Developer: Black Ops Entertainment
Release Date: June, 2006
Those who enjoy their basketball with a heavy dose of flair, smack-talk and hip-hop will find peace when Black Ops Entertainment's And 1 Streetball ships later this month. And 1 Streetball attempts to harness the energetic world of street basketball by featuring real street players, asphalt playing courts, and a bevy of tricks that will be familiar with avid urban streetball fanatics.
Presentation-wise, And 1 Streetball is pure urban pop. The game's soundtrack is nearly all hip-hop or rap, players look and sound like true streetballers, and the menus are adorned with lavish amounts of flash that one would expect in a game that concentrates on the world of asphalt hoops. There are even MCs along the baselines of games, booming exclamations into microphones and playing to the crowd's excitement.
It is readily apparent that these aren't your NBA-variety basketball players. Featuring no license from the NBA or NBAPA, these players have been plucked from the real streetball circuit, and their avatars in the game are very spot-on. Each player is distinguishable by apparel, body size, and accurate facial recreation. In addition, each comes with his own arsenal of insults and taunts, as well as fancy moves to out-maneuver his opponents. Since games are seldom refereed in streetball, you'll be able to commit personal fouls and get away with them ... that is, if you don't elect to turn on that feature in the options menu.
There is no doubt about it: And 1 Streetball looks great. Each area appears very true-to-life, with real asphalt playing courts and chain netting, as well as indoor courts within the walls of gymnasiums and recreation centers. Player animations are fluid, and the tricks they flash are within the realms of reality. While some moves may be slightly Harlem Globetrotter-ish, such as bouncing the basketball off the head of your opponent, each is realistic enough to never warrant a frown. Besides, in the world of streetball, the more arrogant the trick, the more the crowd eats it up.
While some streetball games have gone the route of arcade-style gameplay, And 1 Streetball tries to avoid this by keeping the game as authentic as possible. This means you will never see ballers jumping 20 feet into the air or making somersault dunks. The one area of the game that most resembles a true arcade experience is the point system, which rewards players for pulling off trick shots, dunks, or out-witting your opponent on the way to the hoop. When enough points have been earned, you receive a microphone, which is basically a power-up item. When activated, the basketball becomes enveloped in a fiery glow and dunks are suddenly worth more points than normal. Your players also become faster and harder to guard when they have possession of this golden ball. Games can be lost or won depending on how skillful you are at earning points.
One way to earn easy points is to use the I-Ball system, which basically means throwing the right analog stick in different directions. Each direction is mapped to a trick-move, which could entail putting the ball between your legs, spinning, or deking. The I-Ball scheme has three separate tiers, or levels. Simple moves are used with the right analog stick alone. Second-level moves are used in conjunction with the left analog; push the sticks in opposite or corresponding directions as you move down the court and you'll break out prettier moves. Finally, there are the level-three I-Ball moves, which are used the same way as the second level, but this time with the sprint (i.e. turbo) button held down. These moves are more lavish, but ultimately more rewarding, especially when you have your ankle-breaker meter full.
The ankle-breaker meter is a gauge that fills when you are close to your opponent and perform I-Ball tricks on him. When you start flashing I-Ball moves, you'll begin filling up the meter. After you've successfully maxed out the bar, you can use an ankle-breaker by performing a level-three I-Ball move. Time will slow to a crawl and you'll school around your opponent, tripping him up and leaving the lane open for a dunk or jump-shot. Using the meter properly can be a bit tricky, for if you use the same move repeatedly, your opponent will have an easier time stealing the ball from you. The methodology behind a successful ankle-break requires using all three I-Ball trick levels properly and paying attention to the small circular display beneath your character. This pie-shaped window aids in successfully chaining together multi-level I-Ball tricks for maximum performance by telling you which direction you should avoid for the next I-Ball maneuver. The window will change colors after each trick, giving you an idea which I-Ball level to use next.
Other controls besides the I-Ball stick work fairly well. You can back-down on your opponents, alley-oop passes to teammates and even alley-oop to yourself with ease. Using the sprint button near the basket while shooting will result in a dunk, and fade-away jumpers can be pulled off when outside the paint. A loose ball can be dove upon, and stealing and blocking shots are equally intuitive endeavors. The players themselves control well, especially for a game that melds simulation and arcade gameplay like this. Also, beneath your player is the sprint gauge that displays how much stamina remains, which is useful because the majority of the game screen is taken up by actual game, not meters or other obtrusive windows.
And 1 Streetball also offers a complete tour mode where your exploits as an up-and-coming streetballer are told via mild story-driven cut scenes. As your player-created avatar climbs the ladder and strives to make the And 1 Mixtape tour, he'll be tutored by some fellow streetballers and given objectives to accomplish, rivals to take 1-on-1, and pickup games to win in order to prove himself worthy. The tour mode is a great place to learn the ropes of the game, as it starts with a helpful tutorial into the I-Ball controls and assigns you relatively easy tasks to perform until you hone your skills. Before long, you'll be tossed into some meaty pickup games and 1-on-1 half-court battles, but because the game does such a good job teaching you, your green character never has to feel overwhelmed.
The only technical issues I experienced in this preview build came when the game's soundtrack changed from one song to the next. When this happened, the game would hiccup and freeze until the next song took effect. It became predictable as each song wrapped up, causing minute halts in nearly every game you play. It's nothing too dramatic, but it was enough to be noticeable and annoying.
Thus far, And 1 Streetball is shaping up to be a nice adaptation of the urban hoops circuit. People bored with standard simulation basketball games and pampered NBA stars, yet are turned off by games that warp reality with an over-the-top arcade emphasis such as NBA Street, may find that And 1 Streetball meets their needs right in the middle. Finally, if you are up for some hip-hop, in-your-face, mean-street, chain-net fun, you should look out for this title when it ships in late March.
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