NBA 2K13 review

  • Better passing and fast breaks
  • Looks and sounds unbelievable
  • Better online stability
  • Excessively complex controls
  • Historical modes gone
  • MyTEAM is online-only

It may seem hard to believe now, but a few years ago the NBA 2K series was known as just another good basketball franchise. Then came NBA 2K11 and the explosive Jordan Challenge, followed by NBA 2K12 and the amazing NBA’s Greatest mode. Both games took the sports gaming world by storm, which put the Visual Concepts team in an enviable position. But how do you top absolute greatness? The answer is, at least this year, you don’t. While NBA 2K13 is another stellar effort with a ton of fun stuff to do, it’s lost a bit of its soul along the way.

On the court, NBA 2K13 plays better than ever, which is no small feat. Two of the causes of frustration last season--inaccurate passing and fast break execution--have been significantly improved. Lazy passes will still be intercepted, but a higher percentage of “safe” outlets will make their way to their intended targets. You’ll finish on lots more fast breaks too, as the speed of offensive players on the run feels much more balanced with that of trailing defenders. Pushing the ball up the floor off of rebounds is a lot of fun now, which translates into a better, more free-flowing experience.

NBA 2K13 also continues its tradition of uncanny representation of individual players and styles. The mannerisms of stars old and new are lovingly animated, whether it’s Carmelo Anthony’s signature jumper or Patrick Ewing’s all-elbows-and-knees low post game. The new Signature Skills that mark individual players with specific traits--Floor General for elite point guards, Posterizer for superb dunkers, and many more--further cement 2K’s tremendous ability to make real NBA stars’ best talents shine through.

The biggest modification this season, though, is the implementation of a new set of controls. The bulk of the dribbling is now on the right stick, unless you’re holding the left trigger, which then turns it into the Shot Stick. Coupled with hundreds of combinations of triggers, button presses, and stick swirls, you’ve got countless options to manipulate your players.These controls work quite beautifully - if you can muster the strength to learn them. Unless (or until) you throw yourself into a ton of training, however, your success or failure will be based on luck.

That need is the elephant in the NBA 2K13 room: The control scheme is too daunting to people who just want to play a fun game of basketball. 2K’s controls have always been complex, but this year goes beyond being “deep” and well into the territory of brutally hard to lots of people who play sports games. All you have to do is take a look at the list of mechanics or try and complete the in-game tutorial; the amount of options is so vast that it’s virtually impossible to comprehend.

Don’t have the time to learn how to call plays from the hundreds of choices? Good luck guessing where your teammates will wind up. Can’t master the art of learning the multiple right-bumper pick-and-roll options? Have fun trying to set screens for open shots. And that’s just for starters. The myriad things you can do with your individual players as well as your overall team has gone from being intimidating to almost incomprehensible, unless you’re willing to invest 20 or more hours studying them. That’s a tall order.

A celebrated addition this year is the inclusion of the 1992 Dream Team and the 2012 Team USA Olympic squad. While it’s awesome to have these two clubs added to the impressive list of historical teams, another piece of NBA 2K’s soul disappeared with the removal of the NBA’s Greatest mode and the Jordan Challenge. It would have been so much fun to run through those stunningly fun campaigns with the much-improved gameplay. In its place, a new online-only MyTEAM mode has been introduced, which was inevitable considering the success EA has had with its various Ultimate Teams. You gather cards of tiered packs to create, build, and lead your own team which, naturally, can be enhanced by spending some real-world cash as well as coins you earn in-game. Yes, MyTEAM has proven to be fun in limited playtime--but it’s too bad that the historical modes had to be sacrificed for its creation.

A chronic problem that has been dramatically improved this year is the online experience. Online games are running rather smoothly, and the updated commissioner controls for leagues produce of much less confusing situation. It’s heartening how much effort the 2K Sports team put into these modes.

NBA 2K13 is in many ways a tremendous achievement. The game’s fundamentals are superb, offering an on-court experience that is the best representation of real NBA basketball yet. Its sights and sounds are beautiful, from the splendid commentary to the Jay Z-influenced presentation, and the variety of basketball options are impressive both online and off. Yet, for the first time since it went from being a good basketball game to a cultural touchstone, it’s taken a step backwards. The controls have become far too complex for much of its audience, and there’s no one mode that captures your attention as much as the now-absent Jordan and Greatest challenges. It seems that after reaching the mountaintop, there really was no place to go but down--even just a little bit.

This game was reviewed on the Xbox 360.

More Info

Release date: Oct 02 2012 - PS3, Xbox 360 (US)
Available Platforms: PS3, Xbox 360
Genre: Sports
Published by: 2K Sports
ESRB Rating:
Everyone: Mild Lyrics




  • jksjai - December 31, 2012 7:35 p.m.

    My Christmas just got merrier! I got a free $50 PSN code from I'm pleasantly surprised! :) Give it a try, don't know how long it'll last!
  • BottleBank - October 8, 2012 4:19 p.m.

    It's all about opinions i know, but this game is way better than the "Solid" the review suggests. It's a superb basketball title, with the best career mode in any sports game in my humble view.
  • young-nasa - October 7, 2012 8:04 a.m.

