Unless you've been living under a rock for the last few weeks, you know that Mr. Barclays Center himself, Shawn "Jay-Z" Carter is executive producing popular NBA video game, NBA 2K13. At first glance, the relationship might not make much sense but, when you think about it, hip-hop is synonymous with basketball on a lot of levels and who better to represent the culture on a mainstream level than Marcy's finest?
2K took full advantage of Jay's involvement; his music, tastes and influence are all over the game, from the soundtrack (U2, Too $hort, Coldplay, Kanye West, etc.), to the menus, to the brand-new (and pretty slick) pre-game intros.
All of that is very cute, but if the game sucked, 2K would never hear the end of it from loyalists. Thankfully, 2K13 continues the evolution of the franchise in the face of little to no competition. The game's developer, Visual Concepts, added a lot of new bells and whistles that they hope will appeal to the pedestrian fan and hardcore gamer alike (more on that later); but the most important tweak is the improved gameplay.
The most notable difference is the shifting of dribble moves to the right stick. Now that the shot and fancy-handles controls are located in the same stick, once users grow accustomed to the change, it provides for a lot smoother flow from move to shot. What 2K is calling Dynamic Shot Generator also plays a part in the users ability to adjust to collisions with defenders or blocked shot attempts with all new shots, dunks and layups. The wide variety of shots are very realistic, thanks to added animation, and a series of button combinations that rivals old school Mortal Kombat combo strings (take that as good or bad, just depends on your perspective).
For all of you non-ball hogs, passing has been revamped based on what we assume is years of negative feedback from the 2K community. The limitations on where you can place a pass are not gone altogether, but they are vastly improved. Players can bounce a pass past defenders or use the right stick to augment the direction of a pass.
For the players that love the off-the-court Sims-like features of sports video games, 2K upped the ante like M.O.P. with MyCAREER and MyPLAYER Modes. You can create your player’s physical appearance from head-to-toe (they even have a couple of “black” haircuts), including facial appearance, tattoos, accessories and gear. Not only can you freak which shoes (Jordan, Nike, adidas, Reebok, etc.) your character wears on the court, you can also change up his look off the court from streetwear to tailored suits (Stern must love that). It is not all about appearance though, there are new player animations and signature highlights that can be earned along the path from college star to NBA All-Star.
With social media being such a relevant part of everyday life, 2K has integrated smartphone apps and Facebook (NBA 2K MyLIFE) into the MyPLAYER feature, allowing users with far too much time on their hands to live virtually even when away from their PS3 or Xbox 360.
Longtime NBA 2K fans will be happy to see the return of NBA All-Star Weekend (it was noticeably absent from NBA 2K12). It is not included in the disc, but it is available as DLC (downloadable content). The DLC pack includes the Dunk Contest, 3-pt Shootout, and BBVA Rising Stars. On a side note, the 2012 NBA All-Star Weekend Celebrity team is included in the shipped team’s lineup. We're not sure what's more funny, the fact that the team has an overall 97 rating or that some people will actually enjoy hooping as
Lil Bow Wow or Pauly D.
If all the individual competition is not your thing, don't trip – 2K has ditched the Legends Challenge format that dominated the last two iterations in favor of several legendary teams like the 1995-1996 Bulls and 1985-1986 Celtics; and some fan favorites including the 2000-2001 A.I.-led 76ers . If that is not enough, they also included the 2012 USA Olympic squad and the original (and in many people's opinion, only) 1992 Dream Team.
By no means is NBA 2K13 drastically different from NBA 2K12; but it does improve on an already good game thanks to the aforementioned gameplay changes, improved player animations and updated user controls. Both '11 and '12 were highly-regarded masterpieces and this version continues the line of excellence. It should provide a proper hoops fix until the NBA regular season starts in a few weeks.