These skills add an additional layer of realism to the action, since you see stars play like they really do. It's great to see the likes of Derrick Rose and Steve Nash running offenses as the floor generals they are in real life. This is really noticeable with the superstars, who all come loaded with half-dozen or so skills that give them an added edge to their games that separate them from everybody else. You always want to have your top players on the court for the situations that best fit their skills.
A more considerable upgrade to NBA 2K13 comes with the revamped control setup. The right stick is now the designated control stick. At first glance, this doesn't seem to be much different than the old arcade-happy right-stick controls that let you pull off all manner of tricks and shots. Now, however, the stick handles just dribbling and more intricate hand movements, or shooting with the help of a trigger press. So you can stutter, crossover, spin, drop back, and so forth with relative ease just by rotating the right stick.
This accessible control scheme is a more natural way to handle the ball--although you still need to use combos for special moves like alley-oops, spin layups, certain jump shots, and so forth. The stick also can't be abused to turn games into NBA Jam-style displays of acrobatics, as every use of it dramatically affects your energy level. Do too much and players get exhausted, which causes them to make dumb mistakes. You can also overhandle the ball and watch it fly out of your hands.
A lot of experimentation is required to figure out how the right stick functions, though. There is no tutorial to walk you through how it works. You just get a brief text screen intro telling you how cool the right stick is now, and then are left to fend for yourself. Just like basketballs themselves don't come with user manuals telling you how to dribble, the right stick feels so organic and natural that it might be hard to instruct players on how to use it in an interactive walkthrough. Still, a brief review of the changes here would have been appreciated. Expect to lose a few games while you get used to the right stick, especially when it comes to shooting. Over-use of it early on is also a pitfall, as you can play with the stick so much that you'll see your whole squad run to the bench out of gas.
Overall presentation enhances the you-are-there factor even more. Much of the visuals and sound seem to have been carried forward from last year, but that doesn't make it any less impressive. Graphical detail is incredible. Players are almost photo-realistic, and they come with animations that almost perfectly mimic what their counterparts do in real life. Watching Kobe drop one through the hoop while falling down and then fist-pumping over the shot and the foul looks exactly like something you see at Staples a bunch of times every winter.
Play-by-play and commentary from Kevin Harlan, Steve Kerr, and Clark Kellogg is voluminous and almost always accurate, to such an extreme that it seems like the lines have been recorded specially for each game that you play. This is far and away the best booth banter in sports gaming, with so much going on that you can get lost in the moment and forget you're playing a game. It's miles above the canned one-liners and recycled observations in other sports games.
One drawback of the presentation, though, is the confusing interface. 2K Sports always seems to have trouble with menu systems, and that has continued here with incomprehensible screens, dead ends, and a weird reliance on the right stick to pull up menus. It all looks snazzy at least, with overblown Nero-does-Vegas backdrops, apparently courtesy of executive producer Jay-Z. The hip-hop mogul and part-owner of the Brooklyn Nets gets his name on the box cover and all through the game itself, which kicks off with a video of him styling his way through action clips. It's all very over the top, with Jay-Z's presence taking precedence over the players in spots. His influence is felt in the soundtrack, as well, which is marginally better than the interface. It's pretty much all hip-hop and very repetitive, with virtually nothing aside from a few Coldplay, Phoenix, and U2 tunes to mix up the mood.
It's impossible to play NBA 2K13 without coming away for a renewed appreciation for pro hoops. Even if you might not be a big basketball fan, you need to check this one out. For starters, you need to see what you're missing. And second, you need to see just how much other sports games are lagging behind this absolutely brilliant piece of work, that absolutely nails the pace and feel of big-time b-ball. You couldn't get closer to the real game if you had Spike Lee's seats at MSG. The labyrinthine interface, lack of tutorials, and obnoxious Jay-Z production form a barrier when first warming up to the game, but the enhanced right-stick controls, depth, and sheer realism of everything will hook you after logging a couple of hours on the hardwood.