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NBA Elite 11

NBA Elite 11 First Look

By taking a new approach to the basket each year and stumbling into the lane each time, NBA Live is dangerously close to fouling out as a franchise. Whether it was producing realistic sweat on player models, the Made Fresh Daily player tendencies that were supposed to make superstars act like their real-life counterparts, or the largely useless NBA Academy, the core gameplay has always taken the back seat to an easily marketable secondary feature. Basketball fans could see through the advertising smoke, and walked away from the franchise in droves hungry for a better hoops game. Determined to (yet again) give its NBA game a fresh perspective, EA Sports has rebranded the game Elite and turned the reigns over to David Littman, the man responsible for turning the NHL franchise into a category leading innovator.

Littman, a former professional goaltender with no basketball background, admits his knowledge of the sport is only cursory. But as his success with NHL proves, he knows gameplay. When he started examining past iterations, he concluded that basketball gameplay has been stuck in a rut for decades. Too often player control is sacrificed for the sake of a pretty lay-up animation or a dice roll that determines whether a shot hits nothing but net or careens off the rim. His solution? Ditch the dedication to authentic television broadcast, return to a north-south camera perspective, and rebuild the game controls around the analog stick scheme that revitalized the NHL franchise.

Littman hopes the new control scheme increases NBA Elite’s accessibility while at the same time offering the depth hardcore fans demand from sports games. Like NHL, the left stick controls your player movement, and the right stick controls your hands. When the ball is in your possession, flicking the right stick left or right results in a crossover, rolling the stick from left to right dribbles the ball behind your back, and pushing the stick forward hoists the ball toward the hoop.

Gone are the days where a behind-the-scenes math equation determines whether your shot finds the netting – player skill now determines whether or not your shot clangs off the iron or lights up the scoreboard. Depending on the timing of your release and how straight you push the right stick forward, your shot can miss to the right, left, short, or long. Release the shot a little late and you can even manually bank the ball off the backboard. When in the paint, pressing analog stick up triggers a dunk, while rolling the stick upwards to the left or right to activate a lay-up in the direction you press. The left trigger is used for jump steps and euro steps. To turn your back to the net for a post-up, simply tap the A button. The new animation system also lets you break out of your shot at any time to manually adjust your shot by changing hands during lay-ups.

Defense is also radically changed by the new controls. Like NHL, the sprint button is gone, so you no longer need to time your bursts with that of the player you’re guarding to keep him from driving the lane. Staying in front of your defender is much easier with the north-south perspective, and it also enables you to better spot opportune times to strip the ball. Pressing the right analog stick down activates a steal, and pressing up sends your player in the air for a block or rebound. To keep your hands in passing lanes, you can roll the stick left and right.  

To complement the new controls and camera perspective, NBA Elite is taking a few more pages from NHL playbook by integrating the Be A Pro mode and the EASBA, a five-versus-five online league.

Adopting another drastically different approach to its basketball franchise may seem like a bad move given NBA Live’s slow but steady increase in quality, but given the series’ abysmal sales EA has little to lose. If Littman and the development team can give the on-court action the fluidity of its NHL counterpart, however, it could breathe new life into a sports genre desperate for gameplay innovation.

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Comments
  • I think that this will be good. I think that Littman could turn NCA Elite 11 into a great game.

  • I used to love the NBA live franchise until I noticed 2k was much better. This new control scheme might be the innovation needed to pull this franchise out from the no-defense rut its been. Either that, or the swan song of a soon to be Madden-like sports genre.

  • Could be great as long as it is not a pain to use.

  • Sounds great, I will haved to wait and see how it works during gameplay though. My biggest beef with NBA games has always been the over focus on offense, while little to none on defense. That's why I only really ever got into NBA street 2.

    Good to see plays will now be decided by skill, and not simple button pushes that lead into a predetermined animation. The only question I have is if the right analog controls ball movement, and the left player movement; how does the game now if you simply want to take steps backward, or actually turn around?

  • Every year since 1998, I have picked up NBA Live on the day of release. While still not perfect, last year's version was the best I've played of the franchise since this generation began, and gave great hope for what Live 11 could be. Then they ditched the franchise.

    I have NEVER liked 2K. They've always been more about, for lack of a better word, "bling" rather than basketball. I mean, seriously, do we really need Snoop Dogg as a playable character in a basketball sim? It's the NBA, not the celebrity game (which usually sucks anyway).

    But this year, for the first time, I may not get an NBA game at all. Maybe Elite will be great, but the stick controls have never worked right in an NBA game before. Then you've got a guy running it that, while he did excellent work with the NHL series, admittedly knows little about the NBA, which is not a good sign. Plus, the north-south viewpoint has always been awkward, because you can't see where your teammates are that are behind you. That is nearly a dealbreaker for me, especially since Live has always been about playing at a friend's house after the Rockets game is over. How will 2-player on the same console work with north-south? Honestly, I think this is EA's overreaction to the loss of the 2K guy that worked on Live last year before going back to 2K because he didn't like EA's work environment.

    As for 2K, even the diehard fans admit that the last two years the quality has lessened. And again, they always seem more focused on the wrong aspects of the game.

    Honestly, if EA and 2K are smart, they'll release playable demos, because myself and a lot of others (that I know, at least) WILL NOT make a purchase without playing it first. Too bad...
  • I've been looking for a great basketball game.  Maybe this one will be it.

  • meh, controls have never been the issue with me and live. its the crappy animations and just arcade like play i never liked. its impossible to play defense in that game


    and their franchise mode has nothing on 2k's association. thats the biggest difference for me. 2k was just so glitchy and broken last year that it wasn't even worth getting a basketball game last year. i should have waited until this year, so far looks like both franchises are coming out swining
  • ppl still car about basketball?

  • NBA with skate control,  sounds good to me.

  • SMH too late EA, 2K has been on the analog control scheme for years. Step it up!

  • Groan* Awful pun but overall a nice read on what is sure to be a big stinkaroo.

    No quota Bertz? Sweet deal

  • Even if this does turn out well, I've been playing the 2K games for a while now.  Now that 2K has Jordan on the cover and extra Jordan game options, I don't think there's anything EA could do to make me by this over 2K11.

  • Maybe EA should do what it did for Madden and buy the exclusive rights.  That's sure to make EA's the best NBA game in town.

  • I switched to 2K last year once I discovered how good it was, which was great since I had not been happy with Live for a few years. Hopefully EA can turn it around with this new direction because its always nice to have options...although NBA 2K11 is a must buy for me right now.