2K Sports has recently made a strong case that its NBA basketball franchise is the best sports series out there right now. Of course personal preference will slant this opinion, but in terms of smooth gameplay, plentiful content, and just general fun, the NBA 2K series does not fail to deliver.
With the Wii U arriving in North America today, it brings with it several ports of successful games that were recently released on other platforms, integrating the Wii U’s unique features, specifically the GamePad. But with any port of a title to brand new hardware, there are unavoidable sacrifices that have to be made due to the unfamiliarity developers face with the new hardware, and development cycles that are at the mercy of the hardware manufacturer who is certain to keep the specifics of that new hardware as secret as possible for as long as possible to avoid leaks. It is a problem all new hardware faces, and the Wii U is no exception.
That results in games that tend to be a bit rough around the edges, and in many cases the titles are forced to make major cuts in the features. EA Sports is perhaps the biggest victim of this, having cut entire game modes from its Madden and FIFA ports, but they are not alone. And yet somehow, NBA 2K13 managed to avoid this pitfall completely.
There are a few minor things missing – you can’t buy virtual currency online and the Virgin competitions are absent, but neither feature really makes much of a difference to the game itself. The lack of virtual currency makes it tougher to bulk up your team in “MyTeam” mode, but saving your money and forcing you to play the game naturally may not be a bad thing.
The inclusion of the GamePad is handled well. During a standard game, the touch screen becomes your coaching tool, allowing you to scan through several options like strategy, quick plays, and substitution options, which you can change with a button press. The substitutions have always been a thing you have to learn to embrace on the 360/PS3 versions, while this makes it easy and intuitive. This is helped by the ability to check the fatigue, performance, and stress levels of players in the new “Gatorade Biometric Scan” by touching that player during a game. You can do that thanks to one of the Wii U’s best features, the GamePad’s ability to show the full game on the touchscreen, making it possible to play NBA 2K13 without the TV on.
This ability to play on the GamePad is also available in the MyPlayer mode, but the coaching options have been swapped for the ability to track your player’s progress. As with the coaching tools, when you hit the icon on the touchscreen, the GamePad will display information on your shot selection, and generally inundate you with stats. It’s neat addition, but will likely end up being just eye candy more than a helpful tool for most.
But despite the inclusion of the GamePad and the full complement of game features, there were a few cuts made to ensure the timely arrival of the game on the Wii U. A bit of the much-hyped Jay-Z production additions have been shaved, and little things like the music video that proceeded each game has been removed, although this is a very minor quibble.
A larger issue is the graphics, which are still good, but not as crisp as the 360/PS3 version. They move well enough, but there is just a slight dullness to them in comparison – but only in comparison. If you haven’t played NBA 2K13 on the other systems, and maybe even NBA 2K12 as well, then you won’t notice the downgrade.
The game is also polluted by the occasional glitch. More than once while saving, my game froze and forced me to back out into the Wii U Menu. These glitches seem to all be relegated to the menus and not the gameplay though, which makes them forgivable, if frustrating.
The controls also take a bit of getting used to on the GamePad. They were designed for a smaller control that encourage the combination of the analog sticks and shoulder buttons, which is relatively complex. You’ll have to relearn how you play. You can always use the Pro Controller, but that will cost you the coaching tools. It isn’t a big deal, but it’s something you’ll have to get used to.
2K Sports’ NBA 2K13 is easily the best launch day sports title for the Wii U. The inclusion of the GamePad makes the game easier to use than ever before, at least once you acclimate yourself to the bulkier GamePad.
It is still a port though, and like all launch day ports sacrifices had to be made. The bugs may be worked out with a patch or two, but the graphical downgrade, although slight, is a shame when you consider the power of the Wii U. Still, 2K Sports are definitely on the right track, and NBA 2K13, regardless of which system you play it on, is still the king of the sports titles.
Score: 9 out of 10
(This game was reviewed on the Wii U using a copy provided by the publisher)