NBA 2K13 First hands-on: Getting in the paint

This year's AI tweaks put an emphasis on plays. It's not just about you adapting and predicting the CPU's next move based on its rigidness, the AI now starts to learn and understand what you're trying to do. The upside of this new evolution is that the "it feels like the AI is cheating to get ahead" complaints should be mitigated as the computer tries to outsmart you, rather than simply powering through your defense for points.

Player passes are much more improved, as well. With a double tap of the pass button, you can make a fake pass while standing still. It's not unlike the "fake shot" used in soccer games to throw defenders and goalkeepers off. There's also an option for bounce passes with the right button prompt, or alley oops with another. It's all designed for more pass accuracy, especially since typical sloppy passes are more likely to be picked off by the smarter AI to help replicate the high number of turnovers in real-life games.

We also got a glimpse at Kinect support, which looks even simpler than the functionality we've seen in other upcoming sports titles. Jones mentioned that the team wanted it to be as seamless as possible. It's strictly used for gameplay by simplifying the steps you take to pull off certain moves. Whereas other games may let you call out substitutions, the NBA 2K13 team wants it to be as simple as "run an isolation play for LeBron James," "run a pick and roll with Bosh," "set a screen for me." When you want to do something, just say it, and a "Kinect Is Listening" prompt pops up onscreen. We were impressed by how quickly it responded when we asked to double-team Kevin Durant, or when we said "bring on Ray Allen," how Miami's new signing got off the bench, moved to midcourt, and prepared to come on. And while the game won't foul you out, if you curse at the Kinect, it will call a technical foul on the bench.

While details on MyPlayer mode for NBA 2K13 are still a mystery (as well as Jay-Z's involvement in the game), we've got a grasp on the core gameplay. It seems like a game that's going to tweak certain elements of 2K12 for the diehards while incorporating mechanics that make the game more accessible for fans of other sports games. That felt immediately noticeable thanks to the right stick dribbles and modifier of the shoot stick. While it took a few quarters to get used to, we feel good about how the game plays, and are looking forward to diving in deeper when the game hits in two months.

Sterling McGarvey