NBA 2K13 review: NBA 2K13

NBA 2K13 is the best arcade 5-on-5 basketball game on a smartphone, but that's not saying much. Bad controls, graphical glitches, and several other issues make the $7.99 price way too high for this game.

Jason Parker

Jason Parker

Senior Editor / Reviews - Software

Jason Parker has been at CNET for nearly 15 years. He is the senior editor in charge of iOS software and has become an expert reviewer of the software that runs on each new Apple device. He now spends most of his time covering Apple iOS releases and third-party apps.

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3 min read

NBA 2K13 for iOS isn't going to impress any owners of the console versions (which most agree are excellent), but it's still a passable arcade basketball game with great-looking graphics on your iPhone. Before you rush out and pay the price to download it, though, I can't recommend the game at the current price mainly because of the controls. Also, though I tested on iOS, you can get NBA 2K13 for Android here.

NBA 2K13 (iOS)

NBA 2K13

The Good

<b>NBA 2K13 for iOS</b> has good-looking graphics and animations. It works well when you want to play a quick game with your favorite team.

The Bad

The control system is severely lacking on the touch screen. The game lags and hiccups on the iPhone 5. Jordan's historic 63-point game is set in Chicago, when it was actually in Boston.

The Bottom Line

NBA 2K13 is the best arcade 5-on-5 basketball game on a smartphone, and it looks pretty good. But bad controls, graphical glitches, and several other issues make the $7.99 price tag way too high.

The control system is not very complex; although that's a good thing for a touch screen, it's not as good for playing a 5-on-5 basketball game. You get a control stick on the left for moving your players, and pass and shoot buttons on the right. The game also comes with single-finger touch controls, but it's mostly a passive playing experience where you set loose strategies while controlling little actual movement. As a longtime fan of the series on consoles, I chose the more classic approach. To pass, you need to point toward another player on your team with the control stick, then hit the pass button. Unfortunately, with this setup you'll end up passing to the wrong player frequently, which gets frustrating. There's no juke button, either, but the game will let you do crossover moves with a quick back-and-forth on the control stick. The problem is that the juke move is not as responsive as I would like, so I often got frustrated trying to spin around another player.

Shooting only requires touching and holding the shoot button, then letting go at the top of your player's jump. In my testing in the Quick Game mode, shots seemed to go down pretty consistently (for both teams) as long as the player created a little space between him and the defender. Overall, the control system is mostly adequate for arcade basketball, but it's not as realistic as the console versions and quite a bit more frustrating.

NBA 2K13 for iOS misses the shot (pictures)

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The best thing about NBA 2K13 for iOS is the graphics, though there are issues here, too. Courts are crisp and look great, player faces are mostly recognizable, and the animations look great as you're playing. But even on my iPhone 5, which you would assume to be the optimal device for the game, there were significant hiccups and lag while I was playing. It's also important to point out that as of this writing the game does not use the whole iPhone 5 screen, but I'm noticing this is pretty common in the early days of the device while developers catch up.

Game modes in NBA 2K13 are limited to Quick Game, Multiseason, Multiplayer, and Greatest Games. Quick Game lets you pick teams and jump right into a game. Multiseason lets you play through a season then move on to subsequent seasons to try to create a dynasty. Multiplayer lets you match up with other players online or over Bluetooth for single games. These are all fairly standard game modes for a basketball video game.

Greatest Game mode lets you play as current or past superstars like Dirk Novitski, Shaquille O'Neill, or Michael Jordan, trying to match some of their greatest historical games. The only problem is that to match Jordan's 63 points against the Boston Celtics, for example, you would need pinpoint passes, callable plays, and better controls -- things you simply do not have in the iOS version of the game. One more issue I found: in the game, the 63-point game is set in Chicago, when part of what made it so great was that it took place at the Boston Garden. The Jordan fan in me thinks this mistake is unforgivable, but hopefully 2K Sports will catch this error quickly.

Overall, if you don't expect too much, the graphics are good and the gameplay is pretty fun for a quick basketball game with your favorite team. Even though NBA 2K13 is probably the best 5-on-5 basketball on iOS, that is not saying much. Overly simple controls make it difficult to have the authentic experience found on consoles and make this game hard to recommend at the price.

The technology behind NBA 2K13
Watch this: The technology behind NBA 2K13
NBA 2K13 (iOS)

NBA 2K13

Score Breakdown

Setup 8Features 5Interface 5Performance 6
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