The emergence of the NBA 2K series in recent years has only proved to illuminate the troubles with its online infrastructure. Excuses for the tremendously troubled performance and lacking features have been made that includes sales being more than anticipated, Dreamcast “tech and servers (NBA 2K11) being switched out, and Dreamcast code (NBA 2K12) being replaced.
Ultimately though reasoning mattered not – consumers were getting shafted with an experience that did not meet reasonable standards. NBA 2K13 however appears to have turned the corner. Online may not be exceptional, but it’s acceptable, and that makes a tremendous difference in evaluating the all-around package that is being provided.
Release week has come and gone and NBA 2K13 held up better than anyone would have anticipated. Games have generally been lag-free and disconnects have been limited. As always performance will vary and issues may arise (Team-Up is more hit and miss than 1v1 games) but that none have been widespread is telling. Just getting into games has been a difficult process in the past let alone staying connected or having smooth and responsive performance.
Most games have shown balance though a lot will depend on the teams that are being used. Power-teams like the Lakers and Heat will be seen frequently and they are difficult to deal with defensively. The gameplay might come across as “arcadey” given high shot percentages and the ease at which players can get into the paint. This has seemed to be a problem more again when facing those particular teams where dominant players can just take over with little skill on the user’s part to be effective. Otherwise games have felt more accessible in how they play rather than frustration coming from being exploitable.
There is some sense of heaviness to the players and responsiveness online though even without any apparent lag. The biggest problem with that is the inability to get shots up quickly and then know how to time the release properly. Defenders are able to close out on open shooters because of the delay with catch-and-shoot. Timing can be adjusted to after a game or two with shots typically needing to be released slightly later than they would be offline. Down low putting contact on a player taking a shot can usually cause them to miss. Frequency of fouls in those situations is probably too low – though otherwise fouls are better represented this year making for more risk-reward to consider.
There is no Crew mode which understandably remains upsetting to some. Instead this year there is a 3-on-3 MyPlayer Blacktop mode. It’s not a bad addition – though playing with random people is a waste of time – but there isn’t really much to it beyond another opportunity to earn “VC”. At first it’s hard to distinguish teammates as there is no outfitting done to the players to make that easy to identify. Instead it’s just the faint grey circles under the players. Other MyPlayers will likely be overpowered whether from naturally doing so in MyCareer or artificially boosting them by paying for it. There seems to be no regard to the positions of players matched up on teams (example a team with a SF and 2 C against a team with 2 PG and SG). The player who gets the ball after a score can ball hog…that should have alternated between teammates. Typically it’s been just that player driving to the hoop and dunking. Not much else goes on.
The new MyTeam mode, which is largely an Ultimate Team clone, will be discussed in length later as that has both online and offline elements to it. The ability to buy players and other upgrades though has pretty much ruined the mode for everyone else. Power-teams with 6+ All-Stars were already being matched up against teams full of backups one day one.
The ability to select jerseys for online games returns this year. The decision to go without lobbies remains perplexing. Pauses still leave opponents sitting around without the ability to make changes of their own at the same time. Playbooks can’t be saved for use online. Classic and Olympic teams can be used online but only in unranked matches. The scoreboard disappearing from the screen and never returning happens on occasion and that is a big problem.
There are still many ways in which 2K Sports can improve the online experience from performance to feature set but NBA 2K13 delivers easily the best online to date for the series. Look for more impressions articles and the full ‘Hits and Misses’ review to come this week!