NBA 2K13: Hits and Misses

by
Posted October 15th, 2012 at 4:30 pm

NBA 2K13 reaches the market with a prime opportunity to not just reestablish itself with consumers this time of year following the lockout that affected NBA 2K12, but also expand its reach to new gaming segments and even greater cultural significance. 2K Sports was able to succeed in just about every facet of the game and have produced the best NBA 2K title to date even exceeding the spectacular 2K11. Continue on for a review of what was done especially well and what was lacking in this ‘Hits and Misses’ review. 

Hits

•Gameplay
It should come as no surprise that the NBA 2K series once again excells in the area of gameplay. Improvements to areas such as contact between players and how it affects shots, fast breaks, player differentiation particularly in the area of speed, and better passing including manual bounce passes are all worth noting. The addition of “Signature Skills” helps to better differentiate individuals beyond just their ratings adding another layer of strategy.

The biggest change comes with dribbling moves shifting to the right analog stick. The system is a vast improvement over “Isomotion” of the past. It does take some time to get accustomed to and become natural to utilize but the array of moves at a player’s disposal is impressive. NBA 2K13 still wouldn’t be described as especially accessible to new or inexperienced gamers but the ability to learn and practice in the Training Camp feature is helpful. It just takes time to translate into game situations.

Kinect voice command integration, as with other titles that it has debuted in recently, is hit or miss. It’s nice to have the option to call out substitutions or make play calls on the fly without having to look down at the controller but whether it actually is less of a nuisance to do so in such a manner is harder to quantify. In a few instances Kinect called timeouts without being prompted to do so…apparently picking up on something the commentary team said.

The one area that arguably needs the most attention going forward is rebounding which has proven to be inconsistent and at times frustrating. Other aspects such as not catching passes in stride, catch and shoot responsiveness, and boundary recognition are also identifiable as areas to improve upon. An occasionally disappearing scoreboard (that doesn’t return) has been especially troublesome and a patch to fix that should be expected. Despite there always being room for improvement, with all that is right, there is very little reason to complain about the gameplay experience.

•MyCareer Mode
Last year NBA 2K12’s MyPlayer, which is now known as MyCareer, fell into the ‘Misses’ section of the review. With 2K13 however a number of problems that seriously grinded on the experience have been addressed while the feature set has continued to expand.

Teammate AI has been vastly improved along with the CPU’s handling of the rosters. MyPlayers start with better ratings and can even go as high as first in the draft…keeping in mind that whatever player was originally selected in that spot in the draft will also be on that team.

There are still some issues like the CPU not running plays or being unable to see the art on the court anyway, freezes (one already corrected on the 360 but others have been hit too), any passes being deemed “bad” that lead to assists not counting, a still at times frustrating on-court grading system, and poor looking representations of players that is screaming for something along the lines of EA’s Game Face feature. For the most part though these things are no where near the severity of what had been wrong in the mode in past iterations.

MyCareer continues to offer an admirable lifestyle experience that comes with off-the-court features. Though things like interviews and GM discussions are stiff and awkward having a style section, contracts that matter (“VC”), a number of endorsements, and the new Twitter feature which includes relevant commentary on events from journalists or “celebrities”, really enhances the emotional attachment to progression through a career. The ability to add “Signature Skills” also takes things beyond just numbers for ratings and adds more personality. All-Star Weekend content is integrated meaning the potential of participating in the Dunk Contest or 3PT Shootout is there, though limited only to those who preordered the game.

•Presentation and Commentary
One of the significant influences to NBA 2K13 comes from Jay-Z’s involvement. As executive producer he had input on areas such as the soundtrack, look of the menus, and even some of the game presentation elements. Some will like these touches while other’s won’t care for them but ultimately they don’t really do any harm regardless. At the very least it’s different.

Commentary is once again excellent and oftentimes provides interesting information or even laughs. Clearly a lot of new audio was recorded and the flow and relevance of it is excellent. A few celebrities can be spotted courtside which is a neat thing to see. The broadcast presentation remains top notch. The graphics this year take a slight step back and the colors are still off for some teams. Loading times are brief and menu responsiveness is crisp.

