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November 1, 2010
NBA 2K11 - PS3 Review Page 2
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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If you're after an NBA title, make it 2K11.
Whilst you can play a single game, a single season, playoffs and the Jordan Challenge, it's likely that most of your time will be spent playing the Association mode as well as the My Player mode. The Association runs pretty much as it always has, and you can automate as much of it as you like. If you don't want to fuss over player and staff contracts, player trades and scouting upcoming rookies, you can delegate all of these tasks to your assistants. You have to be careful about giving them trade powers though – when I played as the Suns the one good player on the roster was Steve Nash. Three games into the season I found that my assistants had traded him away for little more than a vegemite sandwich (that's not true, but it was for a far less talented though younger player), which made it much harder to compete game in game out. When trading is done manually you will still be offered trades by the AI sides out there. In my time playing as the Miami Heat I received countless offers for Lebron James, Chris Bosh and Dwayne Wade, but few of them were worth looking into. The AI will drive a hard bargain if you let it, and while it can be annoying to receive frequent low-ball offers for star players, it's much better this way than have them giving stars away on the cheap. You can also simulate some or all of your games if you're so inclined, and given the standard NBA season is 84 games long it's likely you will be.

The in-game presentation is pretty close to flawless during Association matches. At the start of the game you'll see players arriving at the court, followed by the crowd and some pre-game routines from the players. There are plenty of times when stats are displayed on-screen during games, but unlike past seasons the stats never interfere with the action which is great. At quarter time you'll see a preview for an upcoming blockbuster game, whilst at half-time you'll get a stats breakdown of the game so far with a few highlights thrown in. At three-quarter time you're presented with the player who has ‘sparked' the game the most, and you'll see their highlights while the commentary tells you how the sparked the game. At the end of the game you get the bees knees in highlight packages and game information. You can watch a highlights package for each and every player involved in the game, as well as see where they took their shots from and their scoring percentage in each area. There's also an option to check out the player of the game highlights, and all of the key moments from the game. The press-book is another really cool feature; it contains a series of high-resolution photos from the game, capturing some of the best moments of the game from interesting angles. These photos frequently look fantastic, and they can all be uploaded to the NBA2K servers any time you like.

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Player models in NBA 2K11 are superb.
One area where the game falls flat is online. There are plenty of options for online play but unfortunately in the games I played lag was a significant factor. When you're playing a game that is so dependent on timing lag poses a major gameplay obstruction. I'm not sure if it was the lag or the fact that I was winning, but I had a couple of online opponents quit the game long before our game was finished. I didn't get to play NBA2K10, but from what I've read about it, online play suffered from the same performances issues. Given that fact it's hard to be optimistic that NBA 2K11 will improve in the coming weeks and months, but we can hope. In the mean time you're going to need extreme patience to get much enjoyment from the online offerings.

Outside of the disappointing online offering I had a few other issues with the game. Firstly I'd say that the game really needs a tutorial mode to help ease players into the game. The control scheme is taxing; players have a phenomenal number of dribble and shot modifiers at their disposal using the triggers as modifiers, but to be honest it's thoroughly overwhelming at first. The tutorial wouldn't have to be comprehensive but something that took players through a couple of moves, a few different shots, some plays and a passing drill would be appreciated. The current practice mode is ok, but it really doesn't give enough feedback on your efforts, nor is it as user-friendly as a tutorial would be.

Secondly, the My Player mode has seen few if any improvements on last season's flawed effort. Firstly it can take an absolute age to level up – my player started with an overall rating of 44 and after many hours and games later I was still hovering around 50. It takes a serious time investment to get your player anywhere near the NBA, and whilst that's realistic enough it's also a major turn-off. The player you start with is a complete dud, and many of your own efforts will be undone by just how bad he is. I lost count of the number of times my player would have won the rebound except he dropped the ball instead, or how many times he missed an open shot from within eight-feet of the basket. There's realism and then there's sadism 2K.

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The legendary Bulls number 23!
Other minor irritations were the loading times (if you play very short quarters it may feel like you spend more time loading than playing), the AI ability to intercept passes easily, and your own team-mates lack of awareness when the ball heading their way are all frustrating too. Also, AI defenders are like brick walls, but you'll watch as the AI point guards (i.e. small players), force your bigger, taller defenders back to the basket on their way to a layup. There is an abundance of in-game advertising too, which I am not a fan of.

One area it is almost impossible to have a problem with is the graphics. The vast majority of the players in the game look exactly like their real-life counterparts, and there are so many player-specific animations that it's staggering. The various ways a player takes a shot, their free-throw routine and the way they move about the court are all absolutely fantastic. The crowds look very good, especially compared to other sports games, and they react in much the way you'd expect a real crowd to react. They add to the game which is all you can ask of the crowd really. The press-book photos you can check out at the end of the game look extremely impressive, and the overall presentation of the game, including the highlight reels is awesome. This is as close to the real thing as you're likely to get in a video game (well, until next year anyway). The only minor problem I noticed was that player limbs sometimes disappear into other players or the backboard when going for a dunk, but to be honest this is a trivially minor thing.

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One final screenshot...
It would be remiss of me not to give the commentary a thunderous pat on the back – it's excellent once again. Sentences run together smoothly, it's almost always in perfect synch with the action and all of the commentators have plenty to say. You'll hear some parts of the commentary repeat more often than you'd like, but given how often they talk this is quite forgivable. The commentary from the Jordan Challenge games does an excellent job of recreating the moment – they'll talk about moments from recent games, talk about how he's just returned from baseball and his achievements since then, and there is plenty of information pertaining to his rivalries with certain players (and how recent rule changes may affect them moving forwards), all of which really adds to the challenges. The crowd reacts believably to the action in front of them – they'll be raucous when the game is on the line, but will get quieter and even boo the home team if they start to fall too far behind. There's nothing exceptional about the in-game music but it does suit the game well and never offends.

Overall NBA 2K11 has once again raised the bar for basketball games. It delivers a tactical and rewarding game of basketball with some of the best presentation ever seen in a sports game. The Jordan Challenge brings back the glory period (for me at least) of the NBA, and it means there are a stack of classic teams and players to play around with. With a few improvements to the My Player mode, a much-needed tutorial for newcomers to the series and a few minor adjustments to the on-court action this would be the definitive basketball game. As it is it's still very impressive and a lot of fun, but it's not quite perfect – yet.

Review By: Mike Allison

GRAPHICSThe obtrusive overlays and slowdown seen in last year's version are gone. Players look great and move fluidly. The presentation is nigh on flawless.
SOUNDThe commentary is excellent, the crowd behaves realistically and sounds great, while the in-game music and effects are fine.
GAMEPLAYThe controls are very complex and the game is not very forgiving for new players. Aside from that and a few minor on-court issues it's a whole lot of fun and quite addictive too.
VALUEEven taking the highly suspect online aspect into consideration there is a huge amount of content to work your way through here. May well keep you busy until next year's title.
OVERALLNBA 2K11 is a lot of fun once you get through the initial steep learning curve. This is, without doubt, the best NBA game on the market at the moment and well worth picking up.

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