NBA Elite 11 is graphically deep but shallow in gameplay.
Another year means another opportunity for EA to cash in on its sports franchises and it looks like NBA Elite 11 is no exception. Last year the world was presented with NBA Live on the iPhone which was in its own right a good, new game brought to the court, but with plenty of room for improvement so one could be forgiven into thinking that NBA Elite 11 would be up top of the scoreboard this year. Unfortunately, NBA Elite is more of a disappointing rebound.
Loading the game up you’re presented with sharp menus and a kickin’ soundtrack as well as the option to play your own music if you prefer. Jumping straight into an exhibition game will likely be your first instinct and rightly so, as you’ll go through the tutorial process that will teach you all the controls that should start you on the winner’s path.
The biggest stand out in NBA Elite 11 are the graphics. They are stunning, sharp, shiny and have an overall wow factor to them. A lot of time has been spent making this game look as authentic as possible. Possibly all the developers time, as there are quite a few downsides to the game.
One of my biggest issues with some apps are the games that require you to press something in the middle of the screen effectively covering up your view of the game to perform an action, and NBA Elite 11 does exactly that with its passing system. Unless you are performing a quick pass, you have to hold the pass button then indicators appear above your teammates head then you tap the player you want to receive. This breaks the action completely, perhaps this would work on the iPad where you are blessed with a bigger screen, but it seems they didn’t’ take into consideration the iPhone’s screen size when adding this ‘feature’.
This occurs again when on the defence and you hold the tackle button, completely obstructing all the action on the court. Also while on defence you will find yourself most of the time just waiting for the opposition to score 2/3 points so you can actually regain possession of the ball. The tackle system doesn’t appear to work at all, and timing your jumps to block the opposition’s attempts at a point is complete chance as the game animation is barebones so there is not much give away.
We are growing used to seeing great graphics on the iPhone these days, but also the great animation to go along with it. However this is where NBA Elite fails once more, the animation is rough and choppy, destroying any illusion of realism presented in the excellent graphics.
It’s not all gloom and doom though, there are still positives!
You can adjust the camera angle to your liking with TV mode, baseline and corner fixes. You have several different game modes including Full season where you play your way to the playoffs, exhibition mode too. Personally I just kept to Exhibition, the gameplay is too shallow in my opinion to warrant a full career mode, leaving the game with more of a pick up and put down play feel to it, which is a good thing considering it’s on an iPhone.
The 3-Pointshootout addition is a great mini-game included too where you’re given a time limit to score as many 3 pointers in the allowed time. The shootout could have easily been released alone as a separate cheaper app for those who don’t want to pay full wack or engage in the clumsy court gameplay of the main offering. A multiplayer or a social leader board would have been a smart addition but is lacking. There is no multiplayer whatsoever but decent developers are always releasing updates to their games these days, so here’s wishing for a multiplayer update sometime in the future.
NBA Elite 11 feels like developers have disregarded polishing essential game mechanics to focus purely on the graphics, and although stunning, what we really need is solid gameplay.
If you are a basketball fan and don’t own any previous versions of NBA on your iPhone then it’s likely to be a purchase, but if you are indifferent to the sport, own last year’s iteration and don’t care for graphics, then you’re best to weigh up your options before making a purchase.