(PlayStation 3)

NBA 2K11 (PlayStation 3)

Game Review

NBA 2K11 Review

Europe PAL Version

Posted by James Newton

Truly the greatest

NBA 2K11 arrives with the usual fanfare you'd expect to surround the latest outing of this highly-acclaimed series, but this time there’s a huge, unmissable feather in its cap. Michael Jordan, the titular “greatest of all time”, appears in the game, but we’re not just talking his likeness. This is Jordan’s career: his moves, his moments, his career, and his presence all elevate NBA 2K11 even higher than its predecessors.

Right from the first button press, it’s clear this game was built around Jordan. There are no training modes or easy introductions here: you take to the court as the famous number 23 in one of his many classic performances.

From these opening moments the game’s presentation shines. The new side-by-side commentary is exceptional; always flowing, rarely inaccurate and contributing a huge amount of atmosphere to every game, whether an exhibition or the play-off finals. It’s a rare achievement for commentary to feel live, but 2K11’s commentators bounce off and talk over each other, pulling up statistics, player performances, team histories and more, creating one of the strongest and most cohesive commentary systems yet witnessed in a sports game.

As good as the audio side of NBA 2K11 is, it's outdone by the game’s visuals, which feature some of the finest animation we’ve seen in years. Jordan’s signature drive and dunks are all here – yes, he sticks out his tongue – but it’s not just his mannerisms captured: the game replicates thousands of players, with the stars of the NBA rendered astonishingly lifelike fashion. From the waxed court to the players’ sweat-coated foreheads, the visuals shine with attention to detail.

That eye for the fine points drives the game’s design as well, which encompasses so many enormous play modes each could easily support an individual release on its own. Association Mode is 2K11’s team management game, starting you off in charge of any one of the NBA’s teams and giving you complete control over everything: scouting, drafting and salaries all play important roles, but you can hand many of the micromanagement elements over to the CPU if you just want to concentrate on the court. The integration with NBA Today means real world NBA news and statistics sit alongside stories from your association team: trades, reports, gossip. It’s a deep, addictive and versatile mode; one of many.

If you want something a bit less all-encompassing, My Player puts you in the shoes of a rookie at the start of his career. Once you’ve decided his statistics and signature moves you can beef them up by passing drills and completing matches, with the idea being to rise to prominence through the usual route: the draft, becoming a key player and eventually winning the NBA finals for your team. There are certain challenges that net you bonus skill points, and these can be anything from maintaining a particular field goal percentage in one game to being the most valuable player of the season, offering something to shoot for in every game other than just playing to win.

This depth runs through the game, and is best exemplified in the Jordan Challenge. Here you play Michael Jordan in ten of his most famous games, aiming to match his achievements and prove yourself worthy. The atmosphere and detail in the recreation of these games is incredible, not just in Jordan himself but the surrounding players, advertisements and context of each match. Keeping this mode to ten matches proves a wise choice: although these challenges can be difficult and the matches long (though there is a resume and save feature) they’re just a prelude for the MJ: Creating a Legend mode.

In this mode you only play the great one himself, with every other player controlled by the CPU. Beginning as a rookie in the modern NBA, you can assign him to any team you choose and develop him in your own way. It’s a nice twist on the standard career mode, and for gamers who don’t have the time or patience to create their own baller in My Player it’s certainly a fun alternative.

Online play is similarly deep, letting you organise tournaments and leagues as well as create a "crew" (FPS fans, think of a clan), share game sliders, videos and even scout out your opponent's favourite teams and plays. Even if you never step foot in the offline game, there's enough content online to last you for months.

NBA 2K11 focuses mainly on simulation modes, but there are some attractions for more casual fans too. The Blacktop modes are simple challenges that vary from 21 to two-on-two and the excellent dunk contests, where you face off against an AI or friend to create the most outlandish dunks possible.

Those with only a passing interest in the sport may also be interested that the game offers sliders governing everything from shot and steal success ratios to how often fouls are committed, with preset “Casual” and “Simulation” modes making the game more or less forgiving, depending on your taste. Newcomers are likely to find the game extremely punishing at first as even lowly teams sink shot after shot, but tweaking the sliders can make the game infinitely more rookie-friendly.

NBA 2K11 is an extremely polished, passionate ode to basketball: every facet of its presentation drips with detail and care about the sport, which is why it’s such a shame the PlayStation Move controls jar with the rest of the game.

There is a Move-specific training mode to help you get to grips with your controller, and you can easily swap between control methods, though it’s worth bearing in mind that the Move controls are only available in offline play.

Using the DualShock 3 controller to move your players, the Move wand is used for shooting, stealing, dribbling and blocking. To shoot, you simply tilt the controller back as if preparing a shot, and flick forward at the right time for a good release, but there’s next-to no control over power or direction with your shot, making it disappointingly inaccurate. Flicking the controller in certain directions under particular conditions will perform specific lay-ups and dunks, though there’s little correlation between the movements and their on-screen portrayal.

