Review by Gruel

"You play all the right games....(2003#6)"

NBA Street was an instant sensation from the EA Sports Big line, and copy cats were bound to show up sooner or later. Activision’s Street Hoops takes the formula that NBA Street defined, but throws all the NBA players out the window in favor of legendary street court players. Activision also throws in a complete street-style atmosphere with loads of licenses from sportswear companies and hip hop/rap music artists. Unfortunately, it looks like the developers at Black Ops skimped out on the game play while their primary focus was apparently on the licenses they acquired.
There is an astonishing amount of total courts crammed in Street Hoops. It has more than NBA 2K3 and NBA Street as a matter of fact. All of the popular one’s are in here from Rucker & Farmer Park all the way to the Cage& Run ‘n Shoot. Only three of the ten courts are readily available from the beginning. That means that you have to be hard at it in both of the main game play modes.

The first one is “World Tournament,” which is basically going against all the other teams around the world. The other mode is “Lord of the Court,” no not Rings mind you. This is a unique option where you pick one team and play at your home court only, taking on all challengers. Successfully completing these modes unlocks all the hidden courts, players, movies, and other goodies.

Street Hoops also contains several shops you can visit in between games such as the Barber Shop, Pawn Shop, Foot Action USA, and the Tattoo Shop. I thought these shops were a great addition and provide for a lot more interaction where you can place bets on games, buy clothing, retool your hair and add tattoos for any players on the team. Foot Action USA was where Activision spent a lot of dough on popular licenses from 16 brands such as Ecko, 57 Fake, Pure Playaz, and Varcity, among others.

The game play doesn’t seem as arcadey as you’d think. There are options to play anywhere from one-on-one to three-on-three half court, or from three to five-on-five full court. I thought half court was an excellent way to play because it relives the many times I spent the days of summer shooting hoops in small half-courts that most parks provide in my area.

Street Hoops keeps most of the traditional half-court rules in tact such as always checking after each basket and always clearing the ball after every defensive rebound. To my surprise, the developers threw in some professional rules for full court play such as being in the paint for so long, backcourt, goaltending, shot clock (Thank God!) and most other ones you have seen. This means you get to shoot free throws if the occasion arises and Street Hoops optimizes an excellent free throw system which is vital in every basketball game out there. Simply match two rotating cursors in the middle of an onscreen d-pad to sink a free throw. Thankfully, you can tinker with which rules you want on or off during game play.

The actual pace of the game play rivals that to the street mode in NBA 2K3, and isn’t as fast like in the NBA Jam’s of old. There was time I swore it seemed like I was playing a regular game in NBA Live or NBA 2K3 rather than the hardcore style that Street Hoops promises. This is mostly because the many moves require complex button sequences pressed in order to perform them. For example, to call for an alley-oop make sure to hold down and click the R shoulder button simultaneously with the Y button to do the popular co-op move.

The specialty moves the street players are known for only occur with activating “In Your Face” or “Mad Skills” modes after filling up a meter for them during game play. These are reminiscent of the popular “On Fire” feature that NBA Jam debuted. I rarely reach that point in a game, but when I do it’s a pleasure to see me trample all over my opponent delivering flashy dunks and getting away with the most gruesome fouls.

I was disappointed with the graphics in Street Hoops. Black Ops apparently spent more time making sure everyone can see the licensed logos on the jerseys rather than the character models themselves. The characters are detailed to only a moderate degree and resemble the quality of a b-ball game a few generations behind on the 32/64-bit platforms. The animations for them are good to say the least. There are plentiful ways to see a dunk, and watching a player dive for a ball that’s about to go out of bounds is a spectacular sight. The arenas you play in look pretty damn spiffy. All the venues are detailed to their real life counterparts with an abundance of crisp.

The instant replays are decent, but are nowhere on the level to the ones found in NBA 2K3 and Live. The menu interface is simple enough to navigate through so you can easily hop right into a game. The loading times are also kept to a minimum. The movies that are unlocked are packaged together brilliantly which showcase the players found in Street Hoops pulling off many too good to be true moves and dunks.

It looks like Black Ops wanted to make use of every morsel on the tiny GameCube discs. Street Hoops features a blazing soundtrack which contains an astonishing twenty tracks from popular rap and hip hop artists from the likes of DMX, Ludacris, Skillz, Xzibit, Method Man and many, many, more. The selection perfectly fits the tone of game play and will help immerse you into the atmosphere that Street Hoops represents. The players will taunt each other constantly through the game, and the audio effects for everything are also right on the notch. Except it’s worth noting the squeaking is a bit exaggerated in my opinion.

Up to four peeps can play in any of the several game play modes that Street Hoops has to offer. The full court games are fun, but I prefer the half-court mode for the more authentic experience. Lord of the Court and World Tournament modes will keep you playing for a while so everything can be unlocked. Most of the bonuses are well worth the effort. Street Hoops appeared to have missed the icing on the cake because it seemed a few extra mini games could’ve easily been worked in here such as Slam Dunk Contests, and 3-Point Shootouts that could’ve upped the replay value a bunch if they or some other unique games were included.

RATINGS

Graphics: 7.2
Sound: 8.8
Game play: 7.5
Replay Value: 6.2

Overall: 7.4

Street Hoops is a good first effort from Activision with several flaws that hurt the final product. They hit the direction they were going for in presentation, but had to take some of the all too important game play aspects with it. If you’re looking for the superior alternative to the pro basketball games out right now, than I recommend sticking with the proven formula in NBA Street. However, Street Hoops may be better suited towards some demographics because of the well used clothing and musical licenses that help cover up some of the weak spots in the game. My major gripes can easily be fixed with a sequel, so hopefully Activision will get it right next time.


Reviewer's Score: 7/10 | Originally Posted: 02/17/03, Updated 02/17/03


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