NBA 2k11 Preview (Just In!)

Straight from enjoy!

Last year’s NBA 2K game was solid. There’s no doubting that. It featured the same good looking gameplay that we’re used to with an insane amount of fidelity in terms of the animations the series has always possessed. Yet, when I sat down with NBA 2K10, I found myself staring at a bunch of cool-looking basketball moves with the feeling of total control being a bit muted. But man, they sure did look great. While I’m happy to report that this year’s NBA 2K still looks wonderfully polished even in the early build I just played, gone are all of those canned animations that constrained some of the action to looking more like a movie than a user-controlled basketball game.

This year, just about every single animation can be broken out of and altered in some way. Going for a layup but see a center looming in the lane? Simply alter your shot by tapping the shot stick in either direction (this can also be used to trigger different dunk types, including one that forces your player to hang on the rim after flushing it). In-air collisions that alter your set animations are also in; so even if you don’t willfully change your shot, chances are a big center like Yao Ming is going to alter it (and, in turn, your body) for you.

Break it down, son.

Of course, interruptible animations aren’t confined to driving the lane and shooting the rock. Dribbling animations can be interrupted just as easily. First, let’s go over how the dribbling mechanics have changed. Rather than holding the right trigger and the left trigger or just the left trigger or some weird timed combination of the two of them, the left trigger holds most of your dribbling moves this year. Simply holding the left trigger and maneuvering the left stick gets you all sorts of moves, but this year they should all make sense.

If the ball is in your right hand and you flick it to the right, he’s going to feign a crossover. If you then bring the left stick over to the left, the animation is going to bridge to a full crossover. Of course there are also variants of the crossover from there. Through other finite motions with the left stick (such as going from the left to tapping to the right to going back to the left) you can pull off things like an in and out and a double crossover. Spin moves are pulled off how you’d expect, but in NBA 2K11 the stars of the game make better use of them than ever before.

You know how Kobe does that little spin move directly into a pull-up jumper? Lakers haters despise it, I’m sure, but that’s not stopping it from making an appearance in this year’s game and looking great. Speaking of Kobe, players can now do his annoying size-up dribble (and pretty much any other player’s size-up move) by holding the left trigger. If you hold both triggers you’ll instantly enter a post-up position. Players can use this anywhere on the hardwood, which means you’ll be able to bring the ball up the court Gary Payton-style if you want.

This year’s “Videogame Team” as 2K Sports put it. Meaning everyone is going to use them.

The depth of the new dribbling mechanic is huge. Far beyond anything I could grasp in my short demo. Thankfully the 2K developer, who was kind enough to beat the piss out of me in my first game, showed what a little practice could bring. He was pulling off moves like the Euro-step layup all over my grill and everything I saw looked great in motion.

While dribbling was no-doubt a huge focus for the development team at 2K Sports, the passing game has seen a similar number of refinements. Total Control Passing, a feature that made its debut in NBA Live 10, is being brought to NBA 2K11. Simply hold the right shoulder button and you’ll be presented with the typical icon passing prompts, then you’ll need to either press or hold a player’s button to get him the ball. Pressing it will pass it instantly while holding it will allow you to control that player manually until the button is released, at which the point the pass will be made.

Play calling has also seen a great overhaul. I’ve never been one to spend the time calling plays in a basketball game — call me a newbie if you must – but this year’s game is going to change all that. Now all you have to do is tap the left shoulder button to bring up what looks like the same Total Control Passing button prompts, but this time when you press a player’s icon you’ll be presented with a list of plays for that player. You can also instantly become that player with a press of the right shoulder button and send him on a cut in any direction you want with a flick of the right stick.

Oh, and cuts to the basket are finally made with a sense of urgency so that it will be painfully obvious when you’ve missed an open man streaking to the hoop (as I did during the demo). If you want to intentionally miss the guy cutting, you could always fake the pass (new this year) with the B button (Circle on PS3), causing the defender to swipe at the ball and drive to the hole instead. Of course, you can run a list of plays by pressing the appropriate button on the list. This year, each team has a list of roughly 30 authentic plays that 2K got right from the coaches with over 1,000 true-to-life plays overall.

Give it a kiss off the glass, Tim. You big pansy.

It’s that sort of attention to detail and authenticity that really makes NBA 2K11 what it is. Lebron James feels like Lebron James, and he damn sure looks like Lebron James. His jumper, his crossover, the way he finishes at the hole, the way he runs up court; it’s all vintage King James. 2K Sports
put a lot of emphasis on making sure that the players always moved in some sort of rhythm so as to avoid looking like robots at any point. There are still some transitions between animations that need some work, but for the most part they’ve nailed it even at this early stage.
Physical play (bodies jostling in the post or when a player drives to the lane) is getting an overhaul this year as well. If you played last year’s FIFA game from EA Sports, you’ll know what to expect from NBA 2K11. In other words, you’re always able to have a sense of control even if your player is bumping into someone else on the court. No matter the collision, the goal of the development team is to ensure that players always feel like they’re in control of their player’s weight and momentum. I didn’t get a chance to get a feel for the feature yet, but I’ll be sure to dive a bit deeper the next time I get my hands on the game.

In case you haven’t figured it out by now, there are a lot of gameplay changes in NBA 2K11. Far too many to be dished out in a single preview. Rest assured, if you were someone who hated the feeling of being out of control in last year’s game, you shouldn’t have that problem with NBA 2K11. From spin moves that branch into one-armed pump fakes to those that end in jump shots to dribble animations that can branch into any number of moves, 2K11 seems to have really nailed the look and feel of the NBA with the gameplay revisions.

Layups can be altered at any time.

Thankfully the graphics follow suit with some of the most realistic player faces ever seen in a basketball game. The framerate still needs some work during transitions between gameplay and shots of players on the sideline, but for the most part everything runs well. Oh, and the cheerleaders have seen a visual upgrade as well. I’m not kidding; the Lakers girls actually did look quite nice.

We’ll have a lot more information on NBA 2K11 as we get closer to the October 5 release date – including information on how Michael Jordan fits into all this madness


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