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Platform

Xbox

 

Genre

Sports

 

Publisher

Activision

 

Developer

Black Ops

 

ESRB

T (Teen)

 

Released

Q3 2002

 

 

- Animations, especially on the variety of dunks, is excellent
- Trash-talking gestures after baskets
- Some current real-life b-ball court legends get their props

 

 

- Too easy to steal the ball, too hard to block it
- CPU almost never misses a shot
- Collision detection takes a vacation

 

 

Review: NBA Inside Drive 2003 (XBox)

Review: Street Hoops (Playstation 2)

Review: NBA Jam (Wii)

 

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Street Hoops

Score: 6.3 / 10

 

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No multi-million-dollar contracts, fancy quarter-million dollar cars, supermodel girlfriends, television interviews, packed NBA arenas with thousands cheering them on. Street ballers play for the love of the game on the paved courts and urban playgrounds of America, not the love of the almighty dollar and adoration of the masses. Many have mad skills that few professional players own in their repertoire. This is the game of basketball that Activision is hoping to capture with Street Hoops for the Xbox, a title similar in spirit but not in its execution to the excellent EA Big Sports’ NBA Street.

I actually had big hopes for this game. Taking its cue from NBA Street, Street Hoops attempts to re-create the street basketball scene faithfully in video game form. The NBA’s finest and fabricated hoopsters from NBA Street are replaced by

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authentic current playground b-ball legends like my hometown’s AO, who plays at Philly’s 11th and Lombard, and Brooklyn’s Rucker Park duo of 1/2 Man 1/2 Amazing and Headache. There are players from famous courts sprawled across the US of A, from East Coast to West, including the barnyard backyard court of the naughty-sounding French Lick, Indiana, the original stomping grounds of NBA Hall of Famer Larry

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Bird. You can even create your own player if you want.

In addition to having a true representation of playground players and locales, there is the inclusion of lines of clothing and sporting accessories and sneakers including And 1, G.O.A.T. Gear, Sean John, and Rocawear to outfit your players that can be purchased at Footaction with money won betting on your team’s performance. It’s one advertising logo after another thrown in your face.

As in the movie “White Men Can’t Jump”, you place wagers (with the local bookie) from a straight-up bet on who wins the game to which team makes the most dunks. You can also tattoo your team, buy some flashy gold wear, or give them a new ‘do. If you lose and are strapped for some Benjamins, there’s even a pawnshop where you can sell some of that jewellery for some cold, hard cash. The money also is needed to unlock new players and courts.

There are a few different game settings to select from in either a timed or score limit setting on a full or half court in two main game modes: World Tournament (I don’t know why they call it “World” Tournament, because you only play on courts located within the United States) and Lord of the Court. Street Hoops has a lot of little extras that could have made it the Jordan-era Bulls of video game basketball.

 

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But when it comes down to Street Hoop’s actual gameplay on the court, you’ll find out the game more resembles the awful post-Jordan Bulls. The developers seemed to never be sure if they were looking to create an arcadish NBA Jam-type title or one with a little more realistic simulation involved, but they at no time really successfully mesh a definitive style of play into the game.

The worst atrocity of the gameplay is the terrible defensive and collision detection physics. You can bump into players at will with little worry of being impeded in your progress to the basket and trying to box out on defense is a joke. In fact, there’s almost no need to try to play defense at all or attempt to block a shot once the other team gets past half court into the offensive zone, because you rarely ever come up with a block and the CPU-controlled team comes down with the offensive rebound 99% of the time.

Not that there’s too many of those to go around anyway, because the CPU has an almost perfect shooting percentage every game. The only way you can get the ball away from the CPU team is by stealing it. Stealing is made ridiculously easy, just by pushing the corresponding steal button over and over you will wind up eventually stripping the ball away at least half the time.

There are a ton of specialized “ankle breaking” moves for each player that help gets a player to the basket quicker for a dunk. Dunking for almost every point is the easiest way to win. It’s not too hard to dunk, even with the smallest player on the court. You only have to be wary of the CPU shoving your players into turnovers.

Graphically, Street Hoops isn’t bad, especially the animations of the players on the court. From dribbling and shooting to the vast array of dunks, the players look and perform very true-to-life. I love the little trash-talk gestures that both you and your opponent show each other after a big dunk. The courts themselves and the rendered backgrounds are done nicely too. But the onlookers surrounding the action are plain ugly in their flat and 2D demeanor. Street Hoops’ soundtrack employs the sounds of a lot of today’s rap and urban music stars, including Method Man and Redman, DMX, Master P, Cypress Hill, Xzibit, and Ludacris. If you like the game’s tunes, then you’ll be disappointed with Street Hoops, because most of the time the music is so low in the background you can’t even hear it. Also, the banter from the unseen “announcer” is too repetitive and annoying to add any flavor to the action on the court.

Too bad the developers didn’t spend as much time working out the gameplay as much as they did securing the clothing and sneaker licenses and honing the extra-curricular elements of the game not related to the authentic game of street ball. This could have been a great title but instead its nowhere near the quality of NBA Street, even though Street Hoops does away with NBA ballhoggers and fictitious characters and replaces them with the playground legends of today’s American hoop scene. Sadly, the only time I really enjoyed the game experience was when I teamed up with my son to see how many sweet dunks and alley-oops we could pull off.

This could have been the ultimate street basketball title. But with the bad defensive AI and awful collision detection problems and the unrealistic every-shot-is-good offensive abilities of the CPU opposition, the only ones who may be interested in buying Street Hoops are players that have actually hooped it up on some of the real-world courts contained in the game. For serious basketball video gamers, Street Hoops is best as a rental to tide you over until you can go out and buy NBA2K3.

- Lee Cieniawa
lcieniawa@armchairempire.com

(October 10, 2002)

 

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