Thoughts on the delay of NBA Elite and how they can fix it

October 1, 2010 in Basketball, Game Reviews, NBA

So far, NBA Elite has looked horrible

For the first time since the NBA 2K franchise burst onto the scene, the NBA season will begin this year with only one new basketball video game on the market.  In a stunning announcement on EA Sports President Peter Moore’s Blog, it was revealed that the release of NBA Elite 2011 (formerly the ‘Live’ franchise) will be pushed back indefinitely into next year (it was originally set for release on October 5th).

This is what Moore had to say:

This year, we set extremely ambitious goals for our new franchise, NBA ELITE.  We are creating a game that will introduce several breakthrough features that have been missing from the basketball genre.   Unfortunately, NBA ELITE 11 is not yet ready and we have made a decision to delay next month’s launch.  We are going to keep working until we’re certain we can deliver a breakthrough basketball experience.

The decision to delay NBA ELITE was hard because the game has great promise.  But ultimately we feel this is the right thing to do.  We’ve been making steady progress on basketball for the past few years and it’s going to take extra time to make the game.

Why make this decision now?  As with all of our titles, we continue to evaluate and improve the code right up until launch.  Feedback from consumers is a very important part of the process.  NBA ELITE had the benefit of play-testing, a demo and a lot of our own research.  All that feedback revealed some concerns about gameplay polish, so we’ve listened to your feedback, and made a judgment that the game would benefit from more time in development.

In other words, EA knew the game as it stood absolutely sucked (as demonstrated by the demo), and that if they released it to compete with 2K, they would be laughed out of the building.  I was pretty harsh in my review of the demo (available here), which I believe was justified because there was no excuse to releasing a game that looked and played like NBA Elite — especially not after NBA Live 2010, which was a very competitive title.

The good news is that NBA Jam will now be released on the PS3 and XBox360 as a standalone game (previously it was packaged together with Elite) by Christmas.  As compensation for loyal Live fans, EA will offer free roster and player DNA updates for the entire upcoming NBA season.

(click on ‘more…’ to read thoughts on the delay and suggestions on how they can fix the game — with videos!)

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NBA 2K10 or NBA Live 2010?

October 30, 2009 in Basketball, Game Reviews


Do you notice much of a difference?

NBA 2K10 or NBA Live 2010?

The choice to buy NBA 2K10 was not easy.

I had been a life-long player of EA Sports’ NBA Live series (though I missed NBA Live 09) and it was comfortable to stick to what I already knew.  Though my friends have been telling me for years that the real king of NBA games is 2K, I just never made the switch.  I just kept buying it year after year, even though the braniacs at EA were always more focused on pointless things such as authentic tattoos and shoes rather than what really matters – the gameplay.

Is NBA Live back?

nbalive10coverHowever, leading up to the release of the game all I had been hearing was that Live was back.  This year, Mike Wang (formerly the lead developer at 2K) jumped ship and headed to work for EA, and the rumblings from the rumour mill were that NBA Live series was making a huge comeback to reclaim the throne from 2K.  Moreover, I played the demo for NBA Live 2010 on PS3 and it was very nice.  The graphics were superb as always, and the arena noises took it the atmosphere to another level.  Most of all, I noticed the distinct improvement in gameplay, the one thing that the Live series has been criticised for more than anything else over the last few years.

I needed to up the difficulty level a few notches, but gone are the days of being able to do whatever you want, whenever you want.  In the old days, as soon as you figure out how the AI works, it was all over for the computer, even on ‘Superstar’ level.  Well, now it’s a lot harder to complete a series of humanly impossible moves before spinning past four defenders then dunking on all of them.  Your teammates are now smarter and act more like players in real life.  Fast breaks are smooth(er).  Defense has been revamped.  Freestyle passing is a cool addition.  It was significantly better than any Live game I had played before.

On the other hand, 2K’s sample offering, a demo of its Draft Combine mini-game (I was too cheap to buy the full version) didn’t impress me all that much.  Sure, it was not in a proper arena so it was difficult to make a direct comparison to Live, but whether it was the player movement, sound, or graphics, it felt like Live was the better package.  Nevertheless, I did a fair bit of reading on the games and checked out the publicly available videos.  Even though there was the odd dissenter, the overwhelming consensus from gamers was that Live has indeed upped its game, but 2K still reigned supreme.

Further, while the Live promo videos looked good, 2K’s videos were mind-blowing.  I was shocked to find out that it was actual in-game footage.

The decision and verdict

2k10coverAnd so I had a dilemma on my hands.  Do I go for the game I’ve known for years and looked like a safe bet from the demo, or do I take the plunge and spend my hard-earned cash on the series everyone has been raving about but I had never tasted?  In the end, I made a rational choice and went with 2K10.  Having now played full versions of both games, I can say that this year there is no massive winner.  Both games are incredibly fun and look amazing, but the fact of the matter is, 2K is a more realistic basketball experience than Live.  If you want to go be able to dominate your opponents, perform sick cross-overs and streetball moves, go with Live.  But if you want a more realistic basketball simulation based on strategy, movement and tactics, then 2K is the answer.  This is not to say one game is clearly better than the other.  It’s a matter of what you’re looking for in a basketball game.  I was looking for realism.

Another factor that influenced my decision was my familiarity with the NBA Live series.  It was actually a lot more difficult to overcome than I thought it would be.  I had spent years with the Live presentations style, graphics, menus and in particular its control system.  When I initially tried to 2K demo, everything was different.  People tell me that the 2K graphics are better, but because I was so used to seeing Live’s player graphics, I couldn’t tell.  I still can’t.  Further, the 2K menus were initially confusing to use.  Worst of all, the controls were driving me crazy.  I was so used to using the right stick do perform dribble and spin moves (which is used for shooting in 2K) that I kept tossing up unwanted half-court shots.

Accordingly, I completely understand those who plan to continue sticking with the Live series, especially this year, when the gap between the two franchises is not very big.  However, if you are willing to spend a bit more time to learn the controls and get acquainted with the 2K series, I believe it will be a more rewarding experience.  Having played 2K10 for a few weeks now, I do notice the difference in gameplay.  The players’ movements are just that little more realistic and the game is more about learning how to break down the defence using smart, technical playmaking as opposed to using ankle-breaking highlight moves and exploiting deficiencies in the AI.

The biggest advantage that NBA 2K10 has over NBA Live 2010 is the new My Player mode.  It’s not even close to perfect, but it’s quite advanced for a brand new game mode and will likely eat up hours upon hours of your time.  For gamers tired of just winning championships year after year, My Player is a refreshing change that is unusually satisfying.  I’m sure Live will come up with something similar next year, but for now, 2K is the only game that has this excellent feature.

Anyway, it’s so far so good with NBA 2K10.  I don’t rule out hiring NBA Live 2010 from the video store to try the full game, but I certainly don’t regret the decision I made.

To see for yourself, check out some gameplay videos for both 2K10 and Live 2010 below.