(CBS NEWS) The screen fades to black as the words pan across during 2K Sports' E3 demo of NBA 2K13: "The long journey now reaches its epic conclusion. The pinnacle ..." This presentation element describes the two teams that reached the virtual NBA Finals but it could also depict 2K Sports' rise as one of the best sports titles in the industry. With its latest entry -- NBA 2K13 -- the developers set out to top themselves once again.
Two years after bringing back Michael Jordan to the virtual hardwood and one year after including 15 of the all-time greatest NBA players, 2K Sports have set the bar impossibly high. Though they did not divulge what new modes are included in NBA 2K13, the developers did show some gameplay featuring the Miami Heat and San Antonio Spurs.
Michael Jordan and all the legends might grab all the headlines, but NBA 2K's calling card is gameplay. During the hands-off demo, players moved with uncanny realism, capturing the idiosyncrasies of their real-life counterparts. LeBron James and Dwyane Wade will push the fastbreak any chance they get while Tim Duncan is more plodding up and down the floor.
The developers are so confident in this year's iteration that they've already released gameplay footage to the public, months before they normally do. The fluid movements and signature style of the players have helped earn the NBA 2K series numerous sports game of the year awards while eclipsing 5 million units sold the past two years. But with Electronic Arts' basketball sim -- NBA Live -- returning after a two-year hiatus, do the developers feel any extra pressure to deliver another award-winning title?
"We welcome the competition," NBA 2K13 producer Erick Boenisch said during the demo. "We don't look over our shoulder. We stick to our plan."
Part of their plan is to include the NBA All-Star Weekend events as a preorder incentive. The star of this content is the Sprite Slam Dunk contest. You can pit any of the current high flyers against each other or have them face off against the unannounced legends in the game. The demo showed Blake Griffin competing against Michael Jordan, a fantasy dunk matchup that any NBA fan would enjoy. The interface in this mode is a Guitar Hero-esque layout, trying to match button presses to the on-screen cues. This competition along with the others -- 3-Point Shootout, Rookie vs. Sophomore Challenge and the All-Star Game -- will be integrated throughout the game.
Though 2K Sports was tight-lipped about most of the new features in NBA 2K13, the snippet of gameplay shows they haven't strayed from what has made them the No. 1-rated basketball simulation. The gameplay demoed looked extremely polished despite the game being four months from its ship date which might signal another banner year for the NBA 2K series. Boenisch promised many more announcements as we draw closer to the game's Oct. 2 release. NBA 2K13 will be available on PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and PC.