•Online Play
Finally online play is not a huge drag on the NBA 2K series. Neglecting such a huge element of the game over the years – and making excuses like being stuck with Dreamcast servers and code – was unacceptable particularly considering it’s increased stature becoming one of the few “event” games each year. Online makes an unexpected appearance then in the ‘Hits’ section despite not being stellar. It’s just so improved that it needs to be noted.

Instances of lag and disconnects have been limited and connections into games have been much quicker. Considering the initial tracking of online performance was done in release week, which is typically when games struggle under the pressure of high usage, it was especially encouraging. Games have been smooth and consistent making them exceedingly fun to play.

The feature set online is still lacking however. MyPlayer Blacktop is a decent addition but one that isn’t terribly compelling and can be boring when playing with random people. Crew mode, a favorite of a vocal contingent, didn’t return this year. Even pauses by opponents during games still leave a user sitting around and unable to do anything but wait. Check out the full detailed online impressions here.

•Historic and Olympic Teams
2K Sports may be phasing out the presence of classic teams and players within NBA 2K but the impressive roster of those available is still worth considering. There is no central mode for them to be used in, and the Dream Team and 2012 Olympic team fall into that same boat, and that is somewhat disappointing. Allen Iverson was the big addition allowing for the 2001 76ers to be the only new historic team for 2K13. A few key names are also missing from various teams while Charles Barkley is only found on the Dream Team. Though there is no real centerpiece for any of these teams, including the complete Dream Team which is great to have available, the depth and value of their presence remains.

With the company minimizing their place in the game, from the cover and marketing to their usefulness within, it’s reasonable to expect that this may be the last year that they are a big part of the product or involved at all. Many of the players, including Michael Jordan, were believed to be locked in with three year contracts that would expire after 2K13. The big names of the past and their respective teams helped take the 2K series to a level that many never believed possible. With no competition and the level of regard the game is held at now they may be deemed unnecessary or cost-prohibitive going forward.

•All-Star Content
As far as the Dunk Contest goes 2K received some criticism for adapting a “Guitar Hero” concept. Is it far more simplified than past implementations? Yes…but that doesn’t mean it’s necessarily easy at the same time. The higher difficulty dunks will take a lot of practice and even a bit of luck to pull off. Because of the the action slowing dramatically in order to allow for the process to be completed there isn’t a great rhythm to the contest but there is still a sense of satisfaction to completing each dunk and watching some crazy ones play out. The commentary during the All-Star Weekend events is also particularly great.

The Three Point Contest is unquestionably the weakest event. There is a distinct lack of responsiveness – though that is somewhat alleviated by beginning the shooting process immediately after releasing each shot and manually advancing to the next rack. It still doesn’t provide a sense of proper rhythm that would be expected going shot to shot. The All-Star Game and Rising Stars Challenge are just what one would expect of them. Their integration within MyCareer and Association is where they offer the most value. As of now there is no way to obtain the All-Star Weekend content for those who did not preorder the game.

Undesignated

•MyTeam Mode
The clone of Ultimate Team from various EA Sports titles, MyTeam, deserves at least some discussion for what it offers but didn’t fit well in either the positive or the negative column. Someone like myself who currently doesn’t have an emotional investment with one particular team can find a constantly changing and improving roster of players especially compelling. There are plenty of people out there who simply like the team-building aspect regardless. There’s a reason why Ultimate Team makes EA hundreds of millions each year and many are shelling out cash now in MyTeam. It’s a fun and compelling concept when executed well.

The biggest problem with MyTeam however is super-teams have been formed killing the enjoyment of the process for those that want to earn their way through which is what the mode should be designed to reward with a sense of achievement. The matchmaking does no favors by placing teams compiled of backups against those that are stacked say eight deep with All-Stars and legends. Given that this is essentially an online mode – playing offline can earn “VC” to spend but has no point otherwise and there is no way to just play exhibition games against friends online – it’s a big problem. It is not at all practical to invest the number of hours required to be able to compete with those who are paying their way to star-studded lineups.

