'NBA 2K13' raises bar and, with it, expectations

dmassey@herald-leader.comNovember 15, 2012 

Allen Iverson, who had two separate tenures with the Sixers, takes the ball down court.

PHOTO COURTESY GAMES PRESS

  • Video game review

    'NBA 2K13'

    About: The latest incarnation in 2K Sports' NBA series

    Players: Single, multi-player

    Pros: While hard to believe, it improves on last year's game with better presentation and gameplay upgrades such as tougher computer-controlled defense.

    Cons: A handful of small issues, such as transitions between seasons, hold back a stellar offering.

    Availability and price: $59.99 on Xbox 360 and PS3, $39.99 on Wii, $29.99 on PC, $19.99 on PSP

    ESRB rating: E

    Manifesto's rating: 8.5/10 (PS3)

    Metacritic rating: 9/10 (PS3)

Dear 2K Sports,

I wrote you a couple of years ago after the release of NBA 2K11. That game was a classic. At the time, I said it "just might be the best sports game I have ever played."

That was true. As good as 2K11 was, 2K12 was better. But there was still an opportunity for improvement. A series needs more than minor tweaks and roster updates each year.

Let me tell you what I like about 2K13:

■ Jay-Z, one of my favorite musical artists, was the game's executive producer. This was an excellent move because the soundtracks in previous 2K games have been horrendous. And the presentation of game-day traditions, like huddles and the locker room, appear more realistic than older versions — perhaps because of the rapper's input.

■ My Career, NBA 2K's create-a-player mode, has been improved significantly to make the game more authentic. The addition of social media was brilliant. Adding coaches' comments during the game is something I never considered, and that makes it a more genuine experience.

There are consequences for a bad performance.

The ability to speak with the general manager is great.

And signature moves — alley oops, steals, etc. — are a better way to personalize your players. Players can focus on specific elements of your game, which is true to life.

■ All dribble moves, shooting, passing and post moves are in a player's analog sticks. Pulling the trigger button to fire off a shot takes some getting used to. Actually, it takes some coordination and practice. But it's a change that works better. Shooting requires more thought now, which can be good and bad. There are times when I cut to the basket for an easy lay-up and forget to pull the trigger. That window is closed quickly because the AI isn't dumb.

Unquestionably, the changes in 2K13 have made the game better. But there are a lot of kinks that need to be ironed out. For example, I am annoyed because I could not physically create myself. I received an error message saying my last name contains inappropriate language. Seriously? Please let me know when you have a patch to fix this.

"Virtual currency," the skill points you collect to better customize your player, are more difficult to collect based on in-game performance. And now there is an opportunity to purchase virtual currency online. That might be a great way for the company to make money beyond that initial purchase, but it comes at the gamer's expense if they desire to make quicker improvements. On the flip side, the MyNBA2K iPhone app is a nice touch.

It is also more difficult to have an A-worthy game.

Players are dinged for making a bad pass if they slip it through a wall of defenders, and they don't get credit for an assist even if the recipient catches the pass and scores.

There appears to be a disconnect, too, when moving from a regular season to the postseason and from season to season. The computer recognizes some aspects of the change (I won't spoil it for you), but my player, an established starter who led his team to the title, had to start all over on the bench in his sophomore season.

And if you give me the option to talk to the GM, I also should be able to talk to the coach. The coach makes decisions about playing time; the GM is truly only relevant should you want a trade.

Overall, Visual Concepts has done a great job with this game. Creating a legend, which basically gives gamers a chance to use an NBA player the same as a created player, is great. There is also an opportunity to play with some of the greatest teams of all time.

I realized this year that you guys have continued raising the bar and, with that, you have increased my expectations as a gamer. The flaws are more visible.

Moving the needle toward perfection appears to be your modus operandi. You have elevated the game, but it means you must fine-tune the details.

Thanks,

Delano Massey (seriously, what's the inappropriate language in my last name?)

Delano R. Massey: (859) 231-1455. Twitter: @heraldleader

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