber-banding
If you haven't heard, the legendary Jay Z has executive produced "NBA 2K13" and he brings a wonderful sense of professionalism to the entire affair with his hand-picked soundtrack and interactive menus and clip packages that he helped develop. Don't worry. You won't hear "Empire State of Mind" every time you start a game. Sean Carter is shrewd enough to not put too bright of a fingerprint on the game but just to guide its development in a way that makes it feel like more of an accomplishment from the very minute the game loads. And then when you get into modes like "My Career," "My Team," "Creating a Legend," and the standards like "Season" and "Playoff," you realize that it's not merely cosmetic. "NBA 2K13" is accomplished on every level.
This sports game fan typically picks a mode and rolls with it. I still have seasons going in "MLB 12 The Show" and "Madden NFL 13." I'm a fan of "Road to the Show" in "NCAA Football 13" and dug the "Tournament" mode in "NHL 13." For "NBA 2K13," it's impossible to pick a favorite. Whether it was the Season mode, which is easily transformed into a mini-season so you don't have to play all 82 games, a beautifully-presented "Playoff" mode, or the great "Creating a Legend" mode, I found a different way to enjoy "NBA 2K13" every time I turned it on. There has never been a game that worked this successfully across multiple modes.
What's new? There's a clear push to integrate your "2K" experience across multiple platforms. The game will ask you create an avatar and insert special skills and preferences to upload online almost immediately when you first start it up. You then earn Virtual Currency across multiple modes which allows you to buy new outfits and show off your Player on Facebook and iOS apps from "NBA 2K." Bored on the bus? Customize your player on your iPhone. As more and more games try to incorporate our increasing dependency on multiple platforms, 2K Sports and Jay Z are ahead of the curve in making "NBA 2K13" an experience that you don't merely have at home with one controller and one system.
Which is not to say that you won't plug hours into this game in a traditional fashion or that you won't thoroughly enjoy it without an app and a Facebook account. What's so stunning about "NBA 2K13" is how successful it is across multiple styles of play. Of course, 2K continues with their pioneering approach to tying gameplay directly to real-life action and so "NBA Today" is the first thing you see. Play that day's game with updated rosters either online or against the CPU. That will be most gamer's first instinct and they'll have an experience with a few tweaks from last year's edition but nothing significant. Yes, there's a new control stick dynamic that allows for refined shooting with the stick and the L1 button pressed but I found it cumbersome and reverted to a more traditional square button shooting procedure.
On the court, gameplay feels more fluid than ever thanks to a refined passing system and play-calling that feels more organic and easier to use. There are still times when I truly felt like I was in the lane or in a position to block the ball and a predetermined animation kicked in and there was literally nothing I could do to stop my opponent from successfully driving to the basket. However, I'm guessing those playing Kevin Durant and LeBron James also sometimes feel a similar predetermination in the real world. There's also some serious rubber-banding in this game in that if you're up by 15, you can expect the opponent to suddenly start draining threes. Once again, given the actual game's propensity for similar comebacks, especially during last year's Playoffs, one could argue this not traditional sports rubber-banding but the realism of the sport.
As with all great modern sports games, "NBA 2K13" offers an insane amount of customization. Not only can you change the look of your player but you can customize shoes with up to 45 different components. "Ultimate Team" is back with a card-based approach to a fantasy basketball team and you can choose a real player or make your own for "Creating a Legend" (I went with Chris Paul). "NBA 2K13" is whatever you want it to be.