Aspects such as applying signature skills – which can make the same player perform differently than he would on other teams without that skill or with different skills – and a fluctuating market value of players throughout the season are interesting twists on the mode. Unfortunately there isn’t any real incentive to not just buy the best players out there as lower rated ones really aren’t all that much cheaper anyway. MyTeam will be fun for those who invest money in it while others who choose not to shell out cash will get quickly discouraged and move on to something else.

Misses

•Association/Online Association
Association mode in the NBA 2K series remains one of the better franchise modes out there but a lack of advancement, not just this year but now for several iterations, shouldn’t be overlooked as a refresh of some sort is needed. This year Association took a backseat in favor of MyTeam mode. Even the All-Star content being integrated within Association was held back as a preorder incentive. The inability to turn off auto-saves has also frustrated some and it seems that no credit in the way of “VC” is provided for games completed.

Online Association was not ready to be released in 2K12, and while a number of much needed admin controls have been added for 2K13, failing to address concerns like single anonymous vetoes scrapping trades and a number of other confusing elements make the mode a struggle to sustain long term. There is also now a stamina bug that causes players to be drained of energy only minutes into games. A website to tie into 2K13’s Online Association has not launched.

•Virtual Currency
Throughout NBA 2K13 is the new economic system that is intended to reward time spent playing 2K13. Unfortunately it is the biggest detractor of enjoyment at the same time. “VC” penalizes those who want to play 2K13 organically and in turn dissuades more than it incentivizes.

2K Sports has failed to communicate precisely enough how the “VC” system works – where it is earned and how much for doing what – and that confusion will play into frustration. Ultimately the currency system is the driving force behind progression in MyCareer mode and team building in MyTeam mode. In MyCareer it can be spent on improving attributes, adding skills, or fashion while MyTeam requires it to purchase players or boosters and maintain the roster.

The prices are out of whack however with their true value. There is no reason to spend on expensive clothing or accessories when its better put to use on actually improving a player’s attributes or skills. In MyTeam, even on day one, there were super-teams already ruining the experience for people who did not want to pull out their wallet to buy their own and compete. Getting quit on in an online game also means losing some VC earnings and payouts seem to be higher for one-off exhibition or blacktop games than those actually completed in MyPlayer. There is a huge imbalance in how many hours need to be invested to earn the amount of VC, upwards of 20 hours, to get a single All-Star for MyTeam when one could just be bought outright for $6. It just ends up making more sense to pay if that is the goal being worked towards.

The way things are set up with “VC” is to encourage the purchase of it rather than properly earning it. It even can discourage someone from playing the game the way they want to play it as they’ll be forced to choose between spending “VC” in one mode or the other – or split it which will mean slower rate of improvement in both.

NBA 2K13 is the best all-around basketball video game to date. Where NBA 2K11 delivered a once-in-a-generation type experience that helped to cover up its deficiencies, and NBA 2K12 struggled to do so nearly as well with the lockout having a big impact on early enjoyment, 2K13 is well-rounded and avoids many issues that have plagued the series in the past. Even MyTeam will be fun for some people as will Association mode despite the lack of additions or advancements. Only the “VC” system really deserves negative scrutiny.

With online play that at least works fairly consistently now, a deep and involving career mode, excellent gameplay and presentation, and the large selection of historic teams plus the Olympic squads, NBA 2K13 has become arguably the best value in all of sports gaming. It’s a return to greatness that proves the NBA 2K series has earned its increased stature and not let up in the face of unchallenged success.

  • richie

    Good review. The vc is definitely the worst part of the game. A little disappointed that 2k is going the route of nickel and dime their customers. But other then that its a great game.

  • 49ersfan1

    great game. i HATE vc. btw i found a way to be 99 overall in mycareer. just use sp (offline) use all of ur sp, then play a game in in the last minute quit the game without saving and when ur at the mycareer menu, it says u have negative sp. increase ur attributes and u have unlimited sp. it works, i saw it on gamefaqs. it takes like 10 minutes to do all this.

