By Todd Zuniga 01/19/2007 From the opening menu to the game-clenching dunk, playing NBA Street Homecourt makes you feel like you're in the mid-'70s. The visuals are so rich, stylized, and fresh that it may take a few seconds to adjust, and once you do, you may not want to leave the court. The good news: you don't have to. Instead of fussing with front-end menus before every game, the latest Street puts you on the court and keeps you there.
This time around, the courts -- always this series' most eclectic characteristic -- are based on the home courts of different NBA stars (which means no more lame-ass cage in NYC just because it's recognizable). You'll run on the court of Carmelo Anthony's youth in seedy West Baltimore, or the playground where Rip Hamilton honed his stop-and-pop skills in picturesque Coatesville, Pennsylvania, all while you build up your own home court in Wherever You're From, USA.
While the next-gen visuals are a showcase, the gameplay has changed a lot as well. The new "Trick Remixer" gives you two trick buttons to pull off a seemingly endless bevy of creative commotion. You'll set the ball on the ground and scoot it around with your foot, slip it through your defender's legs, or bounce the ball and do a spin move before regaining control -- how long you hold the button dictates how quickly you rip-off the trick. The amount of options is plentiful, and increases with the ease of loose-ball shenanigans.
Somehow we doubt that defender is going to have much luck. Click the image above to check out all NBA Street Homecourt screens.
But unlike past games, playing defense is a blast. In fact, it's as fun as offense, if not more so. Instead of wildly running around and pressing the steal button (where your defender waves his arm foolishly), now you can control the game's flow with hand checks before you go for the strip.
The aerial game adds another layer to offense. If you have a Steve Nash-type who can't dunk, players will hunch down at the top of the key to serve as a launching pad. The ridiculous amount of air you'll get is exhilarating, and shows just how many rules Homecourt is breaking. Going up for a dunk is no longer a route to a single point, either. Time your flush right, and the player will catch the ball as it goes through for another dunk, which counts for two points. Sometimes, they'll even catch the ball with their feet and kick it back up to themselves for the second stuff-a-roo.
But, of all the aforementioned features, nothing competes with the new "Gamebreaker" system. Say Team A works up to a Gamebreaker -- they then go to center court to trigger it. Once it's triggered, you trick around to make your Gamebreaker worth +1, +2, and +3... easy, right? Not at all. The risk to your reward is that the defense can swipe the ball from you. Here's the twist: if they do, now it's their Gamebreaker. Now they can trick around to get their +1, +2, etc. But, if it gets stolen back, then that team starts tricking, and on and on, until one team scores a bucket. It's a long, long way from the canned animations that played out in earlier Streets.