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November 1, 2010
NBA 2K11 - PS3 Review Page 1
Release Distributor Publisher Developer Offline Players Online Players
8/10/20102K2K SportsVisual Concepts1-72-10
Media HDD Space Resolution Move Controls Tilt Controls OFLC Rating

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NBA 2K11 is a great looking PS3 game.
It's that time of the year again, when all your favourite sports titles receive their annual update. The NBA 2K series is the definitive basketball game around, and if reviews and sales over the past few years are anything to go by, almost everyone knows this. The further proof is that EA Sports has dumped their long-running NBA Live series in favour of a reboot in an attempt to close the gap on the NBA 2K franchise. Have the folks at 2K Sports spent too long patting themselves on the back for this accomplishment, rather than improving their own game? In a word, no. NBA 2K11 brings back everything you loved from last year and has added in a fun new game mode. If you want to know more about it, read on...

We all know the story here it's NBA and it's a lot of fun. All of the game modes from last season have returned, so you can play a quick game, jump straight to the playoffs, play as your favourite team in 'Association' franchise mode or create your own player and take him all the way from the D Leagues to the NBA. If you want to play a less serious game of 'ball, Blacktop 3-on-3 is back, and it provides an easier pick up and play experience for you and some mates to enjoy. Some of these modes will be discussed in further detail later in the review, but for now let's move onto the biggest addition to NBA 2K11, which is The Jordan Challenge.

If you've seen the cover of the game, you know that Michael Jordan features prominently. How this translates in the game is that you have the opportunity to re-live and replay ten of the greatest moments from Michael Jordan's career. There are matches against the Larry Bird-led '86 Celtics, Dominique Wilkins' Atlanta Hawks and Isiah Thomas' Pistons sides from 1990, as well as classics against the '95 Knicks and '97 and '98 Utah Jazz. Perhaps the biggest 'moment' you get to replay is the entire 1991 Finals series against the LA Lakers, for whom Magic Johnson was about to play his last game. In each moment you play you'll be asked to achieve the same things Jordan himself did at the time, meaning you'll have to score a bunch of points, shoot at or above a specific percentage, pick up a certain number of assists and maybe win the game too. The added benefit of the Jordan Challenge is that all of the teams you play for or against can be used for quick matches, so whilst Lakers fans may not like having to win the '91 Finals series as the Bulls, at least they have the opportunity to play as Magic Johnson outside of the Jordan Challenge.

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Michael Jordan is in NBA 2K11!
Having Michael Jordan in the game goes beyond the Jordan Challenge too when you achieve specific objectives in the game you'll unlock a new pair of Jordan's shoes which give your player in 'My Player' mode various attribute boosts (e.g. 3pt shooting +2). You can also earn a shoe contract from Jordan himself in this mode, after which you can design and wear your very own shoes. Cool!

It's worth pointing out that the on-court gameplay this year is just as tough as ever. If it's been a while since you played a basketball game you're going to find the going very tough initially, but on the plus side the payoff is worth it if you persevere. Any thoughts of passing the ball around casually will be categorically stamped out in mere minutes thanks to a series of turnovers, and if you think you'll just be able to run the ball up to the basket to score forget about it, it simply won't happen here even on the easiest settings. It's safe to say the NBA 2K11 is harsh on newcomers and casual basketball fans alike, and the lack of a tutorial to help them out will exacerbate things.

Just like the past few NBA2K games the control scheme is necessarily complicated. Passing can be done with a flick of the right-analog stick in the direction you want it to go, but this usually results in a steal by your opponent. You can bring up icon passing with R1, and then pass it to whichever player you like by pressing the corresponding button. This is less risky than passing with the right-analog, but truth be told you're still going to turn the ball over more than you think you should. The best way to move the ball around on offence is to call a play, which will mean your team-mates set screens for each other and find ways to get open. I found that manually calling plays was a bit clumsy (you have to hit the d-pad, then select the player you want to use with the trigger, then hit a face button to call one of four plays) so I set it so that plays were called automatically, which gave great results. After a while finding the open man was much simpler, and creating genuine scoring opportunities was commonplace.

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About to score over the defender...
Shooting is performed with the right-analog stick and the accuracy of your shots can be made dependent on timing (my preference) or the real-life percentages of the player taking the shot. The latter option is more for beginners who are having trouble timing their shots, but there's no doubt that relying on your own timing is more rewarding. You have the option to bring up feedback for your shots whether the release was too early, too late or just perfect and this will help you get your timing sorted. Getting the timing wrong doesn't guarantee your shot will miss, though that is far more likely, just as getting the timing right is no guarantee your shot will drop. It takes a few games to get the timing down, but once you do, shooting becomes thoroughly enjoyable especially when you nail a crucial shot in the dying moments of a game.

The game also features Move support, and whilst the controls have been pared back to a minimum it works reasonably well. I don't have the navigation controller but you can use the dual shock controller in its place which is what I did. You still move your player around the court and direct passes with the left-analog stick, but the motion controller does the rest. You sprint by holding down the trigger and shoot by lifting the motion controller up quickly, then moving it down when you want to release. After about five minutes in practice mode I was timing shots well more often than not. When using the Move controller you can't switch between players which means it works well in career mode, but is a less attractive option in regular matches where you want to control the whole team.

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