    • Gerald T

      might as well use VC if you’re going to exploit the game

      • 49ersfan1

        just trying to help. u dont have to be 99. just get a little higher instead of wasting those gay vc.

  • 49ersfan1

    all-star events are impossible. dunk and 3point r hard. and the classic teams are a miss. no kareem and no webber. blacktop is a miss. u have to pay vc to unlock star players. smh

    • Riposte

      3-Point is definitely going to take some getting used to, but Dunk Contest is pretty easy after a few games of it. If you’ve played a rhythm game at even the easiest difficulty, then you’ll pick up on it quick.

      • 49ersfan1

        guess so. i suck at the dunking but im good at the 3point.

  • put the game on Hall of Fame, play a game on Hall of Fame in my Career, Association…Anything against the Cpu…They need to fix it

    • P3

      Yea I really wonder if 2k actually plays on Hall of Fame cause of how it plays

  • Kjjnesb

    Solid review pasta and VC has for sure become a blight on this edition of the game a very unbalanced and force currency system imo.

    As far as Association goes 2k cannot afford to ignore it for another yr and be the industry leader in that area… EA is finally catching up with CC’s and NCAA could go that route as well..

    The worst part about the whole game for me personally is the god awful created player you’d think with MyCareer being such a huge focus they would have made upgrading that a priority but alas…..

  • Bengalfan18

    I HATE AUTO SAVE!!!!

  • GKage

    Yea the VC is very unbalanced. Once I saw how to earn 600 for a quick game, there was no point in me playing MyCareer games for improvement that would shell out around 150 (if I’m having a star type game). How did they not see that?

    And man it’s annoying that accessories cost so much. Doesn;t it cost like 500 for a headband? Da fuq? 1000-2000 for a sleeve….da fuq? I mean come on now even EA doesn’t charge me to put accessories on a player.

    • kjjnesb

      I hear that non key games do not net enough VC no matter how well you perform so now you’re better off playing only play now games and playing only key games to get VC rather than the mode itself.

  • Gerald T

    if they can 2k should lower VC rewards. i don’t want to play basically team usa on myteam and play 99 myplayers like they’re hacked. the damage is done, but 2k should fix it by patch. no one is “earning” their VC

    • kantankruz

      Unfortunatly 2K will be making bulk coin for this very reason and they are not going to change it for us.

  • tish

    I just wish they would work on Association.

    -They need to fix rotations/minutes so starters don’t play 35-40 mpg even if they’re not very good and/or have a backup who is almost as good as them.
    -Player Roles are completely broken and can’t be used unless you want half the players in the league to be angry for no apparent reason.
    -Also the “Potential” rating needs to be lowered across the board. It’s really dumb seeing mediocre players ratings go through the roof in a couple of years.
    -Trade, free agency, and draft logic needs a lot of work. It annoys me to no end how teams keep 2nd rounders on their roster no matter what, even if they are rated like 55 overall. This of course leads to a bunch of good players sitting in free agency without a team.
    -Also teams won’t fill their roster up to the full 15 like most teams do in real life. They just get up to 12 player minimum.

    • Amen_Ra

      Yeah The Show franchise sucks too. Don’t know why these games dismiss association

  • daley7199

    Not only is the rebounding inconsistent it’s downright nonsensical. There are just some things that shouldn’t have to be controlled by the player. This is 2k’s greatest fault. They make EVERYTHING player controlled. I shouldn’t have to make my players box out. That should contextually happen EVERY TIME a shot goes up. The rebounding in this game just looks odd. Every time a shot goes up my players are not even close to being in position to get a Defensive Board.

    Another puzzling thing I have noticed is that the defense doesn’t collapse on the ball carrier when driving the lane. Time and time again when a shooter penetrates the lane the defenders just stand their flat footed while the shooter makes an uncontested lay up.

