NBA 2K13 Review

Enhanced realism and a great new control setup make NBA 2K13 a fantastic recreation of pro hoops.

Hardcore hoops fans, lapsed b-ball followers, and anyone else who even casually picks up the odd sports game should play NBA 2K13. Developer Visual Concepts continues to keep the bar high, enhancing the realism of and adding a superb new control scheme to this excellent recreation of pro basketball. Pace, graphics, animations, sound effects, and commentary are all so dead on that you feel like you've walked onto the court at Staples Center or Madison Square Garden. Only a few issues with the interface and the absence of controller tutorials, along with ridiculously overblown production values courtesy of guest executive producer Jay Z, get between you and the full appreciation of what looks, sounds, and feels like the real thing.

You can't play Jazz without a hefty dose of Bell.

That said, this isn't a revolutionary upgrade on NBA 2K12. Last year's game is the foundation for this successor, which bases everything on what has gone before. Gameplay on the court is still incredibly true to real life. The pace, plays, artificial intelligence, and, well, everything else, mimic real pro basketball. Players move like they should, shoot like they should, and even position themselves smartly so you can make plays. Even playing solo, it feels like you're working as part of a real team due to the stellar AI. You can play selfishly and always look for the shot, but that tends to hurt your team more than passing and trying to develop plays. Same goes on defense, where you contribute by covering your man or providing timely help. Do that well and you feel like you're a part of the team even if you never touch the ball.

All of the offline and online modes of play are back for another season, so you can practice plays, run franchises, play one-off matches or the playoffs, hit the schoolyard for three-on-three blacktop action, mess around with legendary clubs, and so on. You can even make your own kicks now, through a 2K Shoes creator module. Most of the core options have been glitzed up. MyPlayer has been dramatically expanded and renamed MyCareer. You now not only create an NBA wannabe, you role-play him through all sorts of off-court situations. You can be a good guy or a heel, a Steve Nash or a Kobe Bryant. This means you get to dress up in flashy clothes and accoutrements for arriving at games, sign shoe endorsements, play egotistical brat when meeting with GMs before the draft, try to get your coach fired, and stir up fans on social media.

So lifelike 2K even nailed that weird grey part of Bill Cartwright's beard.

It's all faintly ridiculous, especially the scripted comments you make in meetings, and it adds up to a cartoon view of what the NBA is in real life. But it's also very compelling. These options let you personalize your career, and the whole me-first concept plays into the fantasy sports ideal that makes player-oriented modes of play in sports sims so appealing in the first place. Most goodies are bought with the VC coins awarded for accomplishments in-game, as well, so you at least have to do something on the hardwood (or spend your own cash by buying the things with real-world money) before you earn the right to detonate any ego explosions.

More historical greats have been included among the roster of teams. The headline is the inclusion of the full 1992 Olympic Dream Team, with even Charles Barkley finally letting his likeness be added to a game for the first time since 1994's Shut Up and Jam! So old-timers who want to see Jordan, Magic, Bird, Sir Charles, and pals on the court together again can finally do so. You can also pit this club against the most recent version of the dreamy Olympic roster from earlier this year to see what roster is really the best of all time.

Dress like an undertaker on draft night to get the big endorsements.

Other iconic teams from the NBA's past are included, as well, like the Showtime Lakers and the Bad Boys with top thugs Laimbeer and Rodman. The game even has an absurd celebrity team starring the likes of Justin Bieber and various B-listers such as JB Smoove and Jersey Shore's Pauly D. Even a little guy like the Beeb comes in with sky-high ratings, too, so you can actually pit this team (the overall rating is a formidable 97) against any and all comers with a good shot at emerging victorious.

Players themselves have had their ratings revised in a key area, as well. All of the top stars in the NBA, and even a number of role players and sixth men, are now given signature skills that better reflect their real-life traits. So you have the floor general, who makes everyone on the floor play better offense. There's the closer, who raises his game in clutch moments. The eraser sends shots off with emphasis. The finisher can blast into the paint to slam layups and dunks no matter what traffic may be clogging the key.

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.

It took eight seasons, but LeBron finally developed a post game.

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.

Charles Barkley can win a championship, he just needed to team up with Magic, Bird, and MJ.

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.

Use this image to wash the sight of Allen Iverson playing in Turkey from your memory.

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.

The Good
Excellent game flow emulates the real thing
New right-stick controls make slick moves easy to pull off
Signature skills enhance player depth
TV-realistic graphics and animations
Lively, varied play-by-play
The Bad
Confusing interface
Overblown Jay-Z production
9
Superb
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Discussion

5 comments
XXTheChamp64499
XXTheChamp64499

It is way to fake i thought they would fix it after 2k11 but they havent its fun but they better start being more like basketball than a 3 point contest every game u play in My Team and online or i will stop buying the nba games.

xLizzleNizzlex
xLizzleNizzlex

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cbb1018
cbb1018

I love these games but they are so hard!!! i watch basketball but i dont play it and i wish i knew how to manage a team better and call plays but i guess i just have to keep playing to get the hang of it

clay865
clay865

I'm really anxious to play this!

