NBA Elite 11 in Review – Nothing but Net or Air ball?

When EA announced they were changing the name of their long running basketball franchise from NBA Live to NBA Elite, as well as improving the games’ quality, fans of the series were excited for the possibilities. After the recent announcement that the first game to bare the new title was being cancelled only days before its expected console release, the same fans were left with the option of waiting another year for its arrival or take the opportunity to get small and pick it up on their iDevice. Is the compact version enough to hold fans over for another year, or should it have been ejected from this year’s lineup as well?

From Elite’s title screen you have a few options to choose from, including a tutorial of the game’s basic and advanced move set. The exhibition mode will allow you to pick two teams and start playing from the get go. In season mode, you can take a team through a 12, 20, 41 or 82 game season in order to reach the playoffs and a chance at the championship title. Or if you’d rather go straight for the title, you can jump into the playoffs immediately. The last game type is the 3-point shootout. Choose your player and compete in two rounds of competition to see who the league’s greatest long range bomber is. Unfortunately, gamers won’t find online options for either play modes. The only online option for the game is the ability to download updated player rosters. (As of this writing, there were no updates provided).

Gameplay is as you would expect. Control the movement of your player with an invisible analog control stick on one side and two buttons on the other for controlling offensive and defensive plays. And depending on whether you’re completely new to the game or are returning as a seasoned “NBA Live” gamer, you may choose to play on the Rookie, Veteran or All-Star difficulty.

Scoring is fairly easy on any difficulty level. Completing a lay-up or slam dunk is as simple as dribbling around the floor until you find an opening or perform a juke move around the defending player. All shots from distance will require a bit more practice as you get used to the shot indicator. The indicator looks like two halves of a basketball that appear on either side of a player until they come together at the top, changing colors from red to yellow and finally green. For the most part you’ll never make a shot while in the red; your chances improve as you reach yellow and by the time your in the green you will hit a majority of your shots. There have been occasions where I’ve been fully in the green and missed but also made it while the indicator was red.

Defensively the game really starts to breakdown. Planning on blocking the opponent’s lay-up or slam dunk? Don’t bother. Once the CPU decides to attack the basket, you can either count it or pray for the brick. Outside shots only improve your chances slightly. On some occasions you might manage to get a block but for the most part, you better hope they catch nothing but air. The same can’t be said while the opposing team is on defense. They will block shots, steal and pull off fast breaks. One thing you have going for you is the A.I. getting called for goal tending…A LOT. Far too often in fact. At times, it feels like I’m watching a junior league game who has a defender taller than the hoop just standing there with their hand covering the rim.

For those who like to customize their rosters, Elite 11 has a trade system and the ability to sign free agents. You can even unlock 1 of 30 Legends by winning a championship. So you want to sign Magic Johnson to your team after you’ve unlocked him? As long as you have an open slot for one more player on your team, go to the free agent list, locate MJ, slide him over to your team, and confirm your action. Now you want to trade with the Miami Heat? L. James for R. Artest? C. Bosh for P. Gasol? Sure thing, just swap them from their respective teams in the trade menu. Now you’re playing the Lakers with Magic, Kobe, Lebron and Bosh. The game also offers stat tracking, but only for the current game. So you won’t get to see how many points and rebounds your superstar (or other players for that matter) is averaging over the course of the season, which is a shame really.

After all’s said and done, it probably wouldn’t have been a bad idea if NBA Elite 11 for the iDevice decided to follow in the footsteps of its console big brother and taken a delay in release to become a more rounded product. Depending on your expectations for how a basketball game should play out, Elite can be a fun title. If you’re looking for an “Arcadey” style 5-on-5 basketball game and care nothing more for the rest (i.e defence, full stat tracking in season mode), you’ll enjoy what Elite 11 has to offer. If on the other hand you want a little more depth, better balance between offense/defence and just more b-ball realism in general, you’ll likely want to pass on this one.

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App Summary
Title:NBA Elite 11 by EA SPORTS™Developer:EA Sports
Reviewed Ver:1.0.1Min OS Req:3.0
Price:$4.99App Size:184MB
  • Ability to play with Legends
  • Arcade like game play
  • 3 Point shootout mode
  • Nice graphics on retina display
  • Poor defensive ability
  • No online play
  • No season stat tracking
  • Poor trade/draft implementation

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