The first NBA Street was launched with the PS2 and in terms of quality, the game was on the same level as Madden 2001. While the famed football series has gone on to publish two more wildly successful games, Street and EA Big has lurked in the background developing the sequel. The mesmerizing and colorful street basketball game is back with better graphics, gameplay, and a list of Hall of Famers that includes our favorite commentator (ha!), Bill Walton.
Presentation/Graphics : 90
In summary, Vol. 2 is a combination of high end-visuals with breakneck speed animations. The player models don't have the realistic body and muscle shape as NBA Live, but have more of a cartoonish, rounded look. A variety of uniforms, outfits, and player accessories are seen throughout Vol. 2 in the NBA teams and fictional players. Most of the NBA players don their appropriate headbands and tattoos, but there is plenty of personality to be had with the fictional players. Not only are these players personalities shaped by their style of game, but also by their wardrobe. Afro-clad Stretch, a lanky baller from the 1970s and coverboy for the first Street, wears Harlem Globtrotter-esque warm-up pants and a jersey that is similar to an ABA New Jersey Nets one.
Considering the lightning pace, the nearly glitch-free animation set is impressive. I can't say it's more impressive than the original - I knew what to expect - but the increase in the number of moves is a considerable leap. The dribbling moves, which include bouncing the ball off a defender's head and using the ball as leverage to do a summersault, seem something like And 1's Hot Sauce would pull off. A new kick pass and the ability to throw alley oops off the backboard are two moves that literally made me go, "Holy shit!" more than a few times.
My only complaint is that each player, and I'll even say each position, does not have enough of a unique feel. For example, controlling a water bug of a guard like Steve Nash doesn't feel a whole lot differently than a limbering big man like Shaquille O'Neal or Dikembe Mutombo. They may not run as fast or not be able to do a Slip 'n' Slide, but in moving around there is almost no difference. I know this is not meant to be a sim, but I believe if you took the ratings from the Lakers and changed all the players to the same "Joe" model, I don't think you could tell the difference between Shaq, Kobe or Derek Fisher.
A number of famous courts, both indoors and outdoors, are made available. You have to unlock many of them, but the rewards are great. Each court has atmosphere created through the weather (player's breath are seen at Foster Beach in Chicago) and the surrounding buildings and crowd. At Rucker, the 3-D animated fans are literally on the court!
Presentation/Audio : 85
The players do some considerable trash talking, but most sounds are inaudible as Bobbito Garcia barks out the play-by-play. Garcia has an announcing savvy and has a number of cheap shots. My favorite saying is when he compares your defense to cheese because there are so many holes in it. A hip hop soundtrack accompanies the menu and in-game sounds. Every section of moves, whether it be a block, dribbling, or dunk, has a distinct sound clip that has such an effect that one can be standing in another room, tens of feet away, and know what is going on.
There is certain music for the Gamebreakers, but I dearly miss the heartbeat heard when one had a GB that was dropped from the original.
Interface/Options : 97
Although there are only four game modes, Pick Up, Street Challenge NBA Challenge and Be A Legend, each has a large depth. Pick Up is best utilized in the multi-player experience and Street Challenge is a 15-minute intro to the game, but the stars shine brightest in the NBA Challenge and BAL. The NBA mode divides the league into different sections representing all the courts across the country. At the end of each region, a team comprised of the NBA Legends, is the final obstacle to clearing the section. You can't change teams once you have begun a section; however, you CAN switch in-between. This forces you to really scout the talent of a region before team selection. The Challenge is mainly utilized to unlock courts and the NBA Legends, which might be the coolest thing in a sports game I have seen in a while. This bringing back the old-time players is nothing new in a basketball game, but for whatever reason, the novelty is much better in Vol. 2. It might be the smaller number of players, thus raising the level of usage of that NBA Legend, but I think it's more likely that it is the forum in which these players are used. To see Larry Bird pull off a 360-degrees, windmill jam over a headband-wearing Bill Walton in his Celtic green uni and 70's porn star moustache is just fantastic. I just can't describe the charm of the legends, which also include the late Wilt Chamberlain and Pete Mavarich.