PCanton
PCanton

Stop hating Jay Z he is the one who produced the game so he can do whatever he wants.I agree this game deserves a 9.

mwalk77
mwalk77

finally a patch almost 2months in....now at least the game is playable and has a feel of realism. The adjusted three point accuracy and shot blocking are glaring improvements. Before this patch a rating of 9 was highly suspect!

 

halldors78
halldors78

great game but couldn't agree more, way too much Jay Z stuff in it, horrible music, one of the worst ever in any game. but still a great game

xxxjohnhenryxxx
xxxjohnhenryxxx

I liked your review, it's really detailed. But I have to call you on this.. The guy posting up isn't lebron, it's patrick ewing..

mordekai18
mordekai18

Does this game Really Deserves a 9.0

killdot1335
killdot1335

It's okay if gamespot does not want to do a video review. I'll just go find another review site to rely on for producing vid's for good games. 

nejixx
nejixx

Seriously... play football(soccer -_-).

dwhitek
dwhitek

imagine if it was dr dre, instead of jay-z ????

AudioKill
AudioKill

Definitely too much Jay-Z production! Glad you it was stated! 

ricky0047
ricky0047

Please guys, Do a Video review. I think NBA 2k 13 deserves it more than Fable: the journey. 

lorider25
lorider25

Ok, I had to login to get this to say.

 

Ok first off, This guy is MOSTLY mad, NOT because there is a lot of Jay-Z (that's just a small front), but because it is basically all rap. Saying he wanted more stuff like Coldplay and U2 on the game. Listen here hypocrites, From the Gamespot posters to the Gamespot Executives EVERY DAMN GAME has Overblown Rock and Alternative on it. Yet, I don't see you saying ANYTHING about that crap! Here's a game that puts more emphasis on hip-hop and what do you do? criticize it!  Brett Todd and all the others, keep your ignorant mouth's shut!

Kinglas2466
Kinglas2466

Just play the game and enjoy it. If you really know basketball and not just a video game nerd than you know this is a great game. Stop bitching about the small stuff (Jay-Z, soundtrack, menus) like women. Appreciate a great game of basketball and ignore the petty stuff.

Cryptic_Shadow
Cryptic_Shadow

I was a fan of NBA2K12 so whatever NBA Live was trying to be it certainly cannot match up to what this game offers for controls, graphics, sounds, presentation and so on.

 

IMO this game series is the best basketball series to ever come out.  Can anyone confirm if the new controls are an improvement?

 

Also, I like how lifelike the players are and I feel NHL13 needs to take some notes on how to make players look real haha. :)

laplace985
laplace985

you are right lol but 2k sports had no choice. Jay-Z was needed to bring scottie pippen and charles barkley aboard. I'm not a jay-z fan but I'm glad he was able to get some of my favorite players into this game.

SpideR_CentS
SpideR_CentS

I thought the soundtrack was great. Old school Nas, Mobb Deep, Rakim, etc and some decent Jay-Z tracks.

lamech777
lamech777

I'm liking this game ALOT! My Nba 2K11 & 12 games have both been retired until further notice.

Arther-la-Blunt
Arther-la-Blunt

I can't believe there's no video review. Very disappointing.

neoclive
neoclive

one thing i've always liked about the nba 2k series is the soundtrack, they have great soundtrack year in and year out. but that's not the case this year, i just turned off all the music in the game...  

Sgthombre
Sgthombre

"Overblown Jay-Z production"

 

Is there any other kind?

wizardboyus
wizardboyus

lol weird that everyone likes this review..it's a freelancer that wrote it as opposed to a regular gamespot employee right? i am happy that the GS guys are harsh on scoring games, otherwise i'd probably pick up a bunch of mediocore games that got decent scores and that's a waste of money especially when these games are 60 fuckin dollars now!

SavoyPrime
SavoyPrime

I'm a Jay-Z fan and even I have to say that 2K dropped the ball with the interface, presentation, and soundtrack this year. The soundtrack isn't varied enough. And the whole Jay-Z aspect is just taken WAY too far. Gold over every damn thing. It's like 2K was so interested in having Jay's name on the box, that they just let dude run wild. Hopefully they will never do anything like this again.

 

At least the gameplay aspect is still good though...after a patch gets done. >_>

thekingofirony
thekingofirony

wish they would of had Dr J in the game.maybe there will be a roster patch later.

gabemartinez
gabemartinez

Thanks for getting around to the review Gamespot.  You're only like 3 weeks late.  Better late than never I guess. 

