GameSpot's Sports Gaming Blog
After the sudden cancelation of NBA Elite 11 back in October 2010, fans of the National Basketball Association only had one franchise to choose from: 2K Sports' NBA 2K series. Thankfully, 2K's brand of basketball is viewed as one of the best sports franchises on the market, and that distinction probably won't change in the near future, unless EA takes some significant risks with its basketball franchise. Tiburon and EA Sports are under a lot of pressure to deliver a solid basketball game that will not only compete with 2K down the road, but also surpass it.
For the future EA NBA game to work and become the de facto basketball game on the market, it has to "borrow" elements from other sports games. Even though development shifted from its Vancouver studios to Tiburon in Florida, those working on EA NBA need to look at what has made both NHL and FIFA EA's marquee sports titles. Both games do a fantastic job of delivering an authentic presentation with excellent commentary, stadium design, player animations, and more. Those games not only make players feel as though they are playing a realistic-looking sports game, but they can also fool a bystander into thinking it's a real event by focusing on presentation.
Basketball broadcasts are flashy because, perhaps, the sport is fast paced and its athletes are celebrities. Even if you don't follow the sport regularly, you could probably identify a number of basketball players, current or retires. While 2K has recently focused on celebrating the past, EA should focus on the present by ensuring that players are properly replicated in the game. This means every aspect of a player's movements on and off the court should play out as they would in a real game. While 2K has done a great job of replicating player shooting animations, other aspects, such as off-the-ball reactions, movements (both on the court and on the bench), and other details, disconnect the gamer from the real experience. If a player has a particular running motion while playing, the same movements should be in game. EA needs to take advantage of this and make sure that it brings extra attention to these facets of the sport.
And EA shouldn't just focus on NBA players either. Basketball is a global sport and EA needs to embrace this fact. Previous NBA Live games have included national teams, but why not include full Euroleague support? There are a lot of great basketball players in Spain, Italy, Russia, and other European countries so giving fans extra teams and modes could be quite interesting. Basketball matches in Europe are mostly held in smaller arenas that give off an intimate but intimidating feel. Scores are usually close, and in basketball-centric countries, like Greece and Serbia, fans take the support of their teams and hatred of their opposition to a whole different level.
Indeed, the Euroleague is an interesting concept where 24 of the continent's best basketball clubs play against each other. They start off in four groups of six and play against each other in a round-robin format. Then, the top four in each group are thrown into four additional groups of four, with the top two advancing to the play-offs. All are vying for a place in the Euroleague Final Four, which is held in a different European city every year. A lot of great European players make their mark in this league and the matches are almost always tightly contested. At the same time, this opens the door for EA to break into the European market, and the inclusion of European clubs would help it stand apart from NBA 2K.
Here's another reason to include foreign teams: Ultimate Team mode. EA has proven how popular this mode is during the past few years. It originally started as paid downloadable content, but now, every professional team sports game includes the mode from day one. FIFA has it. NHL has it. Even Madden has its own version. Because the NBA's roster of players is the smallest of the professional sports in North America, foreign leagues would help flesh it out. Again, this is something that no basketball game does, including 2K, which would give EA's version of the sport a much needed advantage.
Although we've pointed out some of the features that should be included in the upcoming EA NBA game, the most important thing that needs to be addressed is the actual gameplay. EA needs to ensure the game is authentic to the sport and simultaneously easy to pick up and play. Past Live games did a fine job with the right analog stick for dribbling, which gave players more control with crossovers, back steps, and other moves. If EA wants to incorporate the right analog stick for shooting, like NBA 2K, then EA needs to ensure that players have the ability to do both right-analog and button-pressing shooting without needing to go into a menu to change mid-game. In NBA JAM: On Fire Edition, a recently released EA arcade basketball game, shooting and controls worked extremely well and could be used to the same degree. Obviously, some adjustments need to be made to accommodate 360-degree movements, but in the right hands, this issue shouldn't be that difficult to overcome.
We don't know much regarding the next EA NBA game, other than the fact that one will eventually make its way onto store shelves. In any case, whatever EA decides to do with its basketball game, the most important thing is for EA not to rush to release a game just to have one to release. At the same time, it needs to accept that its basketball game won't immediately dethrone NBA 2K because EA is in catch-up mode. If EA does bring basketball fans something fresh and different, it will help set the foundation for future releases and give EA an opportunity to get back into the game.