Move is also used for dribbling, though it’s only a matter of holding L2 and waving the controller from side to side to bounce the ball, hardly the kind of motion control we were hoping for. Stealing is performed in a similar manner, with only shooting and blocking requiring any other kind of motion than waving Move around. Whereas the standard DualShock 3 controls offer complete control over dribbling with the new IsoMotion feature, the Move controls feel inaccurate and overly simplistic. It may be that the Move controls are an attempt to get non-gamers and passing fans of the sport involved, but the implementation is disappointing, leaving us hoping for more in next year's edition.

Conclusion

NBA 2K11 lives up to its billing as “the greatest”, being one of the finest representations of any sport seen on a console. The level of detail, incredible graphical refinement, wealth of gameplay options and the inclusion of Michael Jordan himself mark it out as an exceptional basketball game. That said, the PlayStation Move controls aren’t great, and if you’re considering buying this one just for Move you might be disappointed by the controller’s implementation. Move support aside, this is one fantastic game and an all-but essential purchase for fans of the sport.

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User Comments (10)

Slapshot

#1

Slapshot said:

Great review James. I wouldn't use Move here, but putting MJ in the game is epic. Jordan is the man.

y2josh

#2

y2josh said:

Nice! Can't wait for a price drop, I have NBA Live 10 and it's getting a roster update so I can hold off for a while for another NBA game. This looks awesome though.

famousmortimer

#3

famousmortimer said:

I agree 100% with this review. The game is simply astounding in how realistic and fun it is. I also agree with your view on the move controls. The best I can say is that "it works" but really, it's not any more fun, any more immersive or any more accurate than the a controller. In fact, you only can do a small percentage of the actions with it. A little bit of a bummer, but at the same time I never expected basketball to be a motion controller type game.

James

#4

James said:

Thanks for the comments, chaps. I think the Move controls were added late in development - the ShotStick and IsoMotion seem to be really well thought-through, whereas the Move control just... isn't.

Yesterday I convinced my colleagues at the game shop in which I work to run the game on one of our PS3s, and we all just stood there to watch it. Sign of a great game, particularly a sports game, is it's entertaining just to watch.

Fuzzy

#5

Fuzzy said:

A lot of people I know have said that this game is pretty awesome, so I reckon I'm gonna get it soon, even though I only bought 2K10 a few months ago. Stupid me.

JamieOStaff

#6

JamieO said:

I'm writing a comment which is completely redundant, because I know that I will never buy this game, I simply don't know enough about basketball, a game with this level of realism would confuse me.

I basically sat down to read this review because it is Movemodo's highest scorer so far and I am interested in what James had to say about it. It tickles me that the first game to score a 9/10 has far better DualShock 3 controls that the Move's additions, but a 'great game' is a 'great game' whether it is played with a pad or a wand.

Sports games are really flying high on PS3 at the moment, I've read such good things about MLB 10: The Show and FIFA 11, but again I am not likely to buy either of them, because their detailed portrayal of the sport may go over my head (that's a lie, I'll probably get FIFA when it's cheap, I know enough about football).

Whatever happened to the 15 year old kid who learnt all the rules of American Football, just so that he could play Mega Drive John Madden, I don't know! Nowadays you'll find me downloading NBA Jam!

Robb_J

#7

Robb_J said:

Good review overall . . . wait for it . . . except for the Move part. Please excuse me if I sound like the "bitter crazy posting guy" (I bought the navigation controller for this game (NBA 2K11) based on a review that read as though the author actually used it in the game). Have you actually played this game with the Move motion & navigation controllers? From experience & research, this game to-date (unfortunately) doesn't support the navigation controller. If you've found a way to use it, let us know, because the only way to move players during Move-gameplay is to awkwardly hold a normal ps3 controller in your off hand and move the L3 stick. If the navigation controller was compatible (as it should be), then the total Move experience for this game is actually a nice addition. Also, FYI, just like in real basketball, your release point can determine the strength & trajectory of your shot. So in regards to the motion controller having no control over power, that's not true, and to be fair, I don't think you get much if anything in the way of control over power or direction if you just play with standard controllers for the PS3 or XBOX. In closing, if you're not hung up on the traditional button-mashing-way of playing most sim-basketball/sports games, then you may actually enjoy the unique change of pace the Move provides. James, please correct/pass on the current* inability to use the navigation controller to your readers, as this could be a deal breaker for most "Move Investors". (*Rumor has it that there is supposed to be some sort of patch or download to enable the nav. controller use).

James

#8

James said:

Hey Robb J, thanks for the comment.

You're quite right - the Navigation is not compatible with NBA 2K11 at the moment, and I was playing with DualShock 3. I've corrected that error now, and I'm sorry if you felt misled.

As for the Move shooting controls, I think you're right in that they're introduced as a change of pace for players who wouldn't normally pick up a basketball game, but for my money they didn't offer the precision I'd expect from Move nor the range of control I got with a DualShock 3. That's just my thoughts on it though.

Again, thanks for the comment!

Slapshot

#9

Slapshot said:

@Jamie... man do we Americans love our Basketball. Not so much as when Michael Jordan was playing but we still love it.

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