#2 of 2012: NBA 2K13

Posted January 15th, 2013 at 11:15 am

For quite a while NBA 2K13 was slotted into the top spot as the Pastapadre Sports Game of the Year. NBA 2K was set to be the first series to have won twice since the awards began in 2006 (2K11 won in 2010). It had it in its grasp but ultimately it slipped away when justification of the entire product as the “best” of this year’s crop was made more more difficult.

NBA 2K13 arrived on the scene with welcome changes to controls, terrific presentation, an excellent career mode, and much improved online play. Though it had a few damaging design decisions and gameplay deficiencies what 2K13 excelled at overshadowed those arguably more than other sports titles in 2012 had been able to theirs. Poor post-release support however tipped the scales and, for a series that now is considered among the premiere yearly releases in all of video gaming and is selling as such, much more should be expected. 

The ranking of games in the best of 2012 list is based on number of factors including the personal amount of enjoyment had with a particular title, whether advertised features were fully delivered, post-release support, community interaction and communication, overall gameplay experience, feature set, and online play performance. Again this is largely a personal take and one with the advantage of tracking the games beyond just the release frame and does not act as some sort of recap of those with the highest scores on Metacritic. The analysis is weighted heavily towards those high in fun factor while considering them as a whole and compared relatively to the field.

It was a great move, one long overdue, for 2K Sports to change up the controls and scrap isomotion in favor of right stick dribbling. It was a valuable shift in terms of both enjoyment level and accessibility. Improved handling of contact between players, skill differentiations, fast breaks, and passing (including manual bounce passes) made for notable gameplay enhancements. Rebounding was probably the biggest weakness which is something that has begged for attention for some time now. Enough improvements were made to MyCareer mode (previously MyPlayer) to make that a big success in 2K13.

Presentation remained the best in sports gaming and was taken to another level by the involvement of Jay-Z as “executive producer”. Whether the influence from him was liked or disliked those touches really didn’t do any harm. Having his name behind the product however drew in new consumers making it a worthwhile signing for 2K. He even apparently was able to convince Charles Barkley to come on board for the Dream Team. A few celebrities can even be spotted courtside which was a neat thing to see. Commentary remains excellent with a deep audio library and always relevant references and the broadcast presentation is currently unmatched.

Feature wise the game was weaker than in recent years. There was no special mode incorporating legends or historic teams and the Dream Team had no real purpose besides being another team to use. The new MyTeam mode was an attempt to capitalize on the success of Ultimate Team modes in EA Sports titles Though there were some good ideas involved being able to buy the best players with real money resulted in the forming of “super teams” that basically ruined the experience of team-building for anyone who didn’t want to shell out the cash as they couldn’t compete otherwise. There were no real improvements made to Association mode and Online Association remained not a real viable option for those interested in the online league type experience. The All-Star Weekend content was held back as a pre-order exclusive until being offered as DLC in January.

What almost single-handedly propelled 2K13 into the top spot was that the online experience was for the first time in the series history at the very least satisfactory. It was a refreshing experience to have relatively consistent and stable online performance. The feature set being somewhat limited, and even aspects such as having to wait around with nothing to do when an opponent has paused the game remains, but that is okay given that the performance finally took a big jump forward. Now next year more will be expected feature wise.

Unfortunately one design decision adversely affected quite a significant portion of the entire product and damaged the overall experience. The VC (Virtual Currency) system was implemented poorly. Credits were inconsistently awarded and being spread across multiple modes (MyCareer and MyTeam) meant choosing between advancing quickly in one or the other. A lack of balance in time spent earning the amount of VC provided as well as what to spend on – why would anyone spend them on apparel for MyPlayer instead of actually improving the character – made it a frustrating element of the game to deal with. The whole system was built in a way to strongly encourage the spending of money on VC rather than earning it organically through play time.

The biggest disappointment with NBA 2K13 was the lack of post-release support. Only one patch has been delivered – and that one took nearly two months to arrive. Issues like the second half of Associations and MyCareers auto-simming and disappearing scoreboards had to be addressed. More should be expected than just one patch for a top-tier title. Roster updates have been handled horrendously bad. It took until mid-December before there weren’t a significant number of missing players, there has been very little in the way of ratings adjustments, some teams have had inaccurate starting lineups and rotations, and inconsistency in when updates have been provided have left players like Steve Nash and Dirk Nowitzki inaccessible for two weeks after they returned from injury. On the plus side court updates, and coach changes, have been taken care of well.

