After 16 years under the NBA Live moniker, EA Sports decided that it’s time to give its NBA game a reboot. The reincarnation of that series is NBA Elite 11 and the demo is out now on PSN and Xbox Live.
The first thing you’ll do in the demo is create yourself as a player, followed by learning the basic moves to get you accustomed to the game. From there you will have your choice between two gameplay modes.
In one, you get to play the final minutes of last season's NBA Championship Game 7 between the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers. The second mode, "Become Legendary," is the basketball rendition of EA Sports’ single player mode where you play as an individual rather than the whole team.
The first thing I noticed playing this demo is that EA Sports seems to be making an effort to bring gameplay symmetry to their games. In FIFA, NHL and now NBA Elite, each game is played by using the left stick to control the character, and the right stick controls what interacts with the ball or puck, be it the player's foot, stick, or hands.
With that symmetry, it feels as though if you play one of those games, you will have a decent handle on how the player controls in the other games. Also, in each title EA Sports puts out, the pass button is Right Trigger / R2. Hopefully this will bring players from the other EA Sports games in, making it easier for them to experiment with sports they haven’t played before.
When playing the "Become Legendary" mode there are many parallels to the individual career modes in FIFA and NHL. As with those games, the player indicator has an arrow showing you where you need to be. What’s nice is that the man you need to be guarding also has an indicator under him; This is definitely helpful in keeping you from being in the wrong place.
After you create your legend you are thrown into the Jordan Draft Showcase. You’ll play a full game of two-minute quarters with the main objective of getting your player drafted. You’ll be up against the other top picks from this year's draft.
It’s a fun game mode, but it can feel too short. When I played, the final score was 20-14. After the draft, you’ll be able to save your player to bring into the retail version of the game. A nice touch that will save you some time and let you jump right into your professional career when you pick up the full version of the game.
Playing the Game
On to the action on the hardwood. The player models look good however, they are a little jagged. It looks like there still is just a little more polish that needs to be put into the players. Another nitpicky observation is that many of the colors seem off in their brightness, as well as the tone of skin on the players. The Lakers' yellow looks too bright, while the Celtics' green is too deep.
Shooting the ball in NBA Elite 11 also has its issues. When shooting, the angle the ball travels to the hoop is too steep, seemingly too low to be realistic. More importantly, the shooting animations are a little jerky which can cause issues when the shooting system is completely dependent on timing. You’ll be shooting and the player will get to the top of his shot quicker then he should, and you’ll end up banging balls off the back of the rim.
While it may seem like the game has a lot of problems from reading through these demo impressions, the good thing is that they are all capable of being rectified with a little polish. Hopefully these are just pieces that were left out to get the demo into player’s hands and the final product has that extra shine that it needs.
NBA Elite 11 is a great start for EA Sports’ new franchise. While it is not perfect, I can see it becoming a contender with 2K Sports’ NBA 2K11. I don’t think this is the year it will overtake the NBA 2K series this year, but it has the makings of something that can surpass it in the years too come.
Hopefully this game will spark the kind of excitement and competition that has been missing from sports games in recent years.