Featuring stunning presentation, a great soundtrack (unsurprising given that Jay-Z is credited as the title's executive producer) and gameplay that delivers the best virtual basketball experience to date, NBA 2K13 is one of the top sports games of 2012.
As basketball fans we think it's one of the best games we've played all year in any genre, although unfortunately it provides a few barriers to entry for more casual followers of one of America's biggest sporting pastimes.
Initially it isn't even obvious how you begin to play a quick game, and the menus do a good job of hiding some of the best content behind a load of analogue stick pushes and button presses.
It also assumes knowledge of the sport, so while veterans will be busy lapping up reams of stats and quality analysis via the game's excellent commentary, the uninitiated will be attempting to wade through the title's deep training mode.
Stick with it though and NBA 2K13 will more than reward you on the court, where many of the niggles from the previous game have been addressed. Dribble moves are now executed with the right stick and are complemented by more realistic lay-up and alley-oop animations.
Meanwhile a successful overhaul of player behaviours also makes each basketballer move more realistically than they did in NBA 2K12. They now carry a physical presence that brings to mind the incredibly natural feeling of Nathan Drake in Uncharted 3.
Contextual passing ensures that ball handlers toss the ball high or low based on the situation they're facing, while there are fewer unforced steals. All of these changes combine to deliver a more fluid game that's easier to control and provides plenty of opportunities to showboat.
While there are plenty of decent game types, the star of the show is MyCareer. There's phenomenal depth to the mode, which begins with you creating a custom player from scratch, from their appearance to shot animations, before beginning a journey from rookie to NBA star.
An in-game currency system rewards you for pretty much everything you do and enables you to buy better attributes and equip signature skills, while you'll need to interact with fans, the media and your team manager to define your player's character and boost their popularity.
The returning Association mode is still a great manager simulation in which you control a team and play multiple seasons, dealing with the likes of trades and signings. You can also now take your custom character online to compete with or against friends, and there are tonnes of legendary players and classic teams to play as.
While the game could be slightly more welcoming to new players, it's like anything else in life that's worth doing - it may be a slog to get to the top, but the more you put in the more you get back. Ultimately, NBA 2K13 is loaded with cool features, the presentation is fantastic, and it plays like a basketball dream.
- The best virtual basketball game yet.
- Stunning presentation.
- Improved controls and more fluid gameplay.
- Barrier to entry could be lessened.
- Navigation could be improved.
- If you don’t like basketball...