Back in 2001, EA released NBA Street, a wildly entertaining and over-the-top basketball game featuring the players of the NBA. Throwing most simulation-style and NBA rules out the window, it focused instead on the style of the streets, creating a game with flashy moves, lightning fast pacing, and a whole lot of improbable slam dunks. Recently, we got our hands on nearly complete builds of the newest installment in the series: NBA Street Vol. 2. Developed by NuFX, Vol. 2 marks the series' debut on the Xbox and boasts a much more in-depth overall experience, including new modes, new ballers, more moves, and loads of unlockable content. Additionally, the game aims to refine and perfect the addictive gameplay that made the original so much fun.
Players familiar with the first NBA Street will likely first notice some additions to the game's main modes. City circuit, Street's original story mode, has actually been split up into two new modes. NBA challenge lets you choose from any of the NBA franchises, picking a three-player team from a roster of five. You are then presented with a choice of US regions, each with its own division of teams. As you progress, eventually you'll come to a legends team consisting of classic players, including such legends as Magic Johnson, Julius Erving, Bill Walton, Pete Maravich, and three different versions of Michael Jordan. The be a legend mode is the other side of the spectrum. You start out by creating your own player in the create a baller mode, assigning him or her a body type, face, hair, facial hair, outfit, and attribute points. You then create a team by selecting from a group of generic street players and go up against other street ball teams, gaining reputation points and unlocking more hidden items as you go, including several original players who serve as bosses on the different courts. The difference between the two modes is not terribly pronounced, but it does provide a nice separation between the NBA-oriented aspects of the game and the fictional characters. The game also features a quick play exhibition mode that supports up to four players and allows you to choose from any of the game's players, NBA or otherwise.
While the depth of the gameplay is a major plus, Vol. 2's strongest point is clearly its user-friendly control scheme. When on offense, you work with a basic three-button setup: one to shoot, one to pass, and one for trick moves. On defense, you have buttons to block and steal. Each one by itself will execute a basic version of the task it is assigned to, but the real fun begins when the turbo buttons are brought into play. Hitting any of the basic action buttons in conjunction with one or more of the turbo buttons allows for much more complex tricks and dunks, as well as several special moves used to throw off your opponents, such as the "off the heezay" (bouncing the ball off an opponent's head) and the "back 2 papa" (throwing the ball at the backboard and catching it as it bounces back). Performing these tricks, throwing down dunks, and hitting impressive shots increase your gamebreaker meter. When the meter fills up, you will be able to execute a gamebreaker. A gamebreaker shot not only looks cool, but it also takes away a point from your opponent's tally. Additionally, you have the option of canceling an opponent's gamebreaker with your own, or you can pocket it, letting the meter fill up again for a level-two gamebreaker, which takes away double the points and, of course, looks extremely impressive.
Despite the fact that the game is not finished, NBA Street Vol. 2 looks completely done. All the character models are extremely well developed, each with his or her own unique look and style. The game sports loads of different animations, allowing every pass, shot, dunk, and trick to flow seamlessly. All the courts contain a stellar amount of detail, from the various pieces of graffiti that line the walls right down to the blacktop itself, making for an amazing atmosphere during gameplay. Currently, the Xbox version of the game appears to have the graphical edge over the other versions, but all three look extremely good.
One more point in the game's favor is its high audio quality. Everything during the gameplay sounds really excellent. Sneakers squeak on the court, balls swish through the net or bounce off the rim accordingly, and crowds cheer or gasp at the right moments--all you could feasibly ask for from a street basketball game. Notably absent from the game, however, is the bald, megaphone-toting announcer from the original NBA Street. Commentary is instead provided by radio DJ Bobbito Garcia. His commentary is mainly kept to praise of impressive shots and mockery of bad plays, and he manages to remain reasonably enjoyable, if a bit hackneyed at times. Another change in the series' audio concerns the soundtrack. While last year's game featured music by Ninja Tune, Just Blaze largely dominates this installment with his own breaks and beats. In addition, several major hip-hop artists provide tracks as well, including Nate Dogg, MC Lyte, Dilated Peoples, Benzino, Erick Sermon featuring Redman, and Lords of the Underground. The selection is a nice variety of hip-hop styles, and it makes for a pleasurable experience all around.
Everything about NBA Street Vol. 2 seems to be falling into place. The game retains the quality gameplay experience of its predecessor, while managing to improve on some of the finer points. Throw in some solid visuals, a great soundtrack, a vast array of unlockables, and you have the makings of a fantastic game. Scheduled for release on April 28, NBA Street Vol. 2 appears to be right on schedule. Look for our review in the coming weeks.