Also On: PS3, Xbox 360
Publisher: 2K Sports
Developer: Visual Concepts
Medium: Wii U Game Disc
Having only sampled previous games in the NBA2K series beginning with the Sega Dreamcast, I don't consider myself an expert on Basketball sims. While I am familiar with the sport in general, I cannot quote stats or even many players’ names. What I can offer is a sort of sideline take on the series without any technical jargon influencing my opinion either good or bad. With that being said, NBA 2K13 really surprised me in its graphics and gameplay. It also confused me with its presentation and extra features.
Once I jumped into the game, I was bombarded by confusing menus and an interface that was a downright ugly mess. At first my hopes for fun were being dashed, but after a short time I managed to navigate into a few games. Learning the controls were a bit difficult thanks to the right analog stick being used as a "Dribble Stick". Using this was hard due to it not being explained well before you begin. With no tutorial, it was something that I never got used too, so I barely used it. After playing a few post-up games I managed to get used to the other controls with little issue. The Wii U has some extra features with the control not found on other platforms, namely the Gatorade Biometric Scan. By holding the Wii U Pad parallel up to the screen, you can see a scan of the players on the court that shows you if they are on a hot streak or are fatigued. It's kinda cool, but not really something to jump up and down about.
Naturally with a name like NBA 2K13 you would expect a fantastic Basketball sim, and you would be right. The pacing and flow of each game feels good and plays smoothly. Being able to use teams like the 2012 Team USA and the 1992 Dream Team (with Charles Barkley) are nice perks that add to the overall package. 2K Sports takes a slightly different turn this time around, adding somewhat interesting new features without taking away from the simulation experience. While I can live without most of the extras, one of them called the MyPlayer was something I went back to often. It is a rather engaging RPG style mode that allows a custom player to build stats and skills to eventually get drafted into the NBA. Using my character (who I named Shasta McNasty for unknown reasons) started out slow and couldn't really do much in the several rookie games I played, but in almost no time he was looking pretty good. Making decisions like firing my coach, and criticizing my teammates didn't make Shasta very popular, but it seem to help his game. It's the decisions that you make in the RPG areas of this mode that change the way your character develops, and it was really interesting and fun.
On the downside, there are some extras that really didn't need to be included for any reason. One of which is the 2K13 Celebrity team that has "players" like Justin Bieber, JB Smooth and a few others that I am unfamiliar with. This team has crazy stats so any team that goes up against them will be crushed. I found the team annoying and just plain out of place. I also wasn't a fan of the MyTeam mode. Here you create a team and use them online against other players. It's a functional mode that lets you build some neat teams, but due to my lack of knowledge of real life stats of these players, and the somewhat confusing menus, I always made poor decisions and got schooled in an online match.
The visuals for the most part are well done. Some of the character models and the crowd in the stands look a little muddy at certain close angles, but since the game shows much of the court when the ball is in play, you really won't notice it much. Strangely, sometimes I encountered some slowdown and some choppy animations in the players. It did not affect gameplay, but I expected at least a constant framerate. I did like the TV like presentation while playing, with replays and even half time shows which is a really nice touch that is missing from some other Basketball titles I have tried. The sound effects and the commentary really come together while you’re playing and if someone was in another room and not able to see you holding a controller, they'd swear there was an actual game on TV. The soundtrack provided by Jay Z, fits in with the overall presentation. Personally, I am not a fan of Jay Z's music, but since it does not affect gameplay I paid little attention to it.
In the end, NBA 2K13 is another great release from the folks at 2K Sports. Aside from the confusing menus, the strange inclusion of the Celebrity Team, and the somewhat awkward controls, it's a fully functional Basketball sim with some nice features. If you are a fan of previous games in the series you will no doubt want to get this one. The MyPlayer mode is engaging and deep, and you will spend a large amount of time with it. If you have no interest in the NBA or sports sims, then there's nothing here to recommend. NBA 2K13 is a solid game for fans and a good addition to the growing Wii U Library. (Make sure to check out our previous PS3, Xbox 360 review for more details)