(Credit: 2K Sports)Thanks to EA's decision to bench NBA Live for the third consecutive year, 2K Sports has the NBA all to itself once again.
A lack of competition, though, tends to make players nervous. While the NBA 2K franchise has been a shining jewel amongst sports games in recent years, does developer Visual Concepts have what it takes to once again take the title?
It certainly seems so. NBA 2K13, which boasts Jay-Z as an executive producer and the first video game get-together of the 1992 Dream Team, is earning rave reviews.
Somewhat surprisingly, Jay-Z's contributions are being particularly lauded. While the inclusion of the hip-hop star could easily have been construed as nothing more than stunt casting, his unique style permeates the game.
"His presence is … not a joke," says IGN's Ryan McCaffrey. "What does make 2K13 legitimately better is Jay's pre-game intro packages, which mix music videos with slick gameplay footage to get you hyped up. It works — these impressively produced segments lend each on-court match an added importance and enthusiasm." He goes on to give it a healthy 9.1/10.
"NBA 2K11 had Jordan, 2K12 had legendary NBA games, so how will NBA 2K13 be remembered? Surprisingly, for Jay-Z," agrees Official Xbox Magazine reviewer Hilary Goldstein in a 9/10 review. "If the NBA 2K series didn't already hold the title for slickest sportsgame presentation, it certainly owns it now."
The gameplay continues to get kudos, especially the reworked dribble mechanic. And while some critics noted the lack of real innovation in this year's version, they concede there wasn't a whole lot that needed fixing.
"For a franchise that has cornered the market -- literally -- the past few years, the NBA 2K series wasn't in need of wholesale changes," says Nunzio Ingrassia of CBS. "But the developers refused to rest on their laurels, opting to make a fundamental tweak to one of the core elements of the game - the dribbling mechanic. But this risk, coupled with another year of honing gameplay that has become second to none on the hardwood, has translated into a must-own title for any basketball fan."
Still, some are worried that 2K's lack of innovation this year, could be a sign that the developer might be getting a tiny bit lazy.
"With a robust My Player mode, already-great online multiplayer and gameplay that just won't quit, it's clear why 2K is the only name in the basketball video game market," notes G4. "However, this dominance has bred complacency, and 2K13 fails to improve much over 2K12. While still great, making only minor improvements 2K13 makes it clear that it's not doing anything to break the mold." But even G4 loves that mold, as reviewer Jonathan Deesing awards it a 4.5/5.
And that's about as low as it gets. With an overall 91 on Metacritic, NBA 2K13 is currently edging out massive seller FIFA 13 as the best reviewed sports game of the year. All net.