    Largely the game plays alright but the lack of defense in this game really kills it for me. Don’t really understand why 2k won’t address this. Perhaps it would screw up all their animations for attacking the basket.

    Online is spotty at times but overall better than past years. On a side note the cheese is alive and well with Rondo. Its as bad as ever much like Steve Nash and Tony Parker have been in previous 2k games. Effectively you don’t need to know how to play this game at all. Basically just take Rondo and run around using Turbo until you get a clear path to the hole. The on ball defense is near impossible on Rondo and with the lack of backside help from the AI defenders, Rondo will torch the opposition quite easily. Basically the only thing stopping Rondo in this game is the Computations for shots going in.

    • DrJones56

      Are you talking online for rebounding too? I’m about 10 games into my association at 10 minute quarters, offline association that is, and I’m pretty happy with the rebounding totals. I’ll qualify that though by letting you know I play as the Lakers but only use the PG on D. Maybe it’s the fact that I have Howard and Gasol down low cause they just clean up on the boards.

      • daley7199

        I don’t base my assessments on quantitative numbers. I base my assessments based upon how my players respond to what is going on in the game. Basically when a shot goes up the defensive players never seem to get into proper position. The same goes for backside help on a driving player. The defenders all just sit flat footed and never contest the driving player. I would be happier with this game if 2k would tone down the over abundance of user controlled actions in this game. Its just not necessary for every mundane detail to be user controlled. Some things should just contextually happen and shouldn’t require user input.

        • Supra98

          i agree, the rebounding this year is just down right outrageous!! and what thing i hate that 2k does, is it will hold you player back if your running to get back on defense to block, does anyone notice this? so its letting the other player get the shot off, and why did 2k makes its defense like live??? i’l explain on previous 2k, when your on defense you would hold L2/LT to be in the defensive stance but live would make you be in that stance automatically so at times when your on defense there will be times where u dont want to be in that stance to be quicker, now 2k took on this lame unrealistic animation, why?

    • rwm

      2k is nothing but a huge headache.

    • Guest

      So you bought 2K13?

    • Amen_Ra

      A remarkably fair assessment of 2k basketball. All of these issues sound legitimate.

    • tish

      umm it’s impossible to guard Rondo on ball in real life too, so I don’t know what point you are trying to make.

  • Bill

    They need more historic teams. Vince carter on the raptors. 03 tickets with mcgrady and Yao. Prime grant hill. How’d they lose Kareem? 93 suns with Barkley. The nba sucks now a days. Too many stacked teams while the others have no shot. 80s and 90s were the best era.

    • Bill

      Rockets not tickets

      • 49ersfan1

        lmao!!!

      • 49ersfan1

        lmao!!!

    • 49ersfan1

      how are those 80’s and 90’s? other than barkley, u stated all early 2000 teams.

      • Bill

        Kareem Barkley and grant hill were all 80s 90s. I’m talking hill on the pistons. They do need more early 2000s though too. How’d they lose webber and dr j?

        • 49ersfan1

          theyre too cheap.

        • Sniper

          I don’t get it either. One year you have Kareem C-Webb, and DR J. and the very next year they’re all GONE and without an explanation from 2K! WTF is that all about?

  • ClubSteve

    it is a truly great game this year…..annoying how they add legends, then take others away. the dream team is great, but with they way international basketball has progressed in recent years, a fiba mode would have been a most welcome addition. some of these international teams could have maybe given them a challenge. i just don’t get vc, i mean things are just way too expensive. the dunk contest is kinda cool, but a little too difficult. we can finally have wilkins and mj go at it again. all in all, they found a way to make some improvements and make it different from the previous game at the same time.

  • This game is the worsttttttttt… Why does the cpu make every shot with a hand in their face on hall of fame in my career mode??? They have no new drills, i get gold n only get 60 vc, what am I gonna do with that???

  • SharksBreath

    Pasta Can you stop comparing every NBA2k game to 2k11. The greatest 2k game is 2k8.