For all its faults NBA 2K13 excelled in many ways and it was almost enough to make it the top sports game of the year. Consumer gripes since release however have been justified as the support from 2K Sports has not met reasonable standards and the VC system was implemented poorly detracting from the overall experience. Valuable fundamental changes in 2K13 helped cover up some of the issues but in the future more will have to be done to keep it near the top. With the apparent phasing out of legends and historic teams that presents a challenge that 2K will need to overcome.

NBA 2K13 may end up being considered the best playing basketball game ever but it won’t be remembered as the most complete or memorable basketball product. For now that will have to remain NBA 2K11.

Year in Review
•#1 of 2012: To be announced
•#2 of 2012: NBA 2K13
•#3 of 2012: Madden NFL 13
•#4 of 2012: SSX
•#5 of 2012: UFC Undisputed 3
•#6 of 2012: Forza Horizon
•#7 of 2012: MLB 12: The Show
•#8 of 2012: NHL 13
•#9 of 2012: NCAA Football 13
•#10 of 2012: NFL Blitz
•2012 Community Choice Award Winners
•Vote for the 2012 Community Choice Awards
•Revisiting the Top Stories of 2012: Former Developer Rips EA Sports
•Revisiting the Top Stories of 2012: MLB 2K12 Perfect Game Contest Controversy
•Revisiting the Top Stories of 2012: The (at one time) Death of the MLB 2K Series
•Revisiting the Top Stories of 2012: Turning to Entertainers for Marketing Exposure
•Revisiting the Top Stories of 2012: Lawsuits Faced by Electronic Arts
•Revisiting the Top Stories of 2012: Disingenuous Marketing and Unfulfilled Features
•Revisiting the Top Stories of 2012: The Disastrous Road Towards NBA Live 13

  • deyside

    Really wasnt impressed by 2K13 and Ive been a huge fan of the series. The VC thing was especially bad.

  • Keith.

    Tough call between this and The Show for Game of the Year. Both are an easy A+.

    I actually like how the VC is handled this year…it’s pretty cool picking up some extra VC by correctly guessing the outcome of today’s real life games, I love the drills (fast break, shooting, and the post-moves one are my favorites), and I also love the individual tasks I’m given during the course of each game in MyCareer to try and earn some more VC (such as, “Keep Joe Smith from making his next shot,” “Score to give your team the lead,” etc.). I’ve even blown $10-$15 this year buying some VC for MyPlayer, which has paid off with selections to the Rising Stars Challenge and the All Star Game, and NBA Player of the Month honors.

    Really looking forward to seeing the presentation when I hit the playoffs in MyCareer, which I should get to this weekend.

    • Amen_Ra

      The Show wasn’t even close. The Show has been no better than Madden for the last 3 years – dropping the same game with minor improvements and getting hyped up.

      WWE13, NBA2k, and FIFA are hands down better than every sports game out. 2K is getting wack too and may be dropped to that bogus level soon

    • Keith: criticizes EA for making uniform packs $2, but more than willing to drop $10-15 on in-game coins (that can be earned – EARNED – for free).

      What a hypocrite.

      • 49ersfan1

        lol ikr

  • dave travis

    I actually think the Jay Z presentation hurt in some ways the overall broadcast look that the game has had over the past 3 years, but still other than the Show, best sports game out, PERIOD

    • Yankeesfan

      Totally agreed, the score bug and other design choices during the games worked totally in opposition to the realistic broadcast presentation they were trying to achieve. IMO Jay Z should have stuck to the menus and other areas. Leave the TV presentation to the devs who worked with the TBS Guy.

  • It’s Real To Me Guy

    Pasta, I assume I know what #1 is going to be, and I also assume that it is not WWE ’13.Was this year’s WWE game up for consideration on this list, or was it not considered a “sports” game (which, BTW, is fine)?

    Assuming the latter, would this year’s game have made your top 10 if it was included for consideration?

    • Not really a fan of the game (don’t find the gameplay fun). Attitude Era was a cool addition though and that nostalgia matters. That’s a game that straddles the line for me as “sports” – similar to racing games – so it takes a lot to get them to make the list over the more traditional ones.

  • 7ren

    along with The Show the NBA 2K games are always the most overrated. If 2K13 had EA slapped on the box people would be hating on it with the VC money grabs and just a single damn patch.

  • Hendy

    2k13 is such a great game, in game. It’s all the little bugs with online association ($0 contracts, horrible contract logic) that make this game so frustrating.

