I'm in total agreement with everything in Chi's review, though I will have to say that it took me a while to come to such a positive conclusion on NBA Street. After playing for an hour or so I began to wonder if this was just another caricature video game along the lines of Midway's Ready 2 Rumble. The master of ceremonies, Joe "The Show" was the biggest culprit with his repetitive play-by-play and almost excessive use of street slang. If I don't ever hear someone call me "playa" again, it'll be too soon. But after taking it all in, I had to admit that NBA Street is one of the best portrayals of its intended sport in the industry today.
NBA Street promises back-to-basics (meaning without NBA rules) streetball action with my favorite NBA players and the game delivers that in spades. Its use of Trick Points at first appeared to be an unimaginative derivative of SSX's Trick Point system, but EA Canada made good use of it. Instead of using the shoulder buttons to create a chain of flamboyant aerial moves, they are used long before that to shake off a defender or two and even set up a particular dunk. Anyone who plays in or even casually watches a streetball game or two can attest to the dramatics and showboating that goes on in a game. With the Trick Point system, players recreate such antics with a simple press of the button. And that is probably its greatest strength, reducing something that looks complicated into something that can be pulled off relatively easy.
On the graphics side, NBA Street does quite well. Whether its the gritty streets of New York or the snowy streets of Denver, the graphics for these courts and the surrounding areas are rendered with great care and attention to detail. I was a little surprised to see that the spectators could be so sparse in the backgrounds. If Michael Jordan or any group of the NBA players were playing anywhere I would think it'd be standing room only. The players themselves, though some do not look anything like their real-life counterpart, are still stunning. I had a little problem with the motion capture work as some of the moves don't quite tie together in a smooth transition, but that is really not much of an issue during the course of the game. Again, NBA Street is an arcade-style game, not a simulation.
What I didn't care for was the lack of a multiplayer mode. As I've said in other reviews, Chi and I have been looking for a game with a solid cooperative play mode — in this case we were looking for something similar to Acclaim's NBA Jam. So to not be able to play on the same team or call four friends over for six man gaming session was a big disappointment. Still, I can see why EA did what they did. If there were three or even two human players on the same team, all they would have to do to score is fakeout a defender and take to the air for alley-oops all day. This kind of imbalance (had EA allowed it) would have been all too easy to criticize. Yes, it would have been nice to have a three-player feature, but I can understand why it wasn't an option with this release.
I also want to commend EA for doing such a nice job with the create-a-player mode. NBA Street possesses one of the deeper modes out there. You start off with a character of any size or sex and build him or her up as you go through the ranks in City Circuit. Points accrued through victories can then be used to build up your character. It's not as if these stat points are irrelevant either. Sometimes you'll notice improvements in your player from one game to the next. Usually, EA would include extras hidden in their game that turned out to be pretty worthless once you've unlocked them. In the case of NBA Street, however, the things you unlock (NBA players, stat points, new courts, or secret teams) are revealed as you play giving you a good reason to continue through a season.
My only other gripe would be with the lack of customization with some of these modes. Why do we have to play to 21? Why not go until 51? Why aren't there Exhibition games? Why not a one-on-one game? That aside, NBA Street is a refreshing change of pace for both the simulation basketball and arcade basketball genres. It captures not only the street game, but to a surprising extent, the NBA game as well. This is a release that is sure to become the benchmark by which future basketball releases are judged. I tip my cap to EA Canada and look forward to what they might do for an encore.
Disclaimer: This review is based on the PlayStation 2 version of the game.
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