My hopes for NBA 2K13 sink as I navigate the menus to load up a game, a franchise mode, a career mode, anything to get me actually playing basketball instead of listening to Jay-Z talk about how awesome Jay-Z is.
But once the ball gets tossed and actual basketball commences, the world rights itself and I'm treated to an excellent simulation of NBA hoops. Player movements, animations, the use of the right analog stick for skill moves -- all of it percolates into the smoothest hoops game I can remember playing. Even the normally repetitive commentary and play-by-play excels in comparison to other sports-game franchises. You can tell after last year's excellent 2K12 effort that in this year's game, it was all about refinement and details.
Among the many additions to 2K13 are the inclusion of the original 1992 Olympic Dream Team and a celebrity squad with the likenesses of Justin Bieber and others. The MyPlayer mode has been retooled into MyCareer. It features more behind-the-scenes interactions and choices to determine your path to stardom.
Part of what makes those mixed-tape basketball videos fun is the way the basketball action synchronizes with the hip-hop tracks. The ball thumps the pavement, giving the sensation that these guys actually hear the music while they play.
NBA Baller Beats is the best representation yet of bringing that blend of sports and music into your home via a video game. It doesn't always succeed, but it's an innovative take on the way the Kinect works without devolving into the repetitive dance club games that populate a majority of the Kinect's game library.
The Kinect does a marvelous job of recognizing your dribbling, crossover or behind-the-back movements. You'll definitely have moments in which you really feel like you can break some fool's ankles on the way to the rim.
The amount of real estate it takes to properly play this game is unlike anything I've played before. More often than not, I found myself banging my hands on a nearby desk or nearly falling into a couch. You cannot expect to master the movements and techniques in a modestly sized living room.
The game has Beats in the title, so don't come expecting Jethro Tull or some easy-listening favorite. The better you handle the rock in rhythm with the onscreen prompts, the more you'll believe you are starring in your own highlight reel. The problem is that Baller Beats gets repetitive too fast and lacks the staying power of other basketball titles. It's a fun weekend rental, for sure, but its lack of content means it isn't worth paying full price to own it.