  • saqi

    hopefully 2k steps it up for 2K14 cause if not im starting to seriously lose faith in them

    • The sad thing is, unless EA gives it one more LEGIT go with the Live series, they really won’t have to.

      I’ve said since maybe NBA 2K12 released that 2K was leaving the door open for a Live return – not that Live will knock 2K off the throne, but that instead of 2K putting the clamps/foot/whatever down on the Live series’ throat and slamming the door shut, they’ve essentially rested on their laurels.

      All of this is evident with how 2k treats their rosters, and generally anything outside of gameplay mechanics that takes real effort.

  • RichL

    No one can deny that 2K got lazy this year. The weak ass roster updates and just one patch says it all.

    • Keith.

      Conversely, I’d argue that a game which NEEDS 4 or 5 patches really says it all (and it’s not good).

    • Keith.

      Conversely, I’d argue that a game which NEEDS 4 or 5 patches really says it all (and it’s not good).

  • U6gen

    As much as I like NBA 2K the last few years I didn’t think it would deserve to win an award for 2K13. Too many major flaws and a lack of caring from the company about them.

  • BrianFifaFan

    I love this game. But, you know what’s gonna be numero uno! Fifa, baby!!!!!

  • 49ersfan1

    #1 is fifa 13.

  • GKage

    I wish every other song I heard wasn’t a JayZ song. Im a fan of his music, but I don’t need to hear him that much. Wish they had more variety of menu music. Also could do without the VC crap in My PLayer mode; get hardly any VC for actually playing the games, while I can get 600 VC just for letting the CPU play itself in a 12 min quick game?

    I also wish that you could improve your game significantly in practice in the offseason like Pros do in real life.

  • I redboxed this game and it was terrible.

  • EMdUb4lifE

    NBA 2K14 doesn’t need any major improvement to be a near perfect game. If they just reimplement 5v5 pickup and Crew mode, as well as do a better job with rosters, I find it almost impossible that any other sports game would be better next year.

    There are other minor issues with 2K13 or course. The ones that bother me most:

    -I’ve played hundreds of online games, and it seems about 5-10% don’t actually count towards the leaderboard or cut off recording your stats midway through the game. Hugely annoying to not get a W you earned.

    -Dunks being unblockable is a major gameplay flaw and encourage unrealistic play.

    -Glitches such as the eurostep three pointer are still in the game and get used against me several times per day.

    -Blacktop mode has many issues. A lack of fouls make it a steal-button spam fest. Brick Wall is a huge exploitative advantage since you can knock the inbounder off his position (sometimes he’ll even wind up behind the PG he’s passing to) and give the PG a free lane to the basket before he even gets the ball. But my biggest issue with blacktop mode is PGs who are ballhogs. There is no punishment for them and if you get stuck playing with one, you’re in for an extremely boring 15 minutes or so where you literally never get the ball (and it’s fairly common). Either ballhogs should be kicked or there should be rotating PGs for the game.

    -In both Blacktop Mode and Team Play, idle players don’t get kicked soon enough. They can sit there not playing defense or just holding the ball when they get passed it and kill your team. Especially if you have a computer teammate, they will always pass to the open guy and if the idle guy is open, your possession is screwed.

    That being said, all in all NBA2K13 is a great game and is one of my top three sports games of 2013 (behind #1 FIFA and #2 The Show). I can’t wait for next year.

  • Cg

    What is SO WRONG with NBA 2k? I play the hell out of this game, and, I see why they haven’t had more then 1 patch, in my opinion its because there is nothing glaringly wrong with the game that needs to be fixed or kills the experience of the game… Comparing it to Madden, which has had the same issues for 5 or 6 years and a Franchise Killer this year (cap glitch) is a joke…

    1 patch means the game is good and doesn’t need to be “fixed” and this is what these companies should strive for… What they should not do, is release a game that they know has many issues and “address them in a patch” later…

    I feel bad for the People that feel like MLB The Show and NBA 2k don’t put out 2 of the best sports games on a yearly basis… I honestly have to ask, WHAT DO YOU WANT these game developers to do??? You complain that the games haven’t changed much from year to year… To that I say, they don’t need to change because there is nothing wrong with their game… They have the fundamental principles of theirs sports nearly perfect so really, all thats left to do is update the rosters and tweak the game slightly…

    Unlike Madden that doesn’t even come close to representing the true aspect of NFL Football on Sundays, 2K and SCEA don’t “need” to do anything to the gameplay in their games because they are damn near perfect, so, why change them?