Does anyone even still remember NBA Jam? I realize that some of us gaming vets remember spending all of our allowance at the arcade playing it, and don’t let someone you know come in we would just monopolize the machine for about an hour. Needless to say we pissed off a lot of people. NBA Jam was the first game that showed us how a good arcade basketball game should be done. With the wacky secret characters like Bill and Hilary Clinton and the elusive Jesus character (which I am pretty sure was fake), and all the high flying jumps and passes. This game was great–until 2001. Enter NBA Street by EA Sports Big! This game was off the hook. You had trick buttons, high flying dunks (the best of which was Dinner’s Served) and a host of different characters to make up your team. Let’s jump six years and 3 games later and talk about the latest entry in this series NBA Street Homecourt.
With this entry of Street EA has simplified the controls and made it easier than ever to pick up and play. I know that this will make a lot of fans of this series angry but this version is only for the Next-Gen consoles. With the last version of the game EA added the Trick Stick, which essential enabled you to flick the right stick in different directions to pull off all your tricks, A lot of fans hated this simplified level of control, I myself didn’t mind it. Fear not true believers EA has removed this feature and replaced the trick stick with two face buttons which are X and Y. Those that are vets of the series probably collectively moaned, but they do include a modifier button which is the RB and LB.
The other interesting thing with this system of control is that it uses the pressure sensitivity of the buttons. You will do different tricks if you tap, press, or hold down the trick buttons. Throw in the modifiers and you will be breaking ankles in no time. As always the more you pull off successful tricks you fill up the game breaker meter. Another thing that makes this series stand out is the over the top dunks. Which EA has managed to make even better with a twist. For starters your teammates will get down on all fours at the three point arc and act as a launch pad. All you have to do is run up and hit the B button and be thrown high into the sky. Bigger than that though is the addition of the double and sometimes triple dunk-.yes triple dunks!!
Every time you go up for a dunk a meter will appear, the longer you hold the button the more points the dunk will net you, not only that but if you can fill the meter all the way up you will pull off the coolest dunks ever seen! You will slam it down hard catch the ball and then put it in again. If you manage to do this during the game breaker you will pull off the triple dunk. As great as the dunks are, they can also be a curse. It really sucks to be winning a game, only to have your lose handed to you because the opposing team pulled off the double dunk. It’s bad enough when you lose to friends who do this, it feels cheap when the AI-Controlled team does it.
The Game breaker feature has been overhauled and I must say I like it. In games past when you hit your game breaker you were pretty much invincible. No one could touch you! With this edition your opponent can steal the ball from you, and with that steal your game breaker. In one of my games I played I and the AI went back and forth with stealing the ball from each other like 5 or 6 times. Which brings me to the defense; in this game you have a button from steal, and a button for shove. So not only can you snatch the ball from an opponent and then hit them in the head with the ball you can pull off enough trick moves to ensure that your shot gives you 3 points and takes 3 of their points away.
The biggest complaint with Homecourt is the lack of features it has to offer. You are given the option of playing the back to basics games, which is basketball without trick points or game breakers. There are even modes where you can only score with game breakers or with a full trick meter. All of these modes carry over to online, but the problem is that none of these modes are really all that fun. With that said you will end up spending most of your time in the single player career mode which is the Homecourt Challenge.
Homecourt challenge is where you play on your home court (which you can choose the name) make a name for yourself, and eventually play real NBA stars on their respective home courts. You start off by creating your baller, which is not as fun or interesting as it sounds. You basically choose a generic head, and then merge it with two of the heads of NBA stars. Yes-it is quite disturbing. What surprises me is how often EA will make innovation and then take a giant leap back away from it. Why not put the awesome create a player from Fight Night Round 3, or NBA Live for that matter.
After creating your player you head down to your court and recruit your team. Which is basically you and two no name guys. Once you run through the competition on the home court you then get a challenge from a NBA star, and from there you play them on their court with their rules. Which vary from simple play to 21, or dunks only to 7. Your created player’s attributes improve slightly after each game. You also will level up, once you reach level five you can choose a “freak skill” which will make you perfect with whatever skill you choose.
The graphics in this version of Street are top notch for the games debut on Xbox 360. The player models are all instantly recognizable and even look better with the replays. The animations have always been a high point with this series and this edition does not disappoint. The dunks are flashy and powerful as you would expect. You will see rims, and backboards bend to the power of your between the leg, forward flip dunk.
The courts all look really good as well, I am pretty sure that their look is true to their real life counter-parts, but since I have never been to Rucker Park, or the Goat I am not 100% sure. I also liked how the whole game has a retro feel about it. Most levels have a sepia color tone to them, and you get the feeling that you are watching the game through a grainy 35mm camera. Those of you that might not like the new style and look unfortunately are forced to endure as there is no option turn it off, so you will have to adjust.
Another great thing about this game is the soundtrack. We all know that EA’s self named EA Trax has been spotty at best with its quality of music but this time they got it right. The outstanding soundtrack features artists, such as RJD2, Quincy Jones, The Jackson 5, DJ Shadow featuring Q-Tip & Lateef, the Herbaliser, and many more. Of course if this music is not quite your style, you can always play your custom soundtracks.
In closing there is a lot to like about the Xbox 360 debut of NBA Street. Controls are easy to learn, players look great, and the soundtrack is outstanding. Just as we said in our latest Podcast the achievements will keep you coming, most of which are really easy to get. Even if you are picking this one up for the achievement points you will still in the end enjoy it. This one is not to be missed especially if you are tired of 2K7 or NBA Live!