    This is the worst review ever. For one, you can go to controller settings and set everything back to 2k11 controls. Also you can just shoot with SQUARE ps3 or X on X-Box. Nothing is complicated about shooting with square, especially when everything is context sensitive. Also there is a Training Mode that teaches you each move step by step.\ Another thing is the fact the controls are EXACTLY the same as 2k12 except they switch the modifiers for shoot/dribble. 2k has always had complex ways of doing pull ups, step back jumps, floaters, and the various moves that are in the REAL NBA. I don't think you really tried to play this game, or played any other 2k because the controls are the same, but made EASIER in this 2k. Double tap the shoot button and you can do a hop step, HOLD the shoot button while running you will dunk or lay up depending on the context. Press the shoot button they will shoot. Thats very simple stuff.\ What you are doing is trying to play with the shot stick by hold the back left button and pressing the right stick. And either way, 2k lets you change the controls. And of course MYTEAM is online only, every version of sports card games are online only to stop people from cheating... \ The main complaint I hear from people is that its TOO easy to score, not the game is hard, so for you to make an assumption in your review based off some analysis you possible couldn't know is already a bad review. I think you need to rewrite this review, the controls are very simple just by pressing the square button. Only thing you got to do is play a few games. You will suck at any game if you are a new comer, so just because the game has a learning curve other than being overly simplistic (in which most people still think its TOO EASY to score), doesn't mean it should be a 7. Thats just stupid. Especially when you can take the controls back to what they use to be.
  • GamesRadarRichardGrisham - October 7, 2012 2:57 p.m.

    I appreciate you taking the time to offer your opinion. Clearly, you're a fan of the series - as am I - so let me respond to your points. My biggest issue with the game is not that you can use different control sets. I've logged over 200 hours in NBA 2K11 and 2K12, so I've familiarized myself with those and actually prefer the 2K13 after I learned them - note that I said they "work beautifully." My issue is that, after the basics of passing and shooting, learning the controls in order to have success is a significant effort for the majority of people that will play this game. I've seen it firsthand. The Training Mode is valuable, but it's also massive, and by the time you go through it there's no way you can remember the bulk of it. There are way, way, waaaay too many control options for the normal sports fan. I really, really enjoy the NBA 2K series. That should be obvious from my reviews. However, the way to grow a series is to build on things, and by removing the Jordan Challenge, Greatest Mode, and Crew mode (I didn't even mention that in the review) and substituting those with an online-only mode that is clearly designed as a money grab - and that's OK, this is America - that is a step backwards in my opinion. I mention several times that the on-court action is fantastic. That doesn't change the fact that there is less fun to be had in this game this year, and that far too many people will be frustrated by the experience.
  • young-nasa - October 7, 2012 9:12 p.m.

    I agree with the cash grab thing, but Jordan Challenges, and historical challenges would have been redundant. And don't forget that its hard for them to license certain players, like Julius Erving and Kareem who aren't in the game. So what else historical is there to do other than what they already done. Now, I agree there should have been a mode to replace it, but the changes to the controls, WHEN LEARNED, elevate the game to a whole other level. I think it is wrong to judge the game on an assumed alination just because you have to learn it. That was the beauty of old school games, and thats the flaw of newer games. They try to be so simple and basic, that it makes the gameplay reflect that. What happen to the reviewers, the REAL game reviewers who reward games for having GREAT gameplay, that you have to learn. 2k has never been a casual pick up and play game, even the shot stick is confusing to people still. It has hardcore fans because it is a SPORTS sim. Also, there is literally zero things different control wise from this game and 2k12. You had to press the shoot button in different ways, while running away from the goal in 2k12, its the EXACT same moves. The training is even longer in 2k12, its the exact same move list, there isn't even a move added except for the Eurostep... Its the exact same controls as in previous 2k, just in more realistic context... You didn't even outline what moves were difficult to pull off, you just made mention of it, thats because if you name a move, I can match you with video proof of a matching move in 2k12. And then you don't even have to use the complicated moves, You can basically shoot 3s and lay up if you want. And then you can put the game on easy, and the online matches you up with opponents at your level, therefore the learning curve is fix by default. There is nothing hard about pressing the square button. Every complicated move in 2k history is risk/reward type moves anyways, and aren't necessary to pick up and play. Therefore you are assuming a new comer would want to try all these complicated manuevers when they never do. And if they do the game provides an in-game tutorial, a very deep tutorial. The game has no new moves but the eurostep....I do not understand what you are complaining about that is so new. 2k has always been this way, because its a SPORTS sim, and you have to simulate every thing that sport does. So if you want to do the ADVANCE moves, practice. Just like in FIFA or Evolution PRo Soccer and even Madden.
  • 43steelcurtain92 - October 11, 2012 9:45 p.m.

    Much respect man. Completely agree with you. called 2K13 an instant classic and I completely agree. Nice to see someone put time into a post online
  • xXGhostXx - October 6, 2012 1:35 a.m.

    Good review, but you can switch the controls back to the way they were last year.
  • themarine28 - October 5, 2012 7:56 p.m.

    The complexity of the controls are the only thing that has stooped me from buying the game. I'll rent it but not buying this years either
  • ObliqueZombie - October 5, 2012 6:08 p.m.

    Playable Justin Beiber. Professional verdict: .5/5, unplayable.
  • tehtimeisnow - October 6, 2012 12:54 a.m.

    just beeber is playeble cuz hes a amazeing person and he makes amazeing music but stuped people keep talking smack abuot him. the numbers dont lie he sells like milloins so that means hes extermley good at what he dose i wish poeple wouldnt b so stuped and just undertand this
  • ObliqueZombie - October 6, 2012 7:39 a.m.

    0/10 Go back to 4chan.
  • angelusdlion - October 7, 2012 1:37 a.m.

    Yes, because selling millions makes him a good person. also, please learn to spell.
  • GoldenEagle1476 - October 5, 2012 6 p.m.

    Just played this at my friend's house, and I agree, the controls are pretty terrible.

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