In BAL, you create a player and play various street ball tournaments, pick-up games and challenges to try to earn development points to boost your player. There are 500 progress points that must be earned to get the trophy, but the real fun is in watching your player grow by slowly, but surely adding points. The created player has a menagerie of outfits and face shapes to choose from. Moves from fictional players and the legends are unlocked as you progress and they can be added to your created player's list of dunks and dribbling moves.
Although there are a number of attributes, which include ball handling, rebounding, shooting, stealing, dunks, and power, two attributes are noticeably missing and I think is the reason why most players feel the same. Those two attributes are passing and speed. I would have loved to seen a passing attribute that allowed fancier bounce passes or more accurate alley oops. The need for a speed gauge is self-explanatory.
The interface is easy to maneuver around in, but the load times can be laborious. The main menu screen is one button click away from most options. In the edit player menu, you switch from edit player, outfit, appearance, moves, etc. by simply clicking the R1 or L1 button.
Gameplay : 96
Vol. 2 will test every fast-twitch ligament in your thumbs and fingers. Each dazzling dribbling move can smoothly move to another. When you add to that combination, the ability to throw an alley-oop, a lot of things can happen in just a few seconds. And the best thing is that you can throw an alley-oop mid-move. For example, if you're trying to shake a pesty defender, but half way through your "Fro Fake" you see Dr. J rising up for the oop, you can cut off the dribbling animation and throw the pass. And if you get multiple players jumping in the air, the site of seeing your player throwing your pass, your defender falling down, and a crowd of four players in the air as your alley is thrown off the backboard for the two-handed oop, is really mind boggling. The game does slow down in some instances, but no matter how seasoned at Street you are, more than a few times you'll end up with your eyes jogging around the way a doctor makes your eyes follow his finger.
As I said above, the increased number of moves is refreshing. The dribbling moves are more street ball (if there is such a term) than the original with more fake outs than just a juiced crossover. One move allows you to roll the ball between a defender's legs, and then back. You can dribble with your knees now. But don't think the defense doesn't have some similar moves to counterattack the flurry of trick moves. EABIG has added a "trick counter" move that allows the defender to steal the ball from an offensive player that uses trick after trick. The effectiveness is hit or miss because if you don't get the steal you stay in a defensive stance for a few seconds, frozen, swatting at a ball and defender that has left you in the dust. Also added to the defensive repertoire is a turbo block that will have the defender not swat at the ball, but catch it. This is especially effective as it ensures the ball stays in your possession.
The first Street was marred by the dominance of shot blockers, whether it was Shaq, the Yao Ming look-alike, or any tall center. And unfortunately, aside from trying to use a fakeout on the tall guy or hoping your teammates used a pick, little could be done to nullify the stand and block strategy. Vol. 2 now has a shot called "fundamental" that allows the offensive player heading in for a dunk or a lay-up to double clutch their shot and avoid the shotblocker. This can be very helpful, but the tall shotblockers still have reign to swat your outside shot. I can remember one game against my friend where we were both using the 7-foot-6 Yao and we literally after the inbounds and the long pass down to the third player would shoot a three pointer if he was not there. It's not that we had great outside shooters, but rather we knew if Yao made his "ginormousness" down the floor the odds of scoring were less than if we chucked up a three.
It seems a tad bit ironic in a game with so much of an offensive emphasis the defensive blocked shot more or less dictates the outcome and style of game. However, if the game's most important aspect is not the blocked shot, it definitely is the Gamebreaker, but even then it is still connected with the blocked shot. You earn GB points by combining dribbling moves with dunks and other random basketball accomplishments like pump fakes, picks, steals, or blocked shots. Those points increase a GB meter, but the meter goes down if you have a turnover or do something bad. I calculated that GBs are awarded roughly every 70,000 trick points assuming you don't have numerous setbacks. Once you activate a GB, unlike the original, you have the option to use the GB 1 or save it for a more potent and unblockable GB 2. Scoring in GB1 and GB2 remains same for the team wielding it - meaning a one- or two-point basket is still only one or two points - however, points are subtracted from the opposition as well. One point is subtracted for a GB1 and three or four points are taken for a GB2. In effected, a GB2 can make a tied score at 14, a 16-10 advantage. The decision to pocket every time seems like an easy one, but you really are risking the threat of not ever getting another GB. You can't un-pocket a GB.
