First thing’s first, let’s get it out of the way. Don’t worry gentle reader I understand your impulsive nature so just go for it; click through to the second page, take a look at the big number at the bottom. We all know your interest lies in that lovely succinct numeric evaluation of the game’s triumphs and shortcomings. Ok back? Good score right? ‘9/10’ I mean that’s pretty damn high for a basketball game but just before you spring off to the shops to purchase this game there are a couple of issues you might want to consider.
NBA 2K11 is first and foremost a basketball game that is to say it’s a game about basketball, also bears have been known to defecate in areas populated by trees. The reason that this is worth commenting on is that the fact that NBA 2K11 focuses on basketball could prove to be the major stumbling block for potential buyers outside of the USA. Basketball is not a worldwide sport in fact bar a brief period in the 1990’s (Space Jam anyone?) basketball has not translated well outside of the US in any form of entertainment, interactive or otherwise. This puts NBA 2K11 in an awkward position and also begs the question why on Earth a critic would give it 9/10 as so many of my peers have done.
For those just joining us NBA 2K11 is the latest iteration of the NBA 2K franchise for the PS3 and Xbox 360 and like its predecessors it boasts the newest and most realistic graphics of the time as well as updated roosters (teams) and statistics galore. A popular franchise in the USA, it has lagged behind competing basketball franchises in recent years luckily however this year’s edition is by far the most accomplished of the series to date.
The general assumption with this latest NBA2K title is that the game would improve graphically and it meets this expectation comfortably in fact NBA 2K11 should be commended on just how much it improves in this area. The players and stadiums looks ultra realistic and whilst some of the cutscenes between games are not as polished as the in game action there have been noticeable improvements in the visual end of the game and this can only be a positive thing.
The main draw for players however is the environment in which the player is placed for each game; The inclusion of American sports broadcasters TNT has been an important addition to 2K11 as they provide the player with similar experience to watching a live game, complete with pre-game talk, cheerleader performances and team line-ups. Indeed the heightened realism of the pre events creates a compelling atmosphere for even the most mundane of exhibition matches and this approach really improves the gaming experience, managing to excite even players who lack even basic knowledge of the basketball world.
When developing NBA 2K11, it’s abundantly clear that 2K have worked hard on making large scale improvements throughout the game, however I was genuinely worried that the significant attention paid to graphics and presentation would lead to a lack of upgrades in the gameplay department. Luckily however this isn’t the case as the main control scheme from previous titles has been given a much needed shake-up.
The basic controls are maintained but the improvement comes in the form of analog stick control. Passing to a particular player is as easy as directing the right analog stick towards said player and pressing the pass button. Similarly the players move with the left analog stick and sprint by holding the right Shoulder button, shooting can be performed with either a timed pressing of the shoot button or by flicking the right analog stick towards the hoop. The PlayStation 3 version of the game can take advantage of the new PlayStation Move hardware allowing the player to shoot, dribble, and dunk with the new controller.
This is just scratching the surface however as the player can tactically move other players around the court whilst dribbling the ball forward ready for an attack. The interface is friendly and allows beginner players to pick up and get involved however learning the basics and improving is another matter entirely as we will see later. The controls themselves are excellent and the improvements in the sensitivity and accuracy of the analog stick have made the game a wildly enjoyable experience to play when things are going your way.
Unfortunately it’s not perfect as finding the player you specifically want to pass to can at times be a frustrating experience as fellow players are free to move on their own and in such a small playing environment picking out a single man can become a difficult task. Annoyingly the analog stick shooting system whilst greatly improves still lacks any visual feedback on how high or hard the player is actually shooting/throwing the ball. The end result of this can be players simply flicking the analog in the hope of scoring a basketball. It is true that with practice a certain element of expertise is gained but initially at least it’s very difficult for even seasoned gamers to grasp.