During the midlife period of the PlayStation 2, Xbox, and GameCube, EA Sports released numerous titles as part of its EA Big brand of games. NBA Street was probably the most popular, and its success spawned various other Street-branded games, including three FIFA Street games. It has been more than three years since the release of FIFA Street 3, but the series is making a return in 2012, and it is going in a very different direction. While this is street footie, it doesn't convey the over-the-top style of the past. We had the opportunity to fool around with the game and see the changes that have been made to the series.
From the first moment you step onto the pitch, you can see that this game takes a very different approach from previous games. Gone are the cartoony-looking players, crazy animations, and goal-scoring absurdities that were available in the past. This is how the sport would look and play on the streets. Players feel as they would while playing on a grass pitch, but now, they're playing on different street venues and reacting to the solid ground. While the wall is still your friend, you won't see these players running Matrix-style to avoid defenders, and scoring a goal from your own end won't be easy; it's possible but quite hard to pull off.
But that's not to say that this is just regular soccer played on the pavement. Players can still perform nutmegs, dummy moves, and dribbles to fool the opposition, but these are moves that anyone with proper dribbling skills can perform in real life. Performing these moves works in a number of different ways. Your right analog stick is used to perform the most basic of actions: shimming left or right, doing stopovers, and other similar actions. But when you begin to incorporate the left and right triggers, the players can perform different actions. Your left trigger acts as a brake; the player will stay in position and his play with the ball will react accordingly. Conversely, the right trigger is your sprint, and when coupled with movements made with the right analog stick, players will begin to perform more complex actions. When done correctly, these can leave a defender stuck in place.
On top of changing the way in which the game plays, a number of different modes and game types will be included. Match types include the classic three-a-side matches with no keeper and smaller nets, as well as five-a-side futsal matches. There's even a Last Man Standing mode available that has an interesting aspect to it: Every time your team scores, you lose a player. Thus, the goal is to be the first team without any players left.
For those who enjoy street footie but weren't too keen on the over-the-top action of previous FIFA Street games, this version may be for you. With a more realistic approach to the sport, FIFA Street may appeal to a much wider audience, and its ease of entry will entice people to quickly pick up a controller and begin playing. We expect to see more FIFA Street before it hits both the PlayStation 3 and Xbox Live in early 2012.
When EA Sports revealed that NFL Blitz would be making its return to consoles a few weeks ago, we were unsure as to how much of what made the series so enjoyable would return. After finally getting around to sitting with the game, we found that it felt like classic Blitz, but at the same time, it gave off the impression of something different.
We quickly jumped into a match and began to see the similarities and differences. Players look like their real-life counterparts, and the way in which they move and react falls in line with previous games. Animations are somewhat over the top, but even with the removal of late hits (when tackles and in-air collisions occur), the animations look cool and players appear to be injured after taking that hit. There are a lot of cool moves that you'll be able to pull off, and when you manage to get your offense or defense "On Fire," your foes better be careful. Tim Kitzrow will also be lending his voice to NFL Blitz, so those who loved his brand of over-the-top commentary in NBA Jam will be in for quite a treat. Although our time with the game was limited, the audio was great. The only real gripe we had with the commentary was Kitzrow's referral to the Seattle Seahawks stadium as Qwest Field, which is a name that was changed back in the summer.
As you might expect, the action on the field has a lot of variety to it. On offense, you'll have two pages of play selections that range from quick, short-ranged passes to long bombs. While these long throw situations leave your quarterback vulnerable, if the pass connects, your opposition won’t be able to stop you from scoring. Defense isn't that in depth, but considering this is Blitz, chances are you're going to rush all you can and hope to snag a fumble or interception in the process. The playbooks appear to be the same for all teams, so the team you select and your own skill will determine your success. Thankfully, one of the game's online elite leagues will let you customize your teams to a greater degree, ensuring more balanced matches.
There isn't much to learn in regard to the controls. Each action has its own specific button: Triggers are used to sprint faster, one button is used for passing, and one button is used for jukes. It won't take someone long to adjust to the controls and begin scoring. There will different control setups for those who want to change things up, including the ability to shift to either a Blitz or Arcade control choice.
Our time with Blitz was brief. We didn't have the opportunity to experience firsthand any of the other meatier modes included in the game. We did, however, briefly catch a glimpse of others playing the Gauntlet mode, which has you play against real NFL teams and some Blitz-specific teams. This ladder-like mode seems pretty standard, and it should be fun to unlock the specialty teams for online use. NFL Blitz makes it triumphant return this January and will be available on both Xbox Live Arcade and the PlayStation Network.
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