52 Weeks of Canadian Gaming - Week 44
NBA Street Homecourt
Release Date: February 19, 2007
Developer: EA Canada
ESRB Rating: Everyone
Reviewed by: Brian Wray
EA Street series of games takes a sport and dissects that sport till its very essence can be isolated, then builds a game around that essence. This is the recipe they used successfully now for several years and one they implemented again for NBA Street Homecourt. Did it work?
I have stated in the past that I find basketball quite boring. I do not find it in the same boredom scale as American Football or baseball, but still quite boring when compared to the fast paced games of lacrosse or hockey. The main reason I find it boring is that there are too many rules that appears to be have been made with the sole purpose to slow down the game. Basketball is simple, take the ball and place it in the opponent’s basket. Where things get complicated is that they must do so without touching anyone on the opposing team. Likewise the opposing team is charged to stop the ball from entering the basket without touching the ball carrier or covering the basket. Any type of contact will result in a foul, causing a stoppage in game play. During gameplay things can get a bit tedious, but thing escalate out of control in the final minute of the game. The final minutes of any sports match should be tense moments for the viewer, but the final minute in a basketball match sends me reaching for the remote as it is nothing more than a series of intentional fouls causing free throws and delays that can stretch that final few seconds on for a close to a half hour. I do not watch basketball (yes I do watch a few Raptors games) for the fouls and free throws; I watch it for the spectacular dunks. Having said this, NBA street Homecourt should be my type of game.
The visual in Homecourt are stunning. Unlike the FIFA Street title, the character models do vary greatly and actually do mimic their real life counterparts. The character animations are truly spectacular. The various courts are all equally as impressive. My only complaint was that each court appeared to have a colour filter applied to it. Such filters are always interesting at first, but do get annoying after a while. I did not pay huge amounts of loonies and toonies for a top quality HD display to have all colour washed out on me.
Sound quality is always a hard to evaluate. The soundtrack is great as per most all EA Sports titles (exception to college sports). The sound effects are all crisp and clear. The best thing I can say about the audio portion of the game is that it was not distracting in any way.
NBA Street Homecourt truly does distill basketball down to the essentials. Gone are all the complex NBA rules, replacing them with simple streetball ones. In streetball, fouls are called by the player and since there is now way to make the players call fouls in Homecourt, this ensures a quick game. Removing fouls guarantee a fast game, but not an entertaining game for that we need some amazing dunks. A professional basketball player that can shoot a dozen three pointers per game may be respected by his peers while having few fans on the streets while the player who only makes a couple baskets a game, but does so in some amazing leap that ends with the ball being slammed through the hoops and the player dangling off the rim like some overgrown ape and he will be idolized by all. Every play in NBA Street Homecourt is set to recapture that feeling of awe.
In real life, performing even the most simple looking basketball trick can take years of practice. EA Canada did a fine job simplifying the controls to recreate such fancy tricks in only minutes. All tricks are done using a simple combination of the X and Y buttons and the two bumpers. While it may sound complicated, it is not. One of the more complex tricks to master is to use a team-mate as a stepping stone to propel another player high in the air to create near impossible tricks and dunks. Doing tricks and super dunks are not just glamorous and fun; it is an important part of the game as a series of tricks followed by a successful dunk will fill up the player’s Gamebreaker meter. The more complicated the trick, the more the Gamebreaker meter will fill. Once full it will allow the player to enter in Gamebreaker mode. Gamebreaker mode allows players to perform the most unbelievable and acrobatic dunks ever conceived and even allows for multiple points per baskets. Going into Gamebreaker mode does not guarantee a basket. Opponents can still block short or worse, they can steal away the ball and the Gamebreaker mode. Opponents are now much more efficient at blocking shots and there are no shot types that cannot be blocked, even Gamebreakers.
NBA Street: Homecourt matches are 3 on 3 affairs that can be enjoyed by up to four players locally (the extra players on each team will be controlled by the game’s artificial intelligence) or with six players online. The meat of the game is the Homecourt Challenge mode. This is just a fancy word to describe the career mode. This mode allows the gamer to create a new basketballer and then select a couple real life NBA players as team-mates to compete against other teams also made up of other actual NBA players. The selection of NBA players is very restricted at first, but better quality players become available once specific goals and tournaments have been competed. Team-mates can be swapped in and out between games. Matches in NBA Street Homecourt are not always won by achieving a specific amount of points. Some games only allow points to register while in Gamebreaker mode, maybe the game will only end by outscoring the opponent by 5 baskets or other similar requirements.
Homecourt does introduce a slight role playing element to the series. As players perform specific actions, they will be granted experience points that will increase the efficiency of the action. In other words the more a player dunks, the more he will become skilled at dunking. This skill grading system is very logical, but not implemented very often in sports titles.
As the single player experience becomes a little weary (which it will in only a matter of days), only the multiplayer aspect will stop gamers from offloading their copy of the game. The online aspect is quite lean on features. Gamers will have a choice of setting up a simple match, establish a few ground rules and the requirements needed to win, and then challenge a friend for supremacy of the court. For those that do not have any friends with that own NBA Street Homecourt, then they are out of luck as there is no one still playing this game online. I tried to find a single opponent on several occasions to be met with “no opponent found”. Shame to as the game is most fun when played with friends and local play will only allow four gamers to battle it out instead of six.
So what is the final word you ask? The game will offer enjoyment for a few days to maybe a week before an average skilled player figures out how to outplay the AI on even the hardest difficulty without much hassle. This is not normally a good thing, but since at the time of this review the game can be found new for less than $10 at most locations (I have even seen it marked down to less than $5 at one particular major movie rental franchise) the title is defiantly worth the price of admission. Why has EA not created an NHL Street game yet?