Initial Impressions of NBA 2K13 on Wii U

Posted November 21st, 2012 at 4:30 pm

Of the three major sports titles to release alongside the Nintendo Wii U it’s NBA 2K13 that delivers the product that most closely matches the 360/PS3 version in content. Yet while the tablet controller features are definitely useful they’re also the least interactive.

The Wii U’s tablet controller has two central functions. It can be used to display coaching options in standard games or MyPlayer statistics during MyCareer games. In the standard games the screen displays three columns dependent on whether the user is on offense or defense at the time: Defense or Offense Strategy, Substitutions, and Defensive Sets or Quick Plays. The coaching options can also be folded away so as to play 2K13 completely on the tablet without even needing watch it all play out on the TV.

The functions work well and in a way that doesn’t distract too much from the action taking place on screen. It’s not so much a time-saver, as it’s simply moving things from the D-PAD to the touch screen, but a nice convenience. The same goes for during MyCareer games as the screen displays expanded stats, teammate grade, and shot chart for the MyPlayer being controlled. The Gatorade Biometric Scan displays player’s fatigue levels and streakiness when the tablet is tilted up. It’s a clever feature but ultimately not all that useful during the course of a game.

Naturally it will take some time to get accommodated to the controls. The different mapping of buttons can be confusing for those used to playing on other systems. What is most difficult to get the hang of is having the right stick above and to the right of the buttons instead of below and to the left. It doesn’t feel nearly as comfortable to use the stick for dribble moves with the buttons beneath. There are no alternate or customizable controller options offered.

In terms of graphics the game is respectable but far outclassed by the other HD consoles. First impression was that the graphics were fairly similar but after switching back to the 360 version the deficiencies on the Wii U became immediately apparent. Check out a few screenshot comparisons here. The 360/PS3 version is far more saturated and detailed. The Wii U is even stuck with jerseys that don’t move. The framerate also takes a hit on the Wii U though not unacceptable. Going back and forth between the versions makes the difference more noticeable. It’s not nearly as bad as in Madden NFL 13 but not as fluid as FIFA 13.

Only All-Star Weekend is missing from the Wii U compared to the 360/PS3. All other modes including MyCareer, Association, Online Association, Blacktop, and MyTeam are present. Jay-Z’s influence as “Executive Producer” is seen throughout the game and the Dream Team and other historic teams are all included. As far as can be identified all the gameplay improvements are found in the Wii U version. However without the presence of many people owning the game the online competition with standard quick games and the online-based MyTeam are are made practically non-existent.

It is currently unclear the level of post-release support that 2K13 on the Wii U will receive. The earlier released versions of the game haven’t even gotten a patch yet so it’s possible when that comes it will go to the Wii U in addition to the 360 and PS3. The Wii U does have the same court and jersey updates that have been released on the other consoles. Its roster update is one behind however as the currently available roster is from November 14.

Given that there is currently no DLC system in place for the Wii U there is no option to purchase “VC”. The currency system is utilized on the Wii regardless and not having the ability to buy it outright theoretically would make the team-building MyTeam mode more balanced and enjoyable. However with just 20 people on at any peak times it is difficult to get any standard head-to-head game in let alone going to that specific mode for matchmaking.

One really annoying issue present since release is that manually saving any Association or MyCareer file stalls when “creating a save on the 2K Sports server”. The only option then is to exit out from the game to the dashboard. This happens immediately after setting up a new Association or MyCareer as well as when overwriting a save or creating a new one. While the file is still saved locally not being on the server means in order to continue “VC” is converted to “SP” with no way to reverse that action. Obviously this needs to be rectified not just because of that but due to the necessity of quitting the game after a save. Modes like MyTeam and Online Association only autosave and appear to be exempt from this problem because of that.

NBA 2K13 on the Wii U deserves recognition for almost completely matching the content found in the 360/PS3 version but in terms of performance it takes a step back graphically and in framerate. The tablet controller features are the least inspired of the sports games released with the system and though nice to have present don’t provide enough of a reason to choose this version over the others. It’s still a fun game with good value for those who don’t already own it on the other systems.