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Street Hoops
Review By:  J. Michael Neal
Developer:  Black Ops
Publisher:  Activision
# of Players:  1-4
Genre:  Sports
ESRB:  Teen
Online:  No
Accessories:  Memory Card
Date Posted:  11-20-02

Anyone whoís grown up in an urban environment knows that life seems to revolve around the local basketball court. Itís where you hang out, itís where you make a name for yourself, itís where you settle rivalries, and itís where you make a little cash on the side. Street Hoops by Black Ops Entertainment manages to capture the essence of street basketball while delivering a solid game in the meantime. But, is that enough to warrant a purchase?

It would be all too easy to dismiss Street Hoops as a mere NBA Street-clone, but it would be unfair to do so. Street Hoops manages to not only hold itís own against the reigning king of arcade basketball games, but surpass it in many areas. For example, Street Hoopsí single player game provides far more replayability than NBA Streetsí because of the World Tournament and Lord of the Court that accompany the standard exhibition matches. In World Tournament mode you take your team across the country, challenging teams from coast to coast. In Lord of the Court mode you are the team hosting the games, defending your territory against any squad that challenges your supremacy. Winning in these modes will earn money that you can then use to outfit your team with new gear, tattoos, jewelry, or haircuts. You can also bet on the outcome of your games and make some quick cash. These "ghetto team management" features are actually the gameís strongest aspect.

Placing money on your games adds an extra thrill to winning that few sports games have. Conversely, loosing stings twice as hard in Street Hoops. Knowing that you have 10 Gís riding on leading at the half, or having the most rebounds, or making the most three pointers makes you work twice as hard to meet those goals, especially in multiplayer games.

The dough you win (or lose) in match-ups is primarily used to customize your players. You can choose to stop off at the local Footaction USA and shop for all the latest gear from And 1, Ecko, Enyce, Fila, Sean John, Southpole, and the like. You can run by the barbershop and get some cornrows, or a fade. You can stop by the Tattoo Parlor and get covered in all sorts of tattoos. Or, best of all, you can take a trip to the Jewelry Store and buy some "ice". Sure, "bling" doesnít improve your playing abilities any, but showing off how successful youíve been is part of being "ghetto fabulous", isnít it?

Money isnít solely used to "ice out" characters, though. You can buy attribute enhancements for your "Create-a-Player" athletes, unlock new courts, and buy legendary players. These "street legends" add to Street Hoopsí charm. Knowing that each legend featured in the game is a real person who reigns supreme over his particular court in his particular city is a very cool thing. Some of these cities and courts include Shakespeare Park in New Orleans, 11th and Lombard in Philadelphia, and Rucker Park in New York City.

Keeping in tune with other developers, Black Ops Entertainment has included a number of DVD style extras to unlock in Street Hoops These come in the forms of mix tapes that contain music videos, interviews, making of, and behind the scenes footage, along with highlight reels from all the real-life players represented in the game. There are also highly detailed video tutorials that cover everything from the basics to the finer points of playing the game.

Underneath all the unique extra modes and features is a fairly standard basketball game. Matches can be anything between the standard five on five full-court games, to one on one half-court rounds. The play mechanics arenít as over-the-top as NBA Street, but itís not as sim-like as NBA 2K2 either. It falls somewhere in the middle of the two, combining the simplistic run-and-gun gameplay of an arcade game with the realism and difficulty of a sports sim. And boy, does this game get difficult. As you progress through the game your likelihood of making shoots seems to decrease, while the CPUís ability to make miracle shoots seems to increase. This can get down right annoying after a while, but itís not as unfair as some gameís catch-up AI.

On the technical side of things, Street Hoops can be quite the looker. The audio in the game is also very nice, sporting all manner of on-court trash talk and hot tracks from the likes of Method Man, Redman, DMX, Master P, Cypress Hill, Xzibit, Ludacris, Talib Kweli, Pharoahe Monch, and Mos Def. Although the soundtrack for the game is rather large, the game seems to cycle the same three or four songs over and over and that can get a little irritating.

The game does have a few problems worth mentioning. There are a few glitches present, like one that will set your haircut back to the default style at random. The game pauses for a few seconds whenever a new song is loaded, which can be a real pain in the ass if it occurs before a free throw or crucial jump shot. Certain rules canít be changed depending on what mode you are in, so you may have to put up with things like back courts, goaltending, and time shot clocks if you want to or not. The most annoying thing in this game, though, is that the shove button practically serves no purpose. Unlike other arcade-style basketball games, where pushing someone to the ground or dislodging the ball from their hands with a good shove is a crucial part of the game, here shoving has little effect on the recipient. He doesnít fall. He doesnít drop the ball. He just sort of stumbles and makes your pad vibrate. It would be nice if shoving was more dramatic in this game, but what are you going to do, huh?

Street Hoops is a solid basketball game with enough standout features and style to make this a recommendation for any fan of the sport, hip-hop sub-culture, or arcade sports titles. It may not have the longevity of a NBA Live 2003 or 2K3 but will last longer than other arcade-style sports games and provide some fun single and multiplayer experiences. If you can only afford one basketball title this year, NBA 2K3 or NBA Live 2003 would probably be the best choice, but if you can swing for more than one, you might want to give this one a try.

HIGHS:

  • Lots of modes, features and options
  • Some nice hidden extras like music videos and behind-the-scenes material
  • Actual street legends and courts adds realism and coolness to the game
  • Good soundtrack
  • Authentic style and presentation

LOWS:

  • Minor glitches
  • Repetitive track rotation
  • Pushing is useless
  • Will get eclipsed by this year's EA and Sega Sports titles

FINAL VERDICT:

This is a worthwhile purchase for the gameís target audience, but will probably get overshadowed by the mammoth Sega and EA Sports franchises.

Overall Score: 8.0

Additional Media (Xbox Screens):

 


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