NBA Elite 11 is EA's attempt at rebooting its annual pro basketball franchise. Besides ditching the NBA Live moniker it has used for years, the development team at EA Canada has gone with a risky new control scheme that maps most of your actions--from crossovers to layups--to the analog sticks. Clearly, interest in NBA Elite is pretty high, as proven by the sheer number of comments we received last week after we posted an open call for GameSpot users to send us questions about the new game. And after playing around with a build that EA sent our way, we've got a pretty good idea of how things are going to shake out. So without further ado, here are GameSpot editors Shaun McInnis and Giancarlo Varanini to answer some of those questions.
Zeifer21x asks: Is the gamble EA is taking with the control scheme paying off?
Shaun says: The simple answer is "yes and no." I've played a number of games so far, and there are certain aspects of the controls that I really enjoy and others that I still can't quite get a hang of. Overall, I like the move over to analog controls. Things like flicking left and right to switch hands while dribbling or doing a through-the-legs sidestep to fake out your defender on a fast break are really satisfying to pull off. Likewise, I think that shooting makes a lot more sense when you're worried about not only timing the release, but also making sure the direction of the stick is properly aligned. But there are also things that don't make sense--like how a simple layup is still much more difficult to consistently pull off than a three-pointer. So on the whole, I think the control system makes the game more entertaining, but Elite 11 still feels very much like a first attempt at a transformation that will likely take a couple of iterations to come into its own.
Giancarlo says: I'm with Shaun on this one. I really like the idea of having the majority of controls mapped to the right analog stick, something EA has been dabbling with since NBA Live 2003, but there's a really narrow window for the development team to get it right. In my brief time with the game, I wasn't completely sold on the control scheme right away and even switched back to standard controls for a short time. But the new control scheme started growing on me after a few games.
VIRGIN_ISLANDER asks: So how are things on the defensive of the ball? Playing defense in live was way too frustrating which automatically brings up a next question. How responsive are the controls? And does the new physics system actually make the game play better than live?
Shaun says: I'd say the control changes make things more fun on the defensive side of the ball. You're able to do things like hold either arm out to the side to block passing lanes, poke at the ball to force a steal, and stick your arms straight up to block the basket. It's not quite as skill-based as the offensive controls, but it does make defense feel like a more active experience. My main issue with defense is that teammate AI can be rather inconsistent. A number of times, teammates near the rim refused to go up for the defensive rebound, letting the ball bounce lazily into the hands of the offense for another shot attempt.
Giancarlo says: Aside from what Shaun just said about rebounding AI on defense, I feel like the defensive AI on the whole is pretty good and really forces you to sharpen your offensive game. Lazy passes are frequently picked off, and it's not that easy to drive through the paint unless you're controlling some superstar player--but even then, it's a challenge. I'll be interested to see how consistent that is throughout the whole game and not just when you're playing against skilled teams.
RealHarry asks: We saw them demo the stick control at E3, but that was just controlling one guy. How is the team gameplay? Is there anything to emulate the team nature of the sport? Or is it just solo tricks and simple pass and shoot?
Shaun says: You start the game going through a series of one-on-one tutorials designed to ease you into the experience of controlling your guy with the analog sticks. Once you graduate from there, it's a little jarring going into a full five-on-five game. Trying to drive into a crowded lane--even with a tank like LeBron James--is genuinely challenging even after you master the controls. So that's one element of team controls: you really need to adapt your fancy dribbling to crowds, because you can and will lose control of the ball if you try to do too much. Beyond that, you can still pass the ball with the right trigger, call for screens, and use the directional pad to call plays and adjust formations on the fly.
banuroll asks: Can you build your own player and play with him in season mode or something?
Shaun says: Yep, there's a mode in here called Become Legendary. You create your own player from scratch, see him get drafted into the league, and build up your skills on a game-by-game basis. You basically earn XP and build up your stats by playing well, keeping an eye out for feedback from your virtual coach, and making sure you keep your game grades high. I didn't sink a lot of time into this mode because of two reasons. One, it seemed like a mode you could very easily lose a lot of time in, and I wanted to focus on the basic gameplay controls. And two, my player was cruelly drafted by the Oklahoma City Thunder. I grew up a diehard Seattle Sonics fan. I'll let you do the math on that one.
silverdoe asks: Will it have Jordan?
Shaun says: Well, I came pretty close to seeing Jordan in the game thanks to a hilarious bug. I was in a Become Legendary game against the Chicago Bulls, and their backup power forward, a draftee named Ekpe Udoh, was inexplicably wearing number 23. I could be wrong, but I'm pretty sure they retired that number. You know, for that Jordan guy.
gago-gago asks: I was just wondering, when you buy Elite 11, NBA Jam is included as a redeemable code? Or you will need to put in the Elite 11 disc and somehow redeem it from there? Thanks.
Giancarlo says: What we do know about the version of NBA Jam included with NBA Elite 11 is that it will come with the game in the form of a redeemable code, but how that code is redeemed (whether it's with NBA Elite in the system or not) remains to be seen. Our preview build has no mention of NBA Jam in any of the menus or any option to enter a code, so a good guess would be that it's completely separate. At any rate, there are no current plans to sell the 360 and PS3 versions of NBA Jam separately from NBA Elite.
Coolgamer asks: What online modes will be included in the final game?
Giancarlo says: The biggest addition for online stuff is the EASBA or the EA Sports Basketball Association. This mode lets you take a created player and team and have them compete in online leagues. As you progress, your team and player levels up. Then you start getting a larger fan base and more support in the form of bigger and better arenas. It's an interesting feature that gives some greater player persistence over the standard modes that are also available such as versus, team play, and online leagues.