NBA Street Vol. 2 is the sequel to the smash hit on Playstation 2 (and later GameCube). SSX will always be EA Big’s first title, but the Street line is just as good in my opinion. A lot has changed with Vol. 2…all for the better. The first game got old pretty quickly once you got through the main mode and unlocked all the Street players like Stretch. On this go around, EA Big brings not only new streetballers along with the old, but also NBA Legends such as Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan (in 3 forms), Larry Bird and Clyde “The Glide” Drexler. This game has a lot of potential…did it live up to it?

You really will not notice the greatness of the graphics until you get outside the initial street court. Once you get to some of the brighter courts you start to see the differences between this and the original. All the characters have a semblance of cel-shading to them and this was obviously employed to keep the game running at a fluid 60fps. For the most part the real-life basketball players look like their counterpart in the real world, with some exceptions obviously. I am a big Timberwolves fan and Wally Szczerbiak and Troy Hudson look little like their real-life counterparts. Wally’s problem is that they really do not have a good example of his hair style, so they gave him a widow’s peak. Troy Hudson does not have his dreadlocks, also defeated by the hair options.

This game NEVER slows down. You have to be on the ball, so to speak, to keep up with this game. The tricks look beautiful and when you are in Gamebreaker mode the screen turns into a soft hue of blue (Level 1) or gold (Level 2…get to this later). This game certainly brings the players to you and never slows down, always a great sign for a sports game.

You have 5 camera options to choose from in this game: Street, Court, Slide, Solid and Wide. Having done a short look at the other cameras outside of the basic Street one, I found that the Street one was the best. Court is a little too close-up for my tastes, Slide is pretty static and does its namesake, I forget Solid and Wide is too far away for my liking. If I had another camera to choose from outside of Street it would probably be Slide. I just like that Street camera though.

Much like my recently reviewed Def
Jam Vendetta
, this game is very dependant on rap music, although it does not
have quite the known talent that Def Jam Vendetta had. The game has an
absolutely wonderful opening song. It is constantly going through my head
(“Bounce…Bounce…now who got game when it comes to this basketball? Facing
other opponents over 6 feet tall…”
) as I write this review. The cool thing
about this rap music is that you actually have 2 options available to you in the
options menu. One does the rap music with the words while you are playing the
game, but you have no announcer (Bobbito Garcias). The other one does
instrumental versions of the songs, but has the announcer and all the ancillary
sounds from the courts, such as people’s cell phones ringing. I started out with
the former, but I was wondering where the heck the much heralded announcer was
during the whole time. I switched it back and there he is. It is obvious they
did not want two lines of conversation going (one announcer and the lyrics in
the songs) at the same time. You also have the option to turn off certain songs
if you do not like them. It is too bad there is not a custom soundtrack on this
game, but we cannot get everything, you know?

This score would be higher if it was not for one thing: most of the game was
built around the front soundstage, even when you are running this game through
Dolby Digital on your Xbox. There are a few sounds that come out of the surround
speakers, but not a whole lot. The best example would be the pregame section
where the teams are doing shootarounds. You will hear the basketball behind you
and other than the cell phones ringing, you really do not hear anything from the
surrounds. Even the beginning song is not in full surround. What is cool about
the front soundstage is that the sounds come out of the correct position
depending on actions on the screen. I am a bit disappointed by no surround
effects though.

This is the Xbox version of the game and it will take you a few games to figure out how the turbo buttons work with each other and to get used to pressing the left analog stick in as one of the 3 turbos. Supposedly the PS2 version has all 4 turbo buttons again and has a 5-tier dunk system versus the 4-tier the Xbox and GameCube have. Although this could be seen as a minus on the whole, the only thing it really takes away is another dunk. All the moves are present in all versions, you just will not have that extra dunk to rely on.

Outside of the initial learning curve (especially for those like myself that had NBA Street on PS2 and now have Vol. 2 on Xbox), the control is quite easy. You can choose from 3 forms of button layouts for both offense and defense, so you have somewhat of a choice. What you do not have choice over is the turbo buttons. They are the L and R trigger and the left analog stick pushed in. As I said above, the left analog stick will be the hardest thing to get accustomed to, but do not worry…you will! The left analog stick turbo is very paramount to some of the tricks (like the new Kick pass), so you need to learn to use it.

Basic button layout on offense are the 3 turbo buttons explained above, B to shoot, A to pass, X and Y to do different tricks, the right analog stick to pass to a team member and keep control of yourself, the white button to “pocket” Gamebreakers (will get to later) and I believe the black button to cancel Gamebreakers (reason I say I believe is I have not had to cancel one yet and forgot the key from the Tutorial). On defense you have X to steal, A to switch players, B to block and using the turbo buttons in combination with these buttons will allow you a better chance to steal/block. There are a lot of combinations both on offense and defense that utilize the 3 turbos. There are virtually a plethora of moves out there, especially when you begin unlocking some of the Legend’s moves.

