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Street Hoops (PS2) Review

Background Info

PS2 Screens(6)
Games like Midway's NFL Blitz opened the door for extreme versions of traditional sports. In the hoops domain, NBA Showtime provided gamers with fast-paced action at both the arcade and at home. EA continued the trend with their acclaimed NBA Street title. Activision joins the fray this year with Street Hoops, which aims to bring all that is stereotypical with street ball and the "gangsta" image of some NBA stars to the PS2. Tattoos, jewelry, faddish clothing, and plenty of trash talking are the norms in Street Hoops.

Presentation/Graphics : 75
Overall the graphics look a bit dated. The players on a given team can be hard to distinguish at first glance since the player models and ghetto wear are so close in look. You have to depend on the relative sizes of your players or the nickname icons to truly differentiate between players. The only exception seems to be the odd female sporting a mid-drift shirt on the court. The courts look better than the players. There are numerous courts in the game, ranging from a back-of-the-barn full court in French Lick, Indiana to a chain link ball yard in NYC. The off-court detail includes animated onlookers cheering the players on.

My biggest complaint with the graphics is in the animation department. While the animations are pretty good (tomahawk dunks, spin dunks, a well-executed alley-oops), many of the animations take too long to execute and affect the gameplay. Street Hoops is afflicted with the same problem that plagued Live 2001 a few years back. When passing to another player, the player often has to finish his running animation before you gain control of him. Near the sidelines this can mean an inadvertent step out of bounds. Also, when facing a player up on defense, the animation is just plain hokey. If you face up a player you can back pedal faster than the offensive player. The animation just looks goofy. One positive animation is the ball physics. Watching that old school ABA-style ball rotate through the air is a gas.

Presentation/Audio : 92
If you're a hip-hop fan there's plenty to like about the audio package in Street Hoops. Over a dozen songs from the likes of Mos Def, Xzibit, and Ludacris are included. Some off-court announcers provide commentary that can be heard over the trash talking of the players. While the commentary package doesn't have the depth you'd expect from a game simulating the NBA experience, for a street version of the game it works. Finally, there is a nice mix of ambient sounds including the sounds of the city (or country if in Bird country) and the fans.

Interface/Options : 60
Options? What options? There are three different game modes but little customization in the game. The World Tournament mode is the primary mode in Street Hoops. Here you gather your team and travel across the country opening up new courts and getting new players. Play is 5-on-5. In Lord of the Court, teams come to your home where you must defend your turf. Finally, you can play either full or half-court pickup games. In full court you can go with a full 5-on-5 down to 3-on-3. In half court, it's one-on-one up to 3-on-3.

Aside from the game modes, other selectable options include create-a-player, difficulty (ridiculously easy, tough, ultra tough, and ultra, ultra tough), length of game, rules (not many) and graphical and audio settings. Since the style of play is street ball, there is little emphasis on realistic play, so by default the fouls are turned off. Even when fouls are on they are rarely called.

The stat tracking is minimal. You get stats for the game just played, and even those are limited. You won't find FG percentage, though neither team misses that often. It would have been nice if customized button mapping were included. The default controls, or I should say the only controls, require a bit of hand gymnastics at times. Combining special moves on offense takes some getting used to.

Gameplay : 50
I will state my bias right off. I never got into Showtime or NBA Street. I personally prefer more sim-like basketball games to arcade action. However, I can enjoy an arcade title if the play is balanced, the AI is decent, and control is good. However, neither is the case with Street Hoops. The first thing I noticed is that the CPU rarely misses a shot. The ball may bounce off the rim a few times, but more than likely it ends up back in the bucket. As stated earlier, there's no field goal percentage shown, but I imagine it's over 70 percent. Your players are just as good from the field as well. There's little challenge making a shot in the game. The game ultimately turns into a game of who can steal the ball more, and in this case the CPU usually wins.

The AI is mediocre at best. There's decent movement on the offensive side of the ball, but on defense my players often stand around and don't pick up someone cutting to the basket or defend a fast break properly. Defense goes in the tank when you switch defenders. Often the player you just switched off of will stop dead in his tracks. On offense you can sit on the perimeter, pump fake to get the defense in the air, and drain a three or a long two. More than half the time you'll make it. You can also use the spin or crossover move with to fake out the defense. The AI of the CPU team will give up a fast break and pass the ball off to a guarded trailer. All of this leads to a bland AI.

Some of the aforementioned complaints also represent problems in the control. Blocking and rebounding also are problems. When you appear to have perfect position for a block, you never get it. In many cases, some little midget finds a way to get his shot over on a giant center. Boxing out on a rebound is non-existent, and even positioning on rebounds is futile. As I was playing Street Hoops, my mind was drifting for some reason to EA's Rock the Rink, an arcade hockey title that has practically nothing in common with a hockey simulation, but was a blast to play due to the tight controls. Street Hoops could have been more fun if this aspect of the game was improved. On the positive side, the 3-on-3 action, which opens the court up more, is more fun than the other modes of play in the game.

Replay Value : 40
I really didn't have much fun playing this one. I can put my personal bias aside if the game has addicting gameplay. I absolutely crave racing sims, for example, but throw a good arcade racer my way and I'm ecstatic. If Activision had focused on 3-on-3 rather than a full five-man roster the game could have had a chance. As it is, the court is too cluttered and the gameplay just isn't addictive.

Overall : 59
Street Hoops misses the mark as a basketball title. While the basic concept of basketball is in the game - you must dribble and shoot the ball - the implementation of everything else just isn't great. The AI is weak, scoring is plentiful on both sides of the ball, and there is little strategy involved. Enjoying the game is made even more difficult by sloppy controls. If there is one strong area of the game, it's the 3-on-3 game. Had Activision concentrated on this mode they could have had something.

By: James Smith 10/14/02

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