Kevin Garnett must own stock in EA. Sure, he's one of the best players in the NBA, but even "The Big Ticket" has never dominated a court like he does in NBA Street V3
. First you might see KG go off the "heezay", "footay" or even off the "bootay", next thing you know he's taking off from beyond the free throw line, rolling the rock along his arms Globetrotter-style, alley ooping the ball to himself -- while already in the air -- then finishing the dunk off with a spin. The letters KG appear autograph style on the screen, and Garnett even gives you a little dance to rub it in.
This is just another game in the life of street-ball superstar Kevin Garnett.
Just another day of highlights in NBA Street V3, a game that not only elevates Garnett's status to the elite levels of a polygonal Michael Jordan, but elevates the street basketball genre to new levels of competition. One second, you're LeBron throwing down on Shaq, the next you're creating your own baller, creating your own kicks, and even creating your own court complete with logos, cracked backboards, and graffiti.
Check the 10-week calendar in Street Challenge mode to find a dunk contest, a 750,000 trick point game, or maybe even a tournament hosted by Biggie Littles. The more you play, the more you build your rep, and the higher your rep, the better challenges will come your way. Pretty soon you'll be challenged by some of the rivals you pick up along the way, and you might even find yourself in a game against a team with Shaq and Yao in the same lineup.
But start losing and things can turn on you quickly. You might get a morale update that warns you to turn things around and get people more playing time or things are going to get bad in a hurry. You can try to skip events to get your team some rest, but skip two events in a row and you'll take a 5% reputation hit. Next thing you know, LeBron James can't get along with Vince Carter, and LeBron is demanding that you get rid of Vince or King James is going to walk. So maybe you get rid of Vince, send him to the showers, but then the next day LeBron makes another demand. Get rid of Kevin Garnett or again, LeBron is leaving. Damn you King James for making life difficult. So maybe you dump LeBron, only to find out a couple days later that KG isn't happy either and decides to leave your squad. Next thing you know, you're back to Troy Murphy and Jon Barry.
Forget the days of playing who you want, when you want with the only worries coming on whether you want to make it a two or three-man alley-oop. In NBA Street V3, it's not only your handles that matter
it's also your decisions along the way, and it's an improvement to the series that takes it beyond simply a great multi-player game, ultimately delivering a complete package.
In terms of sports gaming, forget KG, NBA Street V3 is the biggest ticket in town.
A bullet-paced, three-on-three arcade hoops game where the more you humiliate your opponent by throwing the ball off his head the better, V3 is by far the best game in the Street series, improving the game's control and intuitiveness, while also adding everything from a dunk contest to an extended Street Challenge mode. The first thing you'll notice, however, are the game's changed controls. The right analog stick is now The Trick Stick. Press the stick in one of eight directions while simultaneously holding down one of the turbo buttons, and you have up to 40 moves at your disposal. Cartwheels, spins, dribbling the ball between the defender's legs, all finally mapped to specific button combinations and directional movements.
The thing is, the game seems like it was made for the PS2 controller, as you can use the four shoulder buttons for turbo, rather than the configurations for the Xbox and GameCube that are a lot less natural. Clicking the left stick for turbo while flicking the right stick for a trick just isn't a good option, especially when I see my PS2 controller sitting on my desk. On the plus side, you can now actually enter the Trick Book and change the name of each trick. So if every time you throw the ball off your opponent's face you'd rather see "Give me Head" than "Off the Heezay" the choice is yours, even if you're stuck with one of the controllers that makes it more difficult to perform.
And while you're pulling off tricks, you'll even be able to string a variety of moves together in combos, linking the Heezay and Bootay to the spin and cartwheel to give you a four-move combo. The exact button and stick movements even appear at the top of the screen to show you exactly what you pressed to pull off each trick. And these combos are important for a couple of reasons. The thing is, there are actually three variations of every trick in the game, and by pulling off a specific move in a combo, you'll also proceed to unlock a variation of that move in the Trick Book that you can then go in and activate for your next game. There are 120 possible variations in V3, and you can select which 40 you want mapped for all NBA players, legends, and Street characters individually.
