“Presented by Jay-Z.”
Sports video game publishers are no strangers to including hip-hop inspired sound tracks in their titles. The strong bass beats music add edge and intensity to competition.
But, when has an artist ever headlined a sports game? Games usually tote the cover athlete.
NBA 2K13 decided to go in a different direction. After kicking EA Sports’ NBA Live franchise out of the picture and delivering the “best damned” basketball game “ever” with NBA 2K11 (which also brought Michael Jordan back into gaming), NBA 2K13 decided it was time to focus on a different progression.
Jay-Z is an artist who has transcended music. Sure, he’s owned clothing lines and night lounges. But, he did something truly unique. He helped to finally bring a basketball team to Brooklyn, NY and became an owner of the Brooklyn Nets.
The NBA 2K13 production team approached Jay-Z to be a part of the new game. As a fan of the franchise and business mogul, Jay took it one step further – he became a Producer. First, he helped to point out the difficulty with dribbling – it required gamers to hold down the Left Trigger and use the Left Thumbstick to maneuver the player’s ball control.
The development took the note to heart, and separated ball control from movement. Now, dribbling and cross overs are the domain of the Right Thumbstick, and player direction is solely the function of the Left Thumbstick. You can also hold down the Left Trigger, to have full control of shooting with the Right Thumbstick (or you can just press the designated shoot button for a basic, automatic shot or dunk).
But, gameplay suggestions are only part of the “Jay-Z Presents” story. He has his name on the load-up screen for a reason. The new layout of the MyPlayer mode (the former MyCareer mode) and the team selection mode now have bass levels at the side, corresponding to a long list of music tracks selected by Jay. There are also flashing lights to give the game added gloss and mimic that “baller” lifestyle.
Exhibition game load-up screens have been upgraded with music video clips, which the game selects at random. You may get something contemporary or an 80s throwback like “I Ain’t No Joke” by Eric B. & Rakim or a song off of illmatic from Nas.
The game’s initial screen also has a collection sons from Jay, which are remixed with live performance footage.
What else did Jay do to earn his Producer cred, besides being Jay?
He got Charles Barkley to complete the 1992 Dream Team. Barkley was the last player to get signed to NBA 2K13, his name had been missing from gaming for several years.
For the first time, gamers can pit the 2012 Dream Team against the legendary, original 1992 squad – led by Larry Bird and Magic Johnson. Oh yeah, Jordan is there too. And, after playing hands-on with Barkley’s character, I can confirm that Barkley will indeed manhandle anyone defending him. However, don’t try to switch off to have Barkley guard LeBron James. LeBron dunks all day – as does Jordan. Bird’s 3-point shots are also “all day”, especially if you use the control stick to manage the shot motion. Using the control stick, I was able to perform some killer, clutch fadeaway 3s with Bird.
Finally, Jay ensured that official team gear would be available in the MyPlayer shop. So, gamers can customize their players with official Addidas gear as well as a slew of other brand names. Ankle braces and other sports wear offer additional shot modifiers now too. In NBA 2K12, shot modifiers were reserved for sneakers.
If you held off from buying NBA 2K12, you’ll definitely want to pick 2K13 up. Playing with the 1992 Dream Team in an Olympic Year is an utter joy. Nice work, Jay.