So, how do trick points and the GBs directly relate with blocked shots? Aside from preventing baskets that must be sunk to finalize a combo, successive blocked shots will lead to shot clock violations, which in turn lead to a substantial loss in trick points on the GB meter.
After more than 150 Street games, I have found a few things to nitpick. For one, the problems with the shot clock violations and long-range (2 pointers) shots from the original have not been corrected. The shot clock problem stems from a violation not being awarded when successive shots are blocked; meaning, some times when a shot is blocked with one or two seconds left on the clock a violation is not awarded and the offensive team retains possession. The long-range problem is simple: players well inside the three-point arc are some times given two points and not one.
I think your teammate CPU A.I. could have been much better, and maybe even an invisible awareness gauge (John Stockton very smart, Bonzi Wells very dumb) should be implemented. Your teammates rarely clear the lane with picks like the CPU team does, nor do they ever seem to help out with blocking shots. This A.I. dumbing down might be on purpose to make the human player take more responsibility. I guess, how much fun would a game be if the CPU did all the work?
The overall gameplay experience is nothing but one constant surprise over another. No matter how many times I have seen a certain dribbling move or dunk, I still manage to holler an, "Ohhhhhhhhh!" almost every time I play the game.
Replay Value : 98
The single-player experience does get old after you complete everything, but I will still give the game a flawless replay value nonetheless. And that is based on what I have experienced already and the replay value of the original, which I also owned. NBA Challenge and BAL can get monotonous, as the games against CPU competition seem to be more of a chore to unlock the courts and other goodies than pure fun. However, the multi-player experience will probably keep this game in my PS2 for the next year and a half. Among my friends (I am a college student), aside from maybe Madden, we played the original Street the most out of any PS2 game. The game lends itself to so much potential embarrassment and triumph that it screams "Play me!"
I was saddened not to see my favorite 3LW team (the faces of a bunch of 20-something guys being beaten by a pack of 5-feet nothing pre-teen girls is awesome) back in Vol. 2, but the All-Jordan team comprised of the 1980s version, 1990s version and Wizards version, is something really cool. The games are quick and the human versus human playing level fair enough that rarely does anyone get accused of getting cheated. In Madden and especially EA games like Live, FIFA, and MVP Baseball, there are little gameplay nuance cheats that hamper the person versus person experience. In those games you can scream, "Hey! That would NEVER happen in real life" after one unfair touchdown or 3-point basket, but in Street that is not the case: you know the game isn't realistic.
I only took a few points off the score because of no online play, but I don't see it as a big deal because the potential for lag and cheaters is not worth the risk. And the multi-player allure of Vol. 2 is dunking on Shaq and Kobe with Bill Walton with your buddy sitting right next to you - not to a faceless guy hundreds of miles away.
Overall : 93
SGN's James Smith gave the latest Live 2003 a 90 overall score and NBA 2k3 a 92. I believe Street is by far the superior game. Not only does the game play cleaner, the replay value is better. I'm not saying Street is more or less realistic than Live, but Street is better at being an arcade b-ball title than Live or 2k3 at being a sim. The game's strong suits are its replay value and addicting gameplay, and its weaknesses are some minor gameplay issues and the lack of positional and individual uniqueness.
But is this game a must have?
Despite all the praises I have sung for this game, my answer is no. If you have $50 and are wanting to buy a great sports game, I would suggest Vol. 2; however, I think a similarly fun experience can be had with the original. The sequel is a substantial improvement and jump in all areas than the first one, but a new copy of the first Street can be purchased for $20. Don't get me wrong; this takes nothing away from Vol. 2's greatness (if Vol. 2 was a Vol. 1, this no doubt is a buy-me-now game), but the original Street was, is, one of the elite basketball games on the market. Maybe it's the second best game out there, and for that reason, I can't give Vol. 2 the clichéd "must have" title.