Game review: The newest NBA2K title dropped this week


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What do Jay-Z, the U.S. 1992 Dream Team, and a fresh pair of Air Jordans have in common?

They’re all in NBA2K13 and looking fresh as ever, so try not to drool on the hardwood.

I’ll admit that when I heard Jay-Z was going to produce the new NBA2K title, I was more than a little skeptical. It was pretty easy to imagine what kind of changes Jay-Z was going to bring to the table: better attention to shoes and jerseys, a vamped-up soundtrack, and a focus on animating the league superstars.

However, I was concerned that the rap-star’s role as a producer were going to result in mostly superficial changes that would fail to answer some of the larger problems with last year’s game play.

Many of the problems from last year — a choppy physics system, a steep learning curve, and unpredictable shot defense — were surprisingly solved by Jay-Z and the folks over at Electronic Arts.

As expected, Jay-Z made a boatload of superficial changes.

Last year’s corny intro track was replaced by a super-clean version of Jay’s own “Onto the Next One,” which was presumably edited down to the point of resembling a Barney sing-along for the sake of earning an “E for Everyone” rating.

NBA2K13 does feature a shoe closet for all the electronic gear your “my player” acquires over the course of his career, so shoe fanatics won’t be disappointed in that department, but they will however, be forced to choose between Nike and Jordan-product lines for the first time in NBA2K history.

The my-player mode also allows players to customize their players not only by attributes and animations but by play-style boosters, such as “spot-up shooter” or “posterizer.”

Unfortunately, these bonuses are quite costly in terms of in-game currency, and I’m afraid NBA2K will get greedy and try to sell its electronic currency for the cost of your real hard-earned dollars.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that updates to the game engine were substantial and well-merited. Players could no longer run straight into other players’ backs while still moving their feet at a full speed as if they were on ice skates.

The days of centers and power forwards outsprinting point guards across the court are also over. Inside dishes can no longer travel through bodies, and the A button is now the preferred method of passing over the previous “bumper plus player icon” method.

These changes make the game flow in a much more realistic manner, such as when a defensive player tries to steal and misses, the offensive player can easily drive to the hoop to score or pass for an easy assist, when in previous titles automatic help defense would prevent this most fundamental basketball play.

It’s easier to drive into the paint now, which is attributable to the new, simplified control system. In response to complaints about the steep learning curve, NBA2K’s simplified controls award players for making the right shots in the right places rather than just pushing the right buttons.

Rather than continuing with the complicated legacy controls that required left trigger as a dribble modifier and used the right joy stick for finesse and power shots, the new system uses left trigger as the shot modifier and leaves the right joy stick to dribble moves. While the change in controls will take some time to get used to, the upside is a more realistic, satisfying flow to play.

After last year’s pitiful excuse for defense was responsible for the deaths of thousands of controllers when shooters made jump shots with defenders on them like glue, the new defense detection is another sorely needed addition.

Any former fans of the NBA2K games may resist the new control system, but so long as they approach it with an open mind, the new 2K release will surely satisfy basketball fans with its beautiful graphics and smooth play.

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