Most hardcore basketball fans are already familiar with the And1 Mixtape Tour, which features some of the country's best streetballers, who all go by their court names, like Escalade, Spyda, 1/2 Man 1/2 Amazing, and the crowd favorite The Professor. And1 Streetball for the PlayStation 2 and Xbox promises a fast-paced game of blacktop hoops that captures the spirit of the And1 Mixtapes while bringing a new "eyeball" control interface that brings a fresh take on the way you do dribbling moves in streetball games.
Instead of relying on button combos, breaking down your defender in And1 Streetball requires you to use both analog sticks on the controller. When your player is stopped, pushing in any direction on the right analog stick will start a set-up dribble for breaking down the defender. You can push in any of eight directions on the stick for different set-up dribbles. These include seesawing the ball low and behind your player or doing a high circular dribble in front of your player. Now, if you push in a direction on the left analog stick, your player will do more complicated set-ups, or level 2. You can transition between set-up dribbles and mix in tricks like throwing the ball off your opponent's face, bouncing it off the board, or doing other humiliation moves, like wrapping it around your defender's head and rolling it between his legs.
A handy ankle-breaker meter appears in the left corner that shows you just how close your opponent is to getting completely owned. The further the meter empties, the easier it is to blow by him and get to the basket for a sick dunk. If you manage to completely empty the meter, the defender will fall down like Yao Ming trying to guard Stephon Marbury. Another meter, similar to the gamebreaker meter in NBA Street, takes a rough measure of how much sass you've been putting into your game. Break down your opponents with flashy moves, and you'll fill that meter, which results in earning a "mic." Once you have a mic, you have several choices. You can unleash one of your created moves for a slow-motion, preanimated score (more on this later); you can save the mic (earning three mics wins you the game, no matter what the score is); or you can do what's called a "shutdown move." This is basically when the offensive player has so completely and totally dominated a defender (usually by breaking his ankles) that he just exults by tossing the ball into the crowd.
The developers at BlackOps have promised that the game won't be completely skewed in favor of the offense. It will still be possible to play effective defense. For example, if your ankle-break meter is getting emptied, you can back up off the ballhandler to refill it. Of course, this opens up the offensive player for a jumper. You can also use the right analog stick to swipe and poke at the ball, and the way in which you can successfully swipe will depend on the type of dribble the ballhandler is using. If the offensive player tries to clown you by tossing the ball off your head, bouncing it between your legs, or otherwise bringing the ball close to you, a reversal is possible by pressing down on the stick just as the ballhandler does his trick. Successful reversals mean that the points the offensive player has been building for his mic meter will be transferred to you instead.
You'll have tons of options in creating your character in And1 Streetball, which of course includes your appearance and unlockable And1 apparel. You'll also be able to make up to 10 created moves from the versatile create-a-move feature. These involve two showboat moves, followed by a finish and a celebration. With hundreds of different dribbles, jukes, dunks, and taunts to choose from, there are thousands upon thousands of possible combinations, and they'll be context sensitive depending on your position on the court.
You'll take your character through three seasons of story mode. In season one, you'll try to make it on the bus by participating in an open run and impressing the And1 players (15 are included in the game). In season two, you'll spend a season as one of the regular players on the bus and tour around the country taking on challengers. Finally, in season three, you'll go international and take on streetballers all around the world. The number of courts in the game will end up somewhere between 15 and 20, including both US and foreign courts. You can expect the usual suspects--Rucker, Venice, and Mosswood--to be among them.
Visually, the game looks rough at this point. The character models are quite large, and clearly the developers have put a lot of work into animating the myriad different dribbling moves and making sure they link together smoothly. When we switched from one-on-one to a full five-on-five game, the interactions between the other players on the court didn't look so great, with awkward-looking collisions and animations that pop noticeably. Hopefully the developers will put more work into that before release. In the brief time we saw five-on-five working, alley-oops did look nice, with a variety of different pass animations, like lobbing from behind the back.
And1 Streetball is slated for release in the fall of this year for the PlayStation 2 and Xbox. Stay tuned to GameSpot Sports as we follow development.