At one point this Summer, it was looking like we'd get a battle of the hardcore basketball sims like previous years in this gaming generation. EA Sports was gearing up its NBA Live franchise for a return while 2K Sports was putting its best effort into NBA 2K13.
Something funny happened along the way; still reeling from its pre-ship debacle with NBA Elite 11 two years ago, EA decided to shelve NBA Live 13. With no new release date in sight and rumors of development problems with the game, that leaves basketball fans with only one place to turn: NBA 2K13. Fortunately, 2K's effort is looking very much to be just as much a champion as it was last year, judging by what we've seen in action between previous looks at the game and a hands-on with the recently released demo.
Just in case you're missing out, or you're sitting wondering what has changed so much over last year's edition, we've got you covered. Let's take a close look at the changes that have come within just a year's amount of time…
Though the engine is still mostly intact from last year, the developers at Visual Concepts (who have been handling NBA 2K since its inception back on the Dreamcast) have made a few subtle changes to NBA 2K13 to ensure it's their best looking product to date.
First off, the game doesn't have nearly as many awkward-looking player models as it did last time around. There's still the "odd duck" amidst the roster, but most star players like Blake Griffin, Allen Iverson and Chris Paul manage to resemble their real-life counterparts. For folks who are die-hard fans of these players, that makes all the difference.
On top of that, 2K actually did a little more work on the animation this time around. No longer will you be making weird robotic transitions between making a shot and then hustling down the court the other way. It's a lot more natural, with more swagger in a player's step and natural transitions. Throw that in with already solid crowd and arena design and you've got one of the best visual sports experiences out there.
Not much has changed here as the same commentary team makes a return and the crowd effects and arena noises are about on par with what we played in 2011. But considering how great 2K12 did, why change a good thing running?
One significant difference you'll notice is the soundtrack. Since the game was executive produced by rap superstar Jay-Z, you can bet that his influence will really play a part in the music you hear throughout the menus and in some parts of the “My Career” mode.
Like NBA 2K of previous years, this latest game features some of the most dominant controls you'll find, both offensively and defensively. You can still swat away at incoming shots, attempt a fast break with a passer in the lane, and get off the sweet three – or the dunk, depending on the player – to even the score. The shot stick still works wonders, though you can always shoot with buttons if you prefer that method.
The new dribble controls are interesting, letting you use the left shoulder buttons on your controller to modify how you're dribbling on the court. This is more of a technical thing that masters will come to learn, as others will probably just stick with the regular motions that their players run through. It is pretty neat though, if you feel like giving your player a little something else to do. (Regular play options from NBA 2K12 will be intact for the final game.)
My Career/My Team
The popular My Player mode has been retooled into My Career, where you're able to make moves on your team and make everything roll right for you – or try to anyway. GMs can call meetings and make crucial decisions about what line-ups to use, while players will be able to change their appearance, performance and whatever pre-game ritual they wish to use. Yes, you'll be able to try and out-do LeBron's chalk throw.
Other technical features found within My Team include messing around with salary caps and big-name contracts, as well as trades and other management options to make your team a contender – or the next New Jersey Nets, if that's how your luck rolls.
Don't forget the online component, as you'll be able to tangle with friends and check your league settings. 2K Sports has always been good about that sort of thing.
Olympic Teams and the All-Star Weekend
Have you ever wondered who the better Olympic team is – the 1992 All-Stars or the 2012 team? Well, now you can find out as both teams are included. This brings a number of classic superstars back to the forefront, including Allen Iverson and Charles Barkley…as well as late signer Scottie Pippen. Seeing how these old-schoolers would fare against Dwayne Wade and company is definitely an interesting sight, and adds to the all-star appeal that NBA 2K has developed over the years.
If you pre-order the game, you'll also be able to pick up on the All Star Weekend festivities that are a huge staple for any NBA fan. Everything from three-point shootouts to button-prompted dunk contests are included, and you can even pass around the controller to see how your friends fare against you. Because nothing beats showing off.
In a Nutshell…
Like any good annual sports game, NBA 2K13 has established enough changes and touch-ups to continue and be a contender. Maybe EA Sports was just too intimidated to go head-to-head with them or they just saw how damn good Visual Concepts is doing with the franchise. Regardless, be sure to check out NBA 2K13 when it rolls into stores on October 2nd!