Monday, March 12, 2007

NBA Street Homecourt (360)

I played this game for an hour. It's all I could stand.

It's a shame, really.

I complain frequently about games not getting finished, because frequently, they don't. It's quite embarrassing for an industry that wants to be taken seriously when so many games are released both unfinished and unpolished.

Which is absolutely not the problem with this game.

This game is so stylish and polished that it's breathtaking. EA Canada should be commended for the level of quality in this title.

Which, unfortunately, doesn't make it fun to play.

It's not a developer problem, though--it's a design problem. There was clearly a conscious design decision to turn NBA Street into NBA Jam HD. It doesn't play like NBA Street anymore, a series that has always been gritty and never turned into a cartoon.

Until now.

Here's an example, and it's the single worst design decision, by far, in the game. I'm not even sure what the correct term for this move is, so let's just call it "the double dunk." Basically, if you dunk with the correct timing, your player will hang on the rim, then swing off the rim, do a 360 flip in the air, and dunk again.

It looks ridiculous but awesome--once. You'll be seeing it all the time, though, even in your very first game in "Homecourt Challenge," which is the career mode. Maybe that move would work as a Gamebreaker, but as a standard move that happens all the time, it's ludicrous. Even more ludicrous is that you're awarded a point for each dunk, making cashing in that move an integral part of winning the challenges.

It's a horrible design decision, and it makes the game zero fun to play. Well, that and how incredibly easy it is to block any jump shot by goaltending.

Look, I thought NBA Jam was a lot of fun to play in the arcade--in 1994. But to put out a glorified NBA Jam now instead of a game that focuses on the incredibly rich history and style of playground basketball is just a bad idea. And there's no escaping it, because there are far too many moments where the gameplay looks and feels exactly like NBA Jam.

Which is a real disappointment, because Homecourt looks spectacular. It's absolutely stunning. The controls are excellent as well. And the general atmosphere is tremendous.

I think the problems here also revolve around sequels--make enough iterations of a series and eventually the game is going to stray from what made it good enough to warrant a sequel in the first place.

Regardless, a great series has been the inevitable slide.

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