There are also a lot of new moves in the game such as Off the Heezay (Off the head…L and R trigger + A button with stick neutral), Back 2 Papa (Off the backboard and back to yourself or a team member…L and R Trigger + A button with stick pointed toward basket) and Kick Pass (left analog stick pushed in + A button). Once you unlock Legends and special moves you get even more moves to choose from.

So, you want a game with great gameplay? Look no further than NBA Street Vol. 2, even for those of you that found the original too easy or boring after going through the game once. This game is just plain fun, there really is not any other word to describe it. Once you get used to the controls the game will suck you in like no tomorrow. There is a tutorial that will show you how to pull off moves and there are 3 main modes: Pick-Up Game, NBA Challenge and Be A Legend.

Pick-Up Game is just that, you can play a pick up game AND you can pick your own rules. Want the game to go to 50 points instead of 21? Go ahead. Want to not be able to do Gamebreakers at all or how about spotting the computer a few points? Go ahead. If you beat the team you are up against you gain Development Points, which are important in the Be A Legend mode. You can even use your user stats (all modes) in the Pick-Up games to get your Won/Loss record up and increase your overall points, blocks, steals, etc.

NBA Challenge mode is much like the original’s main mode. You pick a team, but this time you go through different sections of the country to beat the teams in those geographic locations. At the end of every section you face off against a tough Legend and/or Streetballer team to finish off the section. The difficulty ramps up obviously in the “boss” games. In this mode you also get Development Points.

Be a Legend mode is where the real bread and butter is located. Remember those Development Points? Well, this is where they come in handy. You have to Create a Baller (you can create up to 10) and take him through the challenges in different cities to become a Legend. Such challenges include winning a pick-up game or doing X number of Gamebreakers in a game. It is kind of a more robust version of the “you must reach X thousand points to unlock this” from the original game. As you keep winning you gain Development and Prestige Points that allow you to go on to different cities and different challenges. In this mode you have lots to unlock, such as all the Legend and Streetballer characters (that you can then use just like the original), uniforms, moves, etc. You can then use those to fix up your ballplayer to make him/her better at shooting, stealing, handling, etc. There is a 5 point bar on each of the stats, so it will take you while to make your ballplayer great. I am still working through this area along with NBA Challenge, but let me tell you there is a lot more to this game than the last one.

Outside of the modes presented in the game, some basic changes from NBA Street are present as well. First off is the difficulty of the game. Easy is way too easy, while medium and hard can be a chore. This is in stark contrast to the original where even hard was pretty easy if you were good enough. I am sure medium and hard can be overcome with ease in this game, but I have had some tough games just on medium so far.

Secondly are the Gamebreakers. This time around there are 2 Levels of Gamebreakers instead of just one. The first level is the same as last time, except now it is easier to block. The second level is unblockable and can put a huge hurt on you or the other team. When you get to Level 1 and get the ball back, you have a small amount of time to figure out if you want to “pocket” the Gamebreaker and go for the 2nd level or to just use the Gamebreaker right now. The advantage of going to Level 2 is that the hurt becomes that much bigger (+3/-4 on a 3-pointer for example). The disadvantage of going to Level 2 is that if the other team reaches Gamebreaker status they can cancel out all Gamebreakers. It brings a level of strategy to the game that the first game did not have.

Finally there is a fix to the biggest problem from the first game. Many people, including myself, had a problem with the rubber band catchup AI in the last game. This has been fixed in NBA Street Vol. 2. The AI will no longer score on a whim once you are ahead by large margin. In fact, you can blank the computer 21-0 if you are good enough. This is a welcome change in this series. I remember losing a lot of games in NBA Street after I was ahead and the computer went on a scoring binge and eventually won. I commend EA Canada on fixing this.

There is a metric ton that you can get out of this game from the measly $50 you put down on it. NBA Challenge and Be A Legend modes alone will take up a ton of hours. I do not see the last mode being a 10 hour cakewalk, but more like an RPG-esque undertaking. They have also added a 4 player ability so you can play multiplayer 2-on-2 if you want this time around. You can also have different user stats for each player as well. You can also bring your own created baller into the game as well.

Create A Baller mode in itself is a great tool. You create your baller and then you can add whichever moves/tricks you want for him/her by hitting the Y button in the Baller Edit mode. From there you can choose other moves/tricks and even moves/tricks you unlock as you advance in the different modes. You are not stuck with vanilla moves/tricks if you do not want them.

This game is simply the modern day NBA Jam (which is ironic considering Midway is bringing back that line this year) with more to unlock and tons more things to do. This is the epitome of arcade basketball and I cannot see someone getting as bored with NBA Street Vol. 2 as they did with the original. There is literally something to do even if you are bored.