All you need to know about how good the NBA 2K series is that EA Sports is positively terrified of going up against it. Twice in the last three years now, the pattern has gone like this: EA announces a rival NBA game, designs a box for it, releases some pretty-ish screenshots to the press and even goes so far as to set a release date for it. Then, at the last minute, it sees 2K's latest effort, cacks its (New York) knicks and puts its series in the freezer for another year.
Take to the court in NBA 2K13 and it becomes immediately obvious why. Its presentation towers over other sports titles like Blake Griffin at a jockey convention. It captures American sports in all its glitzy and garish excess; its sidelines bustle with activity, from animated coaches and busybody photographers to cheerleaders and little red dinosaur mascots who spring onto the court during time-outs to fire t-shirts into the crowd. Compare this to FIFA, which can't even put a manager on the sidelines.
In the Paint
The enthusiasm of US sports broadcasting is captured, too, with knowledgeable and lively commentators who babble away seamlessly, their words always relevant to the on-court action. There's even a Sprite Slam Dunk Intensity Meter graphic that flashes up after robust plays.
All this is before you even consider the game's stylish hip-hop aesthetic (it's been "executive produced" by Jay-Z), with matches prefaced by promo packages soundtracked by the likes of Nas, Kayne West and, er, Coldplay. It won't be to everyone's taste, but it's artfully done. No other sports game in history has done such a masterful job of capturing the sights, sounds and essence of the game-day atmosphere and if that wasn't daunting enough for the competition, NBA 2K13 has the gameplay to match.
Of course, if EA is planning another assault on 2K's throne, maybe it should begin on Wii U, because for some reason the hoops are set a little lower on our console. It's still a handsome game, but the courts and player models have lost a little of their fidelity on their way across, and the framerate, while not exactly bothersome, isn't as stable as it is on Xbox. It's still the same great game, though and that's what's important, because it's the deep, tactical action and the immersive career modes that'll keep you dribbling away long after the visual wows have ceased causing you to froth at the mouth.
It is by no means an accessible game, however. If you're looking for something you can pick up and play, you'd be far better served by hunting out a copy of the underrated NBA Jam on Wii, because NBA 2K13 takes time and commitment to understand and to get the most out of. A tutorial mode will tell you how to perform the moves, but not how to use them - that's a skill you can only learn out in the wild, as early CPU thumpings teach you restraint when defending, creativity when attacking and, ultimately, how to turn losses into wins.
After some time you'll realise that NBA 2K13 gives you the toolset to do almost anything you want on court. In particular, mapping the flair moves to the right analogue stick is a masterstroke. Put the hours in and you'll be performing crossovers, half-spins and such on a regular basis, leaving hapless defenders for dead. Once it clicks, it's incredibly satisfying.
When you've got the basics down, NBA 2K13 gives you plenty to do with them. The MyCareer mode is one of the deepest and most absorbing we've seen, giving you the chance to build a rookie into an all-star, the virtual currency (XP) system enabling you to tailor his strengths to your specifications. Again, it's the presentation that makes it; while the likes of FIFA pepper their career modes with spreadsheet language, NBA 2K13 concentrates on the human side of being a pro athlete, allowing you to participate in sit-down interviews with potential employers and enjoy the pageantry of major events, such as your draft day. There's even a mock Twitter feed where you can find out what your fans really think of you (if it's anything like our feeds... gulp!). NBA 2K13 is a fresh and vibrant sports sim, then, but given that it looks nicer on the other formats, should you get it on Wii U? Maybe. There are a couple of neat format exclusives, such as the laughably named Gatorade Biometric Scan, which lets you hold up the GamePad to the screen to see which of your players is gassed and in need of subbing. Plus, it plays like a dream on the GamePad and the value of that really cannot be underestimated. Either way, NBA 2K13 is definitely worth considering.
NBA 2K13 is one of ONM's best Wii U games