The second reason why you'll want to perform combos is to fill your Gamebreaker meter. The more combos you pull, the higher your meter will get, and once filled, you'll be able to leap into the air for some of the craziest dunks you've ever seen in a video game. This is also the first year where you're actually in control of every movement of your Gamebreaker. As you run toward the rim and activate the Gamebreaker, you once again use the Trick Stick, only this time you can perform up to four moves per player while in the air. The best case scenario enables you to perform four moves with your first player, then alley-oop it back to your teammate jumping behind you, pull off four more moves, then pass it back a final time to the third member of your team for four more moves. Perform it perfectly and you can get a +4, -1 advantage in the score. But if you don't pull off as many moves in the air or don't pass it back to as many teammates, the actual score can fluctuate.
Controlling Gamebreakers is a great step forward for the series, but it could've been even better if it extended into areas beyond dunks. What about some crazy Pistol-Pete like shots from outside, or even defensive Gamebreakers? The game concentrates so much on making the air experience unique, that it forgets there are other areas that can be just as exciting if done right. I also wish there was a way for the defense to block the Gamebreaker dunks or at least make your opponent's controller shake...anything to break his concentration because the dunker can miss if he tries to do too much or is still trying to pull off one last move before throwing down the slam. A way to counter this would've added to the competitiveness.
The variation of shots also comes into play beyond Gamebreakers. Sure, there are some hook shots from three-point land, but for the most part, there isn't much variation in shooting the ball from around the court. If I pick Steve Nash, I want to see some of his insane shots. I want to see more off-balanced turnaround jumpers, more double clutches from outside, something more for people who don't want to try to dunk every time down the court. Although I do appreciate the ability to change your shot in mid-air as you fly toward the rim. You can do for a dunk, then flick the Trick Stick to turn it into a layup and avoid the shot blocker down low.
One of the best additions to NBA Street V3 is the new Street Challenge mode , a mode that actually makes the single-player game compelling to play, and that's a major improvement considering the single-player experience in the first two NBA Street games became extremely tedious almost out of the box. And while Street Challenge is in no way perfect, it captures your attention and definitely gives you enough variety in games and customization to keep your interest for hours.
The Street Challenge mode can actually take anywhere between 30-50 hours of gameplay depending on how many events you actually play as you are given the ability to skip days in the 10 week, 70 event challenge to speed the process along, but the more events you skip, the more your Street rep will suffer, costing you the ability to challenge the best the NBA has to offer.
And in the Street Challenge, your rep is everything. Win games, and your rep increases. The higher your rep, the better the players who will come to challenge you the following day. This is the overall goal of the Street Challenge, to create the ultimate baller, give him some tats, a goofy hairdo, and some throwbacks, create a pair of shoes, even create your own court to play on, then work your way from zero to Street hero. Every day you'll have a variety of gameplay challenges and it's up to you to pick the game.
There might be a No Gamebreaker game at Rucker against LeBron and his crew, but at the same time Allen Iverson, who used to be on your team but has now become your rival, has challenged your squad to a Trick Points contest to 500,000 points. If you decide to play against LeBron because you want him on your team, your rep will actually take a hit because you're passing on a game against one of your rivals. And this could also affect player morale.
It seems everyone has an attitude in NBA Street V3, and while there are no cinematics or close-ups to show this expression, you will be told through text when certain members of your team are unhappy or not getting along. You will occasionally even need to make a decision on the spot where you'll need to choose between players like Kobe and T-Mac because they're not getting along or one of them is upset about their playing time. It would've been cooler to see this expressed beyond mere text, but it definitely adds to the experience of the game as you can't simply play the same three in your lineup without having to deal with the consequences. And since some of the events offered in the game will only be offered once, you really need to make sure you pick the right event for your team, because you might not get another chance to play against certain players or legends.
As you get better in the Street Challenge, you'll also have an opportunity to join an NBA team and participate in the NBA Street league. This places all 30 NBA teams in a 14-game season, complete with playoffs and even a best-of-three championship. Join a team, even a team like the Bobcats or Warriors, and you'll be able to increase your rep a lot faster.
