While Midway's Hoopz series brings streetball to the NBA, EA Big is bringing NBA players to the street (literally) in April. Your goal in this three-on-three game is to tour the States and dominate the asphalt (such as the infamously tough Harlem Rucker Park) with a mix of streetballers and NBA stars, including M.J. If you win, they join you, if not, you gotta hone your roughhouse defense and shoulder-charging drives until you do.
Download NBA Street
Few play street-style basketball better than the crew at EGM. You should see Previews Editor Greg Sewart's 360° behind-the-head jam--it's a beautiful sight (yes, some white men can jump). When it comes to video game hoops, NBA Street is no slouch either. If you're unfamiliar, Street is a trickcentric, three-on-three contest where style points are weighed as heavily as the final score. You progress through several cities, challenging the local heroes as well as real NBA players (see Michael Jordan, top right).
Gameplay is virtually identical to the PS2 version (once you get used to the small-ish GameCube controller, that is). An additional Washington, D.C. court and rewards system are the new features exclusive to this GameCube edition.
Like mass extinctions and the price of pork bellies, over-the-top sports games are cyclical. The NFL Street series is the latest take on the boomshakalaka formula to inspire a host of imitators, and not only on the basketball court: MLB Slugfest, NFL Street, Freestyle Street Soccer, and NBA Bailers are just some of the games looking to move in on Street's turf.
Ultimate moment: Any given moment playing Street against another human is pretty ultimate, but blocking 20-plus shots and ending it all with a double game breaker is extra ultimate--double extra ultimate if you're playing for money.
You've rocked NBA Jam and played each year of NBA Live, but can you take it to the streets? You know, the real courts. Now you can find out, from the privacy of your own home. From the hot streets of Arizona to the snowy courts of Massachusetts, you'll prove what kind of a baller you really are. Are you ready for that kind of abuse, dawg?
Gameplay, Controls, Interface
NBA Street is a three-on-three arcade-style basketbrawl. Other than a shot-clock violation, and an occasional out-of-bounds ball, there are no fouls to speak of. The action is fast paced, with an emphasis on slam-dunks. A normal two-point shot is worth one point, while a three-point shot is worth two. Since only twenty-one points are needed to win, a game can be completed quickly, but the fact that there is no time limit and that you need to win by two points, can cause games to last quite a while. These pitched battles are one of the things that make NBA Street a winner. The excitement of rallying back and forth to the very end is exhilarating, like great street ball should be.
It should come as no surprise that the people that made NBA Street (who also made SSX) have added tons of trick shots and dribbling moves, and more importantly have made them integral to gameplay. How was this done? By balancing the drive to score quickly with the need to score trick points. These trick points allow you to perform a Game Break move, which basically nets you the regular score while knocking down your opponents score by the same amount. This gives you the potential to gain a four-point advance, which can make a huge difference in the outcome of the game. Performing the tricks is easy, simply involving holding down one of the four turbo buttons (or a combination of these), along with either the trick button or the shot button. While the basic performance of these moves is simple, getting a true mastery of the timing and the choice of which move to perform takes practice. A combination of these moves, along with steals and blocks, will grab you even more points and build your trick meter up faster.
This brings us to the last thing that really sets NBA Street apart from the competition. The ability to block shots finally gets the attention it deserves, and is almost more fun than a well-timed dunk. Since there is an obvious lack of fouls, goal tending is the rule of the day. Smacking a two-point shot out of the court, or interfering with the opponent's perfect slam-dunk, is a blast. Ahhh, sweet justice.
Even a single-player game is enjoyable, as there are courts, shoes, characters, and even entire teams to unlock, during both the tournament and the Hold-the-Court (win a set number of games against a certain team) modes. The character you create for yourself can be improved based on the points you win at the end of a game, and then have their looks changed with the outfits and shoes you unlock. My man, Prophecy, is slowly building up to rival the power and ability of Michael Jordan himself. Not realistic, but good on the ego.
Knowing that the single player game is as great as I've said, I must add that the multiplayer mode is twice as much fun. While there is only support for two players, not four, it plays smoothly and will make you feel as though you are in control of the entire team. Your ability to balance tricks versus scoring, will really show up when you play multiplayer. The inexperienced will focus too strongly on either one, and probably lose as a result (as my friend did, over and over and over). Dozens of hours of both single and multiplayer gaming merely leaves me hungry to go play some more.
I'm sorry to report that the graphics in NBA Street aren't amazing as they could be. The characters don't move, or look, quite as realistically as I would like, and I even noticed a few occasions of screen tearing. Big deal. The graphics are smooth and crisp overall, the courts look great and the special effects add a lot of fun (I especially liked the rain and shadow effects). I can see how NBA Street 2 (come on, you know it's inevitable), will be able to improve enough graphical touches to wow us all over again.
The announcer for the games is enjoyable for a while, but as the little comments begin to repeat you will soon get bored of his rhetoric and probably turn his volume down. The music is a tough call, as it features some groups like Herbaliser, London Funk Allstars, and others which make for a continuous background beat, but not much more. Considering the length of some of the games, I actually prefer having the music as background rather than the upfront rocking of a game like Tony Hawk Pro Skater.
If you are a fan of any type of basketball games, sports games in general, or just looking for one of the top five games for the PlayStation 2, look no further. NBA Street is really that good. It combines innovation, good graphics, a good single player mode, a great multi-player mode, and a whole lot of fun. I give it a 96; buy it today.