My review copy of NBA 2K13 came with a press release that reminded me of instructions I give to writing students. It says: “Below is a snapshot of some of main features in this year’s game that we’d like you to spend time evaluating.” My instructions have offered: “Consider these points as you construct your draft.”
In this case, I’m a student of a long-standing series of basketball games, considering the points of its publisher, 2K Sports. I’ve been reviewing the series for three years, and while I have glossed over some parts of NBA 2K13, I can say it’s the most addictive and realistic edition of the series yet.
You can thank a certain hip-hop luminary.
The press release offered that this is “A Jay-Z Production – The Greatest NBA video game in the world has joined forces with music icon Jay-Z, who hand-picked this year’s soundtrack.”
The translation is that the Hov has a strong presence in the game. He claims six of the 24 tracks coloring every instance of NBA 2K13, and his remixed music videos hype pre-game shows, whereas few other tracks do. Throughout the game, Jay-Z tracks like “Run This Town” and “The Bounce” shuffle between the sounds of hip-hop contemporaries like Kanye West and Nas, contrasted by indie darlings like Dirty Projectors and Santigold. The tracks comprise a diverse collection and speak to the game’s themes – such as those previously suggested, as well as perseverance and badassery on the court. (As Nas reminds us, “The World is Yours.”) The only scratch on the record is Coldplay’s “Viva La Vida” a kind of bummer about failure. Consider the lyrics you know well:
For some reason I can’t explain
I know Saint Peter won’t call my name
Never an honest word
But that was when I ruled the world
See? I only see it working in an instance where you usurp a championship team.
In my experience, the most fitting song is The Hours’ “Ali in the Jungle,” a tribute to The Greatest.
It’s, not, how you start, it’s how you finish,
And it’s, not, where you’re from, it’s where you’re at …
It was a coincidence that the song faded in after my first loss in “MyCareer Mode.”
Which brings to my next point of consideration. The 2K release says “The most popular mode in the NBA 2K series is better than ever!”
MyCareer is indeed the game’s centerpiece, a mode offering a close view of baller life and off court. In fact, you begin as a rookie being eyed by scouts, then you move to pre-NBA Draft interviews with head coaches and general managers. Something I said impressed the GM of the Oklahoma City Thunder, which drafted me. Maybe it was “I bring a smile, a hard work ethic, and some really bad dance moves. I feel like people can relate to me, really get behind me.”
At the moment, “Rich Shiv,” donning a tall mohawk and rough beard, stills keeps the bench warm for Kevin Durant, the Thunder’s unstoppable power forward. Coach gives me a few minutes in quarters 1-3, but never in the fourth, and I’m lucky if I can score two points in a game.
The weird thing is, Rich Shiv is the team’s spokesperson. Every match-up rounds out with a post-game press conference, and there he takes the hot seat.
A journalist once asked me, “Just a so-so performance for you tonight, but the team still got the win. Is that the bottom line, or do you feel like you could have done something more?”
My honesty wasn’t agreeable with my fan base and local support. “I was horrible tonight. Just horrible. I set such a high standard for myself, and I didn’t get there tonight. Not even close ….”
I’ve long been wary of this feature. I just can’t suspend my disbelief that a rookie is equipped to comment on the team’s performances. Why isn’t Durant or another star chiming in? And where the hell is the coach?
Still, the mode’s social aspect is a very cool concept, one that evokes a strong emotional connection to your player. New this year, your player can challenge or praise the GM, depending on your attitude at the time. I once sat down in my GM’s office and complained about my lack of playing time.
“… I see that hunger and passion,” he said.” Trust me, I do .. if you keep working hard, minutes will come …. Just remember, it’s a team game FIRST … We’re at our best when you make OTHERS better as well.”
I got nowhere.
Elsewhere, your player garners fans, and several of those fans as well as league allies and rivals write you on a pseudo-Twitter feed, a running commentary of your trials and tribulations. But why can’t you interact with those, shall we say, Tweeters? It’s as if you’re not doing yourself any favors by ignoring them.
Still, you can “Boost Your Popularity” among fans and teammates, but that will cost you “Virtual Currency,” another feature touted in that press release I mentioned earlier. You can contribute that money to charities, various promotions and social events with your teammates.
I saved my money for self-improvement. I put it toward training camps with the likes of Dennis Rodman (defense) and Larry Bird (jump shot), and I bought attribute upgrades. On a salary of about 200 VCs per month, I simply can’t afford Signature Skills, which cost 500 VCs and above. I can’t even afford a team dinner.
Correction. I can’t afford those yet. I’m honing my jumpshot, rebound ability, stamina, free throw aim …. everything a rookie player loses sleep over. Time and persistence will parlay into wins and VC bonuses, not to mention favorable reviews from my fans.
I will – yes, I will – be a tour de force rolling in gold, living up to the Hov’s anthems of greatness.
My player’s developing skills are still tapping the game’s slick control options. With the right player, you can do some badass dribbling (right stick only), layups, dunks and so forth that make the blow minds, as evidenced by the announcers. I haven’t mastered even a fourth of those on-court actions, but I still enjoy watching them play out.
Social options and all, NBA 2K13 has nailed its emulation of the real game. I hope I’m not a bad student for pointing out its flaws, too.
NBA 2K13 is a headline title in its genre.
This review based on an Xbox 360 copy of the game provided by the publisher.
About the Author:
Rich Shivener is the Lead Editor of Bit Creature. He is also a writer, instructor and iPad whisperer from the shores of Northern Kentucky. You can find him in Publishers Weekly and Writer's Digest, among other places.
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