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Nintendo Wii U Review: NBA 2K13

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Let’s talk performance and motion. The NBA 2K franchise is often boxy in its controls, precisely calculated animation routines taking dominance over player input. That means tricks are needed to fool the player into giving the illusion of transition animation, movement, and flow. Part of that is the frame rate, which elsewhere is locked near 60fps. Another part–whether or not it’s obvious–are the physics applied to the fabric of the jersey.

The Wii U launch edition has neither a stable frame rate nor moving jerseys.

You can say this for 2K Sports: They’re completionists. Off the court, the game is a complete effort, jammed with things to do. Online modes, despite almost no one playing (30 people is a peak right now), offer the robust association and career play. My Player is genuinely infectious as you take your chosen star through the ranks of the NBA. With clean-up having taken place over the years to make the scoring system more logical, it’s stronger than its been.

Association is a massive undertaking too, a pitch perfect dynasty presentation with an outstanding, layered style to its choices. This too has been improved, and for those away from the game (or stuck with the Wii adaptation), this is probably mind blowing. You wouldn’t notice the All Star Weekend content missing either; it was a pre-order bonus and DLC on other consoles. On the Wii U, it doesn’t exist period. It’s a shame the same can’t be said for Jay Z’s intrusive involvement as well.

But, it’s debatable if any of that matters. It’s hard to gloss over what’s happening on the court, even with the emphatic commentary and natural chatter of a natural three-man team. Pieces are missing, either animation trimmed or the frame rate unable to pick up the best parts. Fast breaks have the camera trying to clumsily track the action as the ball passes half court, and it’s distracting. This is a first attempt with new hardware, and the evidence is inarguable — NBA 2K13 needs work.

Part of the struggle likely lies with the touch screen, the game beamed wirelessly to the Game Pad in tandem with the TV action. With the somewhat lackluster refresh rate and six inch screen, many of those visual/performance flubs are hidden. It’s almost preferred to play directly on the controller.

Managing the coaching elements is sharp, and no less intrusive than it would be on a standard controller. It’s arguably easier here with options sprawled across the touch screen for direct access as opposed to shuffling through plays on a d-pad. Substitutions are possible without delving into sub-menus, and strategies are snappy on either side of the ball. Touch screen controls related directly to the on-court action are mercifully absent. The right stick actions, including jukes and beautiful transitions into shots, are intact.

The, “What are we supposed to do with this thing?” feature is coined Biometric Scan. Marketing jargon is brilliant, as the small Game Pad can be used to display a sort of thermal image of the players. Fatigue is indicated on their bodies which drain to black as they tire. Hot/cold streaks are depicted as glowing red/blue players respectively, although this is no different than the information being displayed on the player’s circle below their feet on the Xbox 360/PS3. Quite honestly, it was easier to pick out than taking your eyes from the TV on the Wii U.

Don’t count on Biometrics returning next year, but hopefully the jersey physics and frame rate improve markedly.

NBA 2K13 is rated E (Everyone) by the ESRB. This game can also be found on: PC, PS3, Wii, and Xbox 360.

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About Matt Paprocki

Matt Paprocki has critiqued home media and video games for 13 years and is the reviews editor for Pulp365.com. His current passion project is the technically minded DoBlu.com. You can read Matt's body of work via his personal WordPress blog, and follow him on Twitter @Matt_Paprocki.