Review by Kyle Manchester.
NBA 2K13 is full of the glitz, showmanship and apparent shoe fetishes one comes to expect from professional basketball, without all those pesky real-life multimillion dollar contracts.
That glitz translates to a lovely level of hyper-detail, most evident in the replays when you can see individual beads of sweat falling off players. With a powerful enough rig, you'll want to reach into the screen and scrub them down with a towel. On the less gross side of realism, NBA megastars have their own unique moves and animations. You'll see their faces contort as they do on the small orange courts of the real world, and you'll feel their tangible heft as they move around. NBA 2K13 nails the feeling of six-and-a-half-foot men hurtling around: stumbles are convincing, and the ball has a sense of presence as it arcs through the air into frying-pan sized hands.
Controlling the action is simple, but there's serious depth under the surface. This year's control scheme is new: you perform crossovers and other fancy moves with the right thumbstick, main dribbling duties on the left. It's an approach that feels close to FIFA: you don't need to rely on skill-moves, but they're an extra layer for talented ballers.
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NBA 2K13's realistic feel pairs well with the improved AI. Your virtual teammates seem more clued-in than in previous games, anticipating your moves and responding well with shot and pass selections, aiding you crafting a game-winning strategy and a coherent sporting fiction.
MyCareer mode makes it a doddle to craft that fiction. It's a sports RPG, offering you control of your rookie player right down to crafting your own shoes. Sadly, there's no squeakiness slider. MyCareer also lets you track your character's social networking popularity, based slightly unrealistically on his level of play and not the inflammatory or libellous statements he tweets. If those fake tweets tell you your character's career isn't panning out or you get bored of making new Nikes, you have the option to play a pick-up game as or against one of the real-life greats: men like Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, and others with increasingly ridiculous names.
Those who couldn't pick Allen Iverson out of a lineup with Edgar Allen Poe, Allen Ginsberg, and an Allen key will have a tougher time with NBA 2K13. The layers of snazzy production have made it difficult to get into a quick game, and tutorials for the myriad modes and systems are thin on the ground. But navigate successfully, and you'll find that most impressive of sports game: one that the sport-averse can play and appreciate on its own merits.
As a short and out of shape guy, I can say that my time with NBA 2K13 has been the most fun I've ever had playing basketball. It's smooth and slick enough to be enjoyable even for those who don't know their alley-oops from their elbows.