    Want proof.
    They changed the controls back to 2k8 this year. Having the ability to use the same stick for shooting and dribbling was introduced in 2k7. 2k8 mastered it . 2k9 they ruined it and with 2k10 they completely removed it.

    It was the last time you could break someone down off the dribble in real time. It was the last time I actually felt like I was on the court and the animations were not behind what I actually wanted to do.

    I understand why Pasta does it though. He was wasting his time in 08 playing NBA live knowing for well the game was a wreck but his EA fanboyism would not let him play a 2k game.

    If he was playing 2k8 instead of Live that year he would know 2k11 doesn’t compare to it and that it was the greatest game 2k produced in the series.

    2k13 bought the controls back but they did not bring back the real time movement that has been missing from the 2k series since 2k8.

    So this version of the game goes below 2k8. Just like every game before it and after it.

    Maybe next year they can completely fix the animations to where your moving in real time and not waiting even though it’s less than previous years for your animation to finish.

  • kantankruz

    Good review. The VC is ok once you get used to it the only problem I have found is when I play quick 1 on 1 Blacktop games trying to top up my VC the first game VC counts, then you change players etc and if you play a game straight after you don’t get any points.
    The Jay Z thing is a joke and all I see is this just being a chance for him and his interests to get paid and get their tracks on another video game. The biggest gripe from me on this is what the hell is the point of having an “All Ages” game and then having music with half the fucking lyrics missing coz there are swear words or dirogitory lines all thru the tune, I’m not saying have “tenny bopper” music, but have tracks (there are plenty of hip hope tunes without swearing all the way thru them) in the track list. The music the past 2 years has been A++ and I even bought an Zion I album because of last years tracklist.
    Anyway, great game and my guy is kicking ass for the Hawks as a rookie. 8/10

    • Supra98

      2K11 AND 2K12 BEST MUSIC EVER!!

  • kantankruz

    The lag online for quick games is pretty shitty, I just play MyCareer 99% of the time anyway.

  • MARZ76

    the big miss is no crew mode

  • MARZ76

    i just want to say stop 360 ports when its multiplatform games with all its bs issues….360 ports are just horrible sad an f’d up

  • airtime33

    I get 750 VC from Offline Association games with 8 min quarters, but not if I play back to back games. If you play an offline association game then a my career game then go back to Offline Association then you can get the 750 consistently. The problem is you only get 150 from playing the my Career games. Should be more around 500 per game.

  • Tom

    I don’t get why they patch the prices and the VC into real number of cash…. Don’t make no sense…

  • NELL86

    I don’t understand how this game gets the high reviews that it gets. So many basketball fundamentals need to be fixed.Rebounding is terrible teammates a.i. is still terrible 3 point success is way to high steal success is way to high online is better but still terrible compared to other games rosters and ratings is ridiculous hopefully a patch can fix a lot

  • MrAntLaw

    (MISS) HOW ABOUT NO D-LEAGUE, if drafting a player for the long future, sending him to D-Lg was an option last year.. but not this year!

  • Rob

    2K shows no love for Online Association. They better next year, but I doubt it.

  • Cacete

    I just wanto to be able to export teams to recreat classic squads. Only that! And turn off the auto save! Stupid 2k!

  • Matty H

    Pasta, while playing this game against the CPU how did you feel the AI was? Meaning did they take realistic shots and did it feel like an actual game..not arcade like. The big thing withme wit sports games is the CPU intelligence. I just want an opinion from somene trust worthy before i go out n buy it

  • barimanlhs

    I thing a miss is the fact that you have to be connected online to use quite a few features…I mean its fine every once in a while but why do I have to be online when Im playing an offline mode?

  • James Trivette

    Not a huge issue, but not everyone who likes basketball and basketball games likes urban music. It would be better if they could link up with Pandora or Slacker and offer more customization of the music.

  • Malik

    @pastapadre I understand what you were saying about the stamina problem but that’s because you have to buy the attribute to that. I’m not totally sure since I just bought that attribute and haven’t played a game after I bought it but I’m pretty sure.