Developer: Electronic Arts
Price: $4.99
Version: 1.0.1
App Reviewed on: iPhone 4

Graphics / Sound Rating: ★★★★½
Game Controls Rating: ★★★☆☆
Gameplay Rating: ★★★☆☆
Replay Value Rating: ★★★½☆

Overall Rating: ★★★½☆

Some people say that sports are one of the few languages that are universal, crossing all boundaries, borders, races and nationalities. If that is the case, EA just sent a big, “screw you” to the world when they canceled the console iterations of the eagerly anticipated reboot of their licensed NBA franchise. Entitled NBA Elite 11, the game proved to be just the opposite of that, even resulting in the development of the entire series switching hands. Out of all of this chaos, the portable iteration was still ready to go on schedule and thus we have NBA Elite on iOS, while the consoles are left to pine for next season. But should this installment have been hung out to dry as well, or is it deserving of a little time in the spotlight?

To say the visuals in NBA Elite are a slam dunk may be a bit of a stretch, but the team over at EA has done a solid job helping to transition the hardwood experience to the retina display. Though still nowhere near drawing comparisons to venturing through the uncanny valley, the presentation is sufficient enough for players to be able to recognize the faces of many of their favorite stars. Sure, “sufficient” hardly has the same box quote caliber ring as “the best I have ever seen,” but it is more than can be said for the non-released versions on other platforms.

Oddly enough, the term “sufficient” seems to sum up virtually every aspect of this game. If you have ever played any modern sports game, you know that many higher tier franchises have play-by-play voice over from professional announcers. Problems arise, however, when you play more than one game in a sitting, because you will encounter more repeated dialog than in the film Groundhog’s Day.

By far the most disappointing aspect of the entire title has to be the “sufficient” but lackluster, and to be quite blunt, over-simplified and under-developed control scheme. On offense, players are only given a pass and shoot button, which seems semi logical, but confusing; the developers mapped turbo to a double tap on the left control stick. This proves to be both awkward and unwieldy while in the flow of the action. The pool of shallow gameplay is further muddied by the same two button scheme on defense, mapping block and player switching to the two face buttons. Not only does this neglect any sort of notion towards stealing the ball on offense, it handicaps the players ability to succeed in any aspect of performing an effective defensive stand. If the old phrase, “offense wins games, defense wins championships” holds true, you might as well not even bother to cross half court.

While able to be called “sufficient,” considering there are no other licensed basketball titles in the App Store, NBA Elite 11 falls far short of what should be expected for an iOS sports game. Plus, the inability to correctly imitate many crucial, let alone fundamental, aspects to the sport itself, makes the franchise feel like it needs to pull up a seat next to the coach on the bench.

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