YOU can see from the extremely long lines on the video game stores last Friday that the most anticipated sports game in the country – NBA 2K13 – is already out in the market.
Released worldwide on October 5, NBA 2K13 is the latest installment of the basketball video game developed by Visual Concepts and published by 2K Sports. The NBA 2K series started in 1999 and was originally an exclusive game for the Sega Dreamcast gaming console. It started out as second fiddle to the iconic NBA Live series of EA Sports, but since then the 2K basketball series has taken over as the No. 1 video hoops game. EA Sports has not produced an NBA video game since cancelling at the last minute NBA Elite 11 in November 2010. EA Sports was supposed to come up with NBA Live 13 on October 2, but it shelved the game again amid predictions that NBA 2K13 would crush it into thin sheets.
True enough, NBA 2K13 debuted with flying colors. Having been a video game nut for the last two decades, this writer got hold of the PlayStation 3 version of the game and you say that the only break I’ve had since I popped the disc on the console is the time I spent writing this column.
Instead of boring you with the technical aspect of the video game (you can simply check out the leading video game websites like IGN and Gamespot for that), let’s dwell on how the game actually feels from the standpoint of a typical gamer.
NBA 2K13 is awesome, definitely better than NBA 2K12 in terms of presentation, features and gameplay. Rapper and business mogul Jay Z, who is also part owner of the NBA team the Brooklyn Nets (formerly New Jersey Nets), served as executive producer of NBA 2K13 and his influence is all over the game. The first thing a gamer will notice is the presentation. The menus, opening videos and cut-scenes have hip-hop written all over them. The lighting and special effects appear to have been lifted from a rock or rap concert. It’s like Guitar Hero meets NBA 2K13. This year’s soundtrack, with Jay Z at the helm, is definitely the best.
The graphics remain pretty solid. The player models have been polished to the extent that they occasionally look too shiny. Worth noting though is the facial expression of the players. Kobe Bryant would come up with his usual snarl when he flubs a shot, same with Kevin Garnett. This year’s edition also features the so-called Signature Skills which basically mean that some of the special abilities of the NBA superstars have been integrated into their cyber versions. These special skills are available only to some of the select stars of the game.
The pacing of the game is faster which leads to a higher (and definitely better) scoring output. The player collision looks and feels so real that when Derrick Rose of the Chicago Bulls penetrates the lane and runs smack into mastodon Dwight Howard of the Los Angeles Lakers, Rose would fall hard on the floor and slowly pick himself up, even holding his forehead like he is trying to shake off the cobwebs. The camera has been twitched a little, making the court and the players look bigger. The crowd is never more alive in NBA 2K13. When a team is making a furious rally in the final quarter or makes a spectacular play, a “Crowd Meter” flashes on the screen indicating how pumped the fans are. Yet another new feature in the game is the “Dunk Meter.” When a player like Blake Griffin of the Los Angeles Clippers hammers down a monstrous dunk, the dunk meter pops up on the side of the screen and flashes the corresponding score for that awesome slam (one dunk of Griffin posted a score of “91”). It’s like getting a perfect “10” in a videoke singing contest. Again, this innovation has Jay Z written all over it and takes the level of excitement several notches higher.
The controls for NBA 2k13 have been modified to enable gamers to execute some special maneuvers. The right thumb stick is now the dribble stick that allows the user to execute eye-popping crossover maneuvers. The passing game now includes the ability to execute a nifty bounce pass. Press the “L2” trigger and the “X” mark on the gamepad and you’ll have a player like John Stockton executing a perfect bounce pass to a cutting Karl Malone. It will take some time to master the new control scheme, but it’s an absolute delight once you get the hang of it. NBA 2K13 integrated some of the freestyle moves of NBA Live into its controls and the result is better ball control.
In addition to the regular NBA teams, there are the legendary teams and two special squads – the 1992 US Dream Team and the 2012 US team that both won gold medals in the Olympics. The debate as to which of the two dream teams is better can now be settled, at least in cyberspace. The rosters for both teams are complete, with Charles Barkley suiting up for the Dream Team. Barkley has not been in any video game for several years now but it took just one phone call from Jay Z to sign him up. Scottie Pippen initially played hardball with Visual Concepts, but at the last minute he decided to sign up and join the squad. Word is that Pippen was convinced by his son to join the Dream Team.
While the 1992 and 2012 US teams are present, there is no Olympic tournament available. Visual Concepts was able to secure a license from USA Basketball (the organization that assembles the teams that represent the US in Fiba tournaments, including the Olympics) but the Fiba license was left out. Then again, there is a “Create Team” option that allows a gamer to create a team made up of other legendary players. If you want to match the original Dream Team against a squad made up Wilt Chamberlain, Hakeem Olajuwon, Dominique Wilkins, Elgin Baylor and Jerry West, it’s possible under the “Create Team” option. A Celebrity Team made up of stars like Justin Bieber, Sean Kingston and Bow Wow is readily playable.
Overall, you have to appreciate the way Visual Concepts continue to strive for perfection vis-à-vis its NBA 2K series. Despite the lack of competition this year, NBA 2K13 did not sit on its laurels. The end result? This year’s installment is the best thus far.