 

BLURR1
BLURR1

On point review.

kusto1891
kusto1891

thank you gamespot for a fair and honest review of 2k13. gave it the exact same score i gave it

PayneKiller
PayneKiller

I don't own it, only rented it since redbox had a couple free days this week. But really I'm already bored of the soundtrack. there's only like 20 songs in the game, if that many. I'm used to sports games having 40+, or at least thats what FIFA gives me. Ya a lot of the songs I may not like, but at least there's some variety.

I'm really disappointed that Jay-Z's name is plastered all over this and all we get is 19 tracks most of which I'm already hearing on the damn radio every day, and the rest I've heard on the radio every damn day in the past. When I actually do get the game I hope there's a way to put my own music into the menus cause it's actually gotten annoying hearing the same songs over and over.

cbb1018
cbb1018

 @PCanton i agree i honestly dont mind jay-z as a rapper but as an icon i wouldnt look up to him and i think his music goes good with the game. And besides this game is about BASKETBALL not whether or not jay-z is a good executive producer or not... 

ps727
ps727

Just because he threw a little money and time into the game doesn't mean he can do whatever he wants. He has an overblown image of himself, and the review points out that it shows in this game. There were other people who actually created the game and the series from day one who have no mention on the cover, so why should Jay-Z get the recognition there and not them? Strange

ps727
ps727

I agree, some very strange song choices in there. Never played 2k12, but I liked the 2k11 soundtrack much more. I do like the work he did putting together the interface and intro movies; those were very well done and looked great

paulsifer42
paulsifer42

 @killdot1335 They'll make one eventually.  As it says, this isn't that different from last year's, just go and watch last years.

Kendojin
Kendojin

 @AudioKill I'm glad they pointed it out as well, I ended putting my own music on my xbox cause I got sick of hearing Jay-z and kanye over and over again...I was screaming mercy when they kept playing mercy!

Kendojin
Kendojin

 @lorider25 It is overblown with Jay-Z...ridiculously overblown and if it's not Jay it's Kanye.

binojones
binojones

@Kinglas2466  thats whats sup

I\ like the soundtrack and think you saved me some time telling them fulls

PayneKiller
PayneKiller

 @SavoyPrime good to see I'm not the only one thinking on these lines, not overrating the game and calling out it's flaws.

I didn't like the gold splashed everywhere either, but over time I suppose that can be overlooked. But the soundtrack is repetitive, and gameplay aspect is good but I've found a couple faults here and there that need to be fixed in my short time renting it.

Sorry it's just hard for me to accept, especially in a close game with friends, him catching the ball then taking 5 steps from the top of the key to dunk it without the ball even once. And then when I dunk it at the other end it is called out of bounds, even tho when I watch the replay it clearly shows the ball going thru the hoop, then bouncing twice below in front of players ignoring the ball before it goes across the line.

mwalk77
mwalk77

 @gabemartinez

 And I thought I was the only one thinking this...how the hell does this game deserve a 9 with the gameplay bugs???

SavoyPrime
SavoyPrime

 @PayneKiller It's gotten to the point that I don't even play NBA 2K games until a patch hits. In fact, I've made my mind up that I'm just gonna start buying the NBA 2K games when the playoffs hit. That way all patches and roster updates will have made the game worth me buying by then. Cause as of now, I feel the game isn't worth the $60 price of admission and that the game being on the shelf until November or December (usually when the first patch hits) is just a waste of money right now.

SavoyPrime
SavoyPrime

 @mwalk77  @PayneKiller Yeah, Ronnie2K said that they were shooting for a late November release for the patch. So I guess we will see. Frankly, I'm not holding my breath.

mwalk77
mwalk77

 @SavoyPrime  @PayneKiller

 I agree with you..I'm the most disappointed I've been in a while because the game has alot of potential. But until they patch up the gameplay I'm done.

NBA 2K13 More Info

  • First Released
    • Android
    • iPhone/iPod
    • + 6 more
    • PC
    • PlayStation 3
    • PSP
    • Wii
    • Wii U
    • Xbox 360
    NBA 2K13 will let gamers pit the best players in NBA history against the new dynasty of talent, including the much-debated matchup between the 2012 U.S. Men's National Team and the 1992 "Dream Team."
    8.1
    Average User RatingOut of 554 User Ratings
    Please Sign In to rate NBA 2K13
    Developed by:
    2K Sports, Visual Concepts
    Published by:
    2K Sports, 2K Games
    Genres:
    Simulation, Sports, Basketball, Team-Based
    Content is generally suitable for all ages. May contain minimal cartoon, fantasy or mild violence and/or infrequent use of mild language.
    Everyone
    All Platforms
    No Descriptors