In Electronic Arts’ third NBA installment of their Street franchise, NBA Street V3 for the Xbox, you once again take control of a team of street ball players as they struggle to become not only the absolute best team on the block, but in the entire country. Using your own created players, or NBA players from many different eras, you put together a team and hit the streets looking gaming glory.
When creating your own team you basically get to create one player: your captain. During the creation process for your captain you have a plethora of options to choose from. The character creation tool, like in many recent sporting titles, is really amazing. Essentially, you can make your character look like anyone, as there are many different options for all aspects of the face. The character creation tool is perhaps not as advanced as some games out there, but it is still one hell of a versatile feature. You also have a number of options for hair color and style, and this applies to facial hair as well. The real beef of the selection process comes when it is time to choose your captain’s clothes. You can choose everything from shirts and shorts, to shoes, socks, and jewelry. You even get to choose the arm, leg, and headbands that your player wears. There are truly a massive amount of clothing options in NBA Street V3, let me tell you. The catch is, however (there’s always a catch), you initially only have access to a small portion of these options. As you win games, you earn points that you can then use to purchase new clothing.
After creating your captain, you get to choose the remaining players on your team from a small pool of decent male and female ballers. Later, as you defeat teams, you gain the option to recruit more players, and you also get the opportunity to create your home court, too. This feature also boasts a huge amount of customization options for you to choose from. There are court logos, banners, court material/color, backboards, nets, and even the background cityscape to choose from. Again, though, you only have access to a limited portion of these options at the game’s outset; you must use earned victory points to purchase upgrades for your court. Once you have your captain, your team, and your court, you are then ready to play. It should be mentioned that you can choose to avoid all the in-depth creation stuff by simply selecting Game On in the main menu. Choosing this takes you straight into a sort of exhibition game.
Once you are in a game, the play controls are relatively simple to grasp. Those control options are shoot, steal, pass, and block/rebound. You move with the left thumb stick, and use the triggers to run faster. There is one area of the controls that can be tricky, though; The Trick Stick/left thumb stick. With this you can make your player juke with the ball, perform trick dribbles, and several other trick-like stunts. These are all executed with the express purpose of faking out your opponents. To be honest, initially this feature is fairly hard to get to grips with. More often than not, in the early stages of gameplay attunement, if you try to use the trick stick, your opponent ends up snagging the ball. However, when you do finally manage to integrate the Trick Stick, you rack up invaluable points that can be used towards the purchases you make between games. It is even possible to achieve combos when you perform a couple of tricks and then pass the ball to a teammate, who can then do a few more tricks and shoot for the hoop. And, if the ball goes in, you can really rake in those points. Again, though, it takes some investment of time before the Trick Stick becomes second nature and therefore useful.
All tricks aside, the gameplay is extremely fluid and easy to get the hang of. Stealing, for one thing, is much easier than in other basketball games, and passing and shooting is a breeze, too. Of course, EA were going for more of a fast-paced-arcade feel here, so perhaps that’s to be expected. NBA Street V3 has a real flashy flare to it, and even a regular pass or shot is usually executed more like a stylish trick than anything else. For example, slam trick dunks, pass the ball off the backboard, slip the ball behind your back, or pass by bouncing it really high, etc. Even when you are not trying to flash trick moves, your players are still doing them. This is a great visual gameplay mechanic and it makes the game eminently more fun to both watch and play.
As far as the game of basketball goes, there are a number of variations in NBA Street V3. It has everything from regular NBA Rules, to a first to 21 game where baskets count as one point. There are dunking contests, trick contests, games where the only way to score is to dunk, or games where dunks don’t even count. There are so many different ways to play, that it’s hard to lose interest. The announcer is another terrific aspect of the game, and he really adds depth to the experience. He doesn’t just call the game; he ribs people for making mistakes and adds some extra flavor to an already spicy game.
One aspect that isn’t quite as great, though – in regards to the game’s sound – is the little narrations you hear when playing on a new court. Before the game begins the camera floats revealingly around the court and allows for a peek at your surroundings, and while this is happening a voice is talking about the court. The voice isn’t just talking about the court though; it’s also talking about the backdrop of steel mills, or the docks. It’s talking about the generic ?we’ that play at the court, and all the tough games they’ve played at this court. This is all well and good, except it is done in a lyrical way that sounds kind of like bad urban poetry, and it comes across as just plain old annoying. It won’t be long before you find yourself skipping past it every time you play a new court.
That minor complaint aside, though, the overall audio is great. The game announcer (who’s unfailingly awesome) and the crappy urban poet (who’s, well, crappy) are both crystal clear and – regardless of my opinion in regards to the crappy urban poet guy – it has to be said that the sound quality of the urban uttering was still actually rather good. NBA Street V3 contains some great hip-hop music, which totally adds to the street feel that EA were obviously going for. The graphics are also close to top-notch, with near accurate facial features displayed on all the NBA players. The clothes are all designed splendidly, and the modeling of the characters is equally as impressive. It’s the animation that shines through in the game most of all though. With all the tricks and stunts the teams are executing on the court, it is absolutely necessary to have great accompanying animations. NBA Street V3 has this covered and then some. The moves these players show off look fantastic in every way possible.
The game is a whole lot of fun to play, be that alone or with some willing friends. With the substantial array of customization on offer for not only your characters, but also for your home court, there’s a huge amount of added personalization that really promotes player/team time investment. The fast arcade style action is not hard to get the hang of, and unlike other arcade action sports games, it has enough variety to keep you entertained for quite some time. While there are some minor issues with the Trick Stick being a tad difficult to adapt to at first, you can remedy this later by unlocking new and better tricks. The crappy urban poetry guy, however, has to go! Sorry crappy urban poetry guy, whoever you are, but you stink – the game could have emerged just as impressive without his inclusion. Luckily for everyone, though, the Beastie Boys are in the game! What time is it? It’s time to get ill! Indeed, their hip-hop presence goes some way to nullifying the absolute lameness of crappy urban poetry guy. If you are a fan of the Street series, basketball games, or sports games in general, then NBA Street V3 is definitely worth taking a look at.