October 2001


Darkness enveloped the room like the silken coat of some long forgotten black mage. Only the low whine of the computer and the gentle glow of the monitor as it scrolled the credits broke the serenity of the moment. I arose slowly, stretching my stiffened back and cracking my aching knuckles as I did. It was over. I had won.

That’s how my night might have been described had it been written by the staff at Remedy Entertainment, makers of Max Payne for the PC. Unfortunately, the whole game is full of this type of overwrought, pseudo-noir writing. Fortunately, the rest of the game represents one of the better one-player shooters I’ve seen on the PC.

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Online retailer Toysrus.com sold out their first allotment of pre-orders for Nintendo’s upcoming GameCube system within minutes of first offering them last Monday. The system, which could be reserved by website customers before the official launch date of Nov. 18, was being sold as a $400 bundle with three games, various accessories and a magazine subscription. Packages went on pre-sale through the site at 5 p.m. EST. They were completely gone by 5:04 p.m.

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Video game makers are delaying release dates and altering game content in response to the recent terrorist attacks on America. Thus far almost a dozen games in development have been delayed or are under review by their respective developers for potentially offensive or inappropriate content.

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Many sports games strive for realism in everything they do. These games seek to capture the true feeling of a sport by accurately recreating everything associated with it, from the rules to the stadiums. Games like these can be so realistic at points that, if you suspend your disbelief a little, you could swear that you were watching the real thing.

EA Big’s NBA Street for the Playstation 2 is not one of those games.

As the name suggests, NBA Street is played on inner city blacktop courts with streetball rules. That means a 3-on-3 match with no fouls, no goaltending, and no time limit (The first team to get 21 points wins) Players routinely knock down their opponents before jumping 10 feet into the air and breaking the backboard with a flash of orange lightning. So much for realism.

Granted, the game does give a small nod to simulation by including real NBA players from every team in the league. However, the game also features hidden characters such as singing group 3LW, and an 8-foot tall, white, furry mountain yeti, utterly destroying any chance it had at being considered realistic.

Not that this is a bad thing. Like the classic NBA Jam before it, NBA Street focuses on fast-paced arcade-style fun instead of accurate simulation. The emphasis is on flashy fake-outs and power dunks, both of which increase your team’s momentum meter. Fill up your momentum meter and you can take a Gamebreaker shot, which takes points away from your opponents score as it adds to your total, a novel feature which affects the game immensely.

As should be expected on the Playstation 2, NBA Street’s presentation is top notch. Players look beautiful and lifelike, with smooth, realistic animations for an amazing array of tricks and dunks. The game’s sound also shines, with intense, subtle music that changes with the situation and sound effects that accentuate all the big plays. I was also highly impressed with the game’s play-by-play announcing courtesy of Joe "The Show" Jackson. Unlike some other sports games, the play-by-play in NBA Street sounds realistic and rarely gets repetitive. The props and slops Joe dishes out are even customized for each player. For example, after a big dunk by Michael Jordan, Joe might say, "You can’t stop His Airness, you can only hope to contain him!" Too much!

For those of you who like extras, NBA Street has you covered. The game features a variety of things to open up as you beat the computer opponents, including new courts, new players, and new codes to alter the game experience. (My favorite: The "tiny players" code which makes everyone a few feet tall. You haven’t lived until you’ve seen a tiny version of Allen Iverson make a vertical leap nearly 5 times his height to dunk the ball.)

Playing through the game’s varied opponents also gives you points to use in the create-a-player mode, easily one of the games best features. You start out with a 5-foot tall, unskilled weakling, and use the points you earn to mold him into whatever you want. You can change everything from your players shooting ability and height/weight to his clothes, physical appearance and even gender. To give you an idea of what can be done with this mode, my current created player is a black, 7′1" shot blocking expert in an orange vest named Nightmare. The possibilities are endless.

While I was impressed by NBA Street’s well-executed one player mode, I was highly disappointed in the games barely functional, no-frills multiplayer game. In a game that seems perfectly suited to four-player, late night party gaming, EA Big decided to only include support for only two players simultaneously. Not only that, but the players have to compete against each other, and can’t join together on the same team against computer controlled characters. In a sports game, where playing with or against others is usually the best part, this lack of multiplayer options is unforgivable.

In the end, despite all of NBA Street’s good points, I felt the game suffered in the longevity department. While the game is fun and challenging at first, it begins to lose it’s appeal after about the 1,000th time you drive down the court and mindlessly drive to the basket for a dunk. Playing against a human opponent helps, but even this gets old quickly unless you can find some fresh opponents to play against. By the time I had opened up all the extra features and maxed-out my create-a-player’s stats, I was hungering for a more serious simulation like Sega’s NBA2K1.

I can’t help but think that NBA Street would have been better served by being released as an arcade game. In that scenario you and your friends could throw in a handful of quarters each into the game, have fun for a couple of hours, and be done with it. As it stands, as a Playstation 2 game, I’m not sure the fun but short-lived gameplay justifies the full purchase price of $50. I suggest renting it first and then, if you find that you’re still having fun with the game when you have to return it, go out and buy it. Otherwise, be satisfied with the crazy, fantastical fun you just had and move on to a more serious basketball simulation.