One of my main complaints about Street Challenge, though, is that you'll be playing in special games where you can only score points by dunking, and the computer runs up and shoots a three. Even if he makes it, it doesn't count, so you let him shoot, or you let him go for the layup because you know the points won't get added to his score. The CPU needs to be smarter than this. It doesn't happen too often, but often enough where you question the intelligence aspect of artificial intelligence. My other complaint is that I don't think the player morale comes into play enough. If you do a good job at juggling your roster, you won't have too many complaints or demands to be dropped from the team, taking out a major aspect of the game. With all the attitudes in the NBA, more and more players shouldn't get along, and there should be an automatic blowup if you put Kobe and Shaq on the same squad.
I don't know if it's just a Street problem, as NFL Street had the same issue, but there are some horrible choices in terms of which NBA players made the game and which didn't. Chris Bosh isn't in the game. Forget the fact that he's one of the best young players in the NBA, he is the Toronto Raptors now without Vince, so you might as well skip playing as Toronto. Other omissions include Charles Barkley, Rick Barry (could've played with Rick, Jon, and Brent), and Oscar Robertson from the legends, not to mention Michael Jordan, who was the focus of Vol. 2, and now isn't even in the lineup of V3 due to licensing issues. It's great to see Spud Webb, Kareem, and Bernard King make the cut, though, and even Rick Mahorn is in the game. If only we could see the return of The Worm.
The Beastie Boys are hidden characters in all versions of the game, although they're so small, that they're actually not very good to play as, unless you like watching your shots get batted back in your face. The GameCube version also includes a special Nintendo team of Mario, Princess Peach, and Luigi, but I don't see how you can make a game and go after street cred, then watch Princess Peach dunk on Shaq.
One mode that has been added to the game and has been receiving a lot of hype is the new Slam Dunk Contest. In the dunk mode, you basically use the same Trick Stick air moves as you've been practicing in the game every time you bust out a Gamebreaker. There are props like tables you can stick out on the court to jump over, and you can throw a variety of alley-oops to yourself, everything from kicking the ball off of the backboard to lobbing the ball off your knee.
The thing is, the dunk contest feels a lot more limited than the one provided in NBA Live 2005, even with the added props and air. While still fun, it doesn't have the longevity of Live's contest because you basically jump into the air then flick the Trick Stick a few different directions then finish the dunk. Live's dunk competition was all about court position, where to jump from, and what combos to press while in the air to link moves together. To slam in Street, you're just trying to pull off as many moves as you can while in the air, and it's a lot less satisfying in the long run.
Another major addition to the series is online play, and Street delivers so much more than just the average Exhibition game experience. You can actually create your own online character (it will be stored on the servers), create your own court for online games, and play everything from Dunk Contests to an NBA Challenge mode where you'll be ranked by your win/loss ratio. You can take your created character through a World Challenge mode to earn street points and increase your rep by beating some of the best online ballers around. Unfortunately you still can't play six players online at once, where everyone is controlling their created character, but I have a feeling that's something that will happen with the next generation of consoles.
From the ballers on the courts to the courts themselves, V3 is one of the coolest looking sports games ever created. The lighting of each court (12 in total, including everywhere from Venice to Mosswood), with specific color tints for each location, really makes the atmosphere feel like a Hype Williams video
funny since the famed rap director actually helped with some of the camera angles and the overall look of the game. Think Belly meets LeBron and you know what to expect.
The characters on the screen also look amazing, although they lack the facial features and realism of Midway's NBA Ballers series. Street went for a more artistic look, moving away from the cartoon-like appearance of past Street games, to provide a more edgy, energetic palate of players, courts, and backgrounds, although it's strange that the game fails to support progressive scan or hi-def.
While the look of the game was nailed, the sound of V3 lands with a thud. MC Lyte and House of Pain headline the soundtrack of old-school tracks that really feel tired even from the first time you pop in the disc, while Bobbito just won't shut up the entire game. He sings, he spews annoying references to every rap song imaginable, and he really just never says anything of use. This is one of those games I end up playing with my headphones on or on mute and I find the experience so much more enjoyable.
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