Review by JakeFirst24
"No homecourt advantage here..."
You know, sometimes I wandered down to the local park to play basketball. The feeling of having my own turf was ever present. There was just something about it -- the idea that this area was your own. Of course, I never lived in the 'hood, nor did I play very many "street" style basketball games, but I was determined to have "J-Man" put his homecourt, "J-City" on the map. In fact, the original NBA Street is why I purchased a Playstation 2 in the first place. Now that we're in the "next-gen" era, I figured that the NBA Street franchise would be propelled to new heights. Well, at least I got the first part of that last sentence correct...
NBA Street Homecourt is very similar to past games in the NBA Street series. It's 3-on-3 basketball, with all of the crazy dribble moves and huge dunks included. The new edge that the series has been given is the idea of holding your own turf, or homecourt. You start by creating a player with very meager stats and making a name for yourself against the local chumps. You beat the chumps and you can sometimes add them to your team. Your player then gets better, too. Then you go around to various courts, taking on the local NBA players, and you earn some street cred along the way. Eventually, you hope to put your own homecourt (where ever you are from) on the national basketball map. Sounds like fun? Well, it isn't.
First of all, the way you create yourself is to morph a couple of NBA player's faces into what will end up being you. That's really not a biggie, as you won't hardly be able to distinguish yourself from any other player on the court anyway (more on that in a minute). You pick a position and get some generic and horrible stats. Your only way to improve these stats is to actually perform the moves that match the stat. For example, if you want to raise your blocking ability, you need to block some shots. You want to raise your dunking ability, you need to get yourself to dunk.
The problem? It's no fun to try to raise your "handles" (ball handling) ability by constantly losing the ball during easy tricks. It is annoying to raise your passing ability by passing to yourself and then to another player -- just to keep doing that over and over again. You actually gain stats quickly enough, but you'll often be the worst player on your team for most of the time.
Worse yet is that you are able to choose a "freak skill" very early on into the game. If you pick "shooting" you might as well just quit playing. You can bomb 3's from halfcourt and hit an insane amount if your player is open (you just call for a screen first and after the pick is set, you shoot the ball). You can choose any of the stats, but like I said, it can completely unbalance the game.
Then let's mention the screw-ups. I mean, the controls. The buttons have been changed on the controller from the previous editions of NBA Street. Why? To confuse long-time players, I imagine. They aren't really hard to learn, but they are different than previous NBA Street games and also different from NBA Live games, too. The controls are responsive enough, but there was no need to change them and make them more confusing.
The gameplay is still about the same. You'll still be dazzled by the new moves and the sweet dunks. But it kinda feels... old. Players are very difficult to see, as every game appears to be played at dawn or dusk. The players don't really have a lot of detail, so it's sometimes tough to tell who is actually playing. Your created player can earn different jerseys and shoes to wear, but they all look really stupid and are difficult to see in the crappy lighting. At least in the first NBA Street game, the colors were vibrant and each opponent had a character. These are all just generic players with different stats. That's it. Oh, and there's no unlockable legendary players, either. That bites.
Even the gamebreakers have been nerfed. Now it is possible to rack up 6 points in a single gamebreaker. Yes, six points! That's ridiculous. Especially on the hardest difficulty level, where the computer pulls these 6 points plays out almost every time. What happens is that it is now possible to dunk the ball, then somehow hold on to it (with your legs or to bounce it through the net and back up to you) and then have you dunk it again for more points. If you are already going to get 3 points off of your gamebreaker, then you will twice as many points (6). And the cheap AI will do it. A lot.
The real problem is that you will spend the first 20 seconds of your possession doing a bunch of tricks to try to get your gamebreaker meter filled (it only fills if you make a basket), and then you spend the final 4 seconds actually trying to shoot the ball or perform a cool dunk. And you do this over... and over... and over... and over... and it's no fun. The tricks get really old and your players can only do so many different dunks. It doesn't feel fresh or new at all. And that's too bad, because the NBA Street series deserves better.
And finally, I tried to hook up some on-line action.. but there wasn't anybody to play. You are paired up with people at your skill level, and there wasn't anyone at the 500 (you start at 500) level to play. Nobody close to it, either. I couldn't even find a game against a live opponent and the game has only been out for 2 1/2 months. So don't expect any further gameplaying time to come from on-line play.
-- Bottom Line --
NBA Street Homecourt tries to cash in on its predecessor's popularity, but falls flat. The create-a-player is boring and uninspired. Local and NBA players that join your team have absolutely no character and don't seem any different from each other. You move from homecourt to homecourt to take on new competition, but since these players have no character, every new place feels exactly like the place you just left. The graphics are too dark. Can't b-ball games be played in the daytime, too? The gameplay is stale, but fun at the beginning. All of the high flying moves are there as well as some wicked dribbling combos with a gamebreaker set up. Eventually, the games revert to a "do a bunch of dribble moves until the shot clock is low and then try to make a quick basket so you can fill your gamebreaker meter." Wash, rinse, repeat, and you have the gameplay.
Overall, I was very disappointed with NBA Street Homecourt. It isn't really a bad game, and if you have never played an NBA Street game before, it isn't a bad place to start. However, if you are a series veteran, just rent the game. You'll get all of the fun you need out of the title in those few days you have it.
Reviewer's Rating: 2.5 - Playable
Originally Posted: 05/20/08
Game Release: NBA Street Homecourt (US, 03/06/07)
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