When I was in school, basketball players usually avoided physics class. That might explain some of the wild action in “NBA Street Homecourt.”
Ballers ignore the laws of gravity, leaping 15 feet into the air and slamming home double dunks. It would boggle Einstein’s mind – but it’s definitely cool.
The EA Sports Big game takes players to the neighborhood courts where today’s NBA greats honed their skills. Games are played in gritty parks and rundown gyms stunningly rendered to look like the actual sites. Introductory narration offers background on the courts and the players they nurtured. All this realism sets a pretty intense mood.
Like the courts, the players are superbly rendered, from their features to their fluid movements. It all seems so lifelike as the players take the court — and all seems so wildly surreal as the action truly begins.
Games start as relatively standard three-on-three affairs. Passing, dribbling, shooting and lay-ups can be pretty standard actions. The controls are remarkably simple, which makes the game more accessible to beginners.
However, things get wild when the dunking and trick buttons enter the picture.
Pressing the trick buttons sends a character into a dribbling frenzy, and holding a modifier button turns him into a trick-dribbling maniac. Doing enough of these leads to a “Game Breaker” sequence, where your tricks can get even crazier.
Dunking is where the game really shines. Holding the button just right can result in a visually stunning double dunk. Pressing the modifier button leads to types of dunks only seen in science fiction. Jump onto the back of a teammate and leap sky high. Swing up onto the backboard while performing a double dunk. But be careful: If you mess up, you’ll end up looking foolish with your foot caught in the net.
Todd Batty, producer of “NBA Street Homecourt,” said the team let the artists run wild with their imaginations when designing the animations.
“We actually have a very simple physics approach,” Batty said. “We have no ragdoll and no physics controlling the characters in our game. This was a conscious quality decision, not one that was based on time or technicalities.
“We felt that we wanted ‘better than reality,’ and to achieve that, the artists needed the ability to cheat real-world physics and get really creative with their animations, particularly the dunks, blocks and tricks. So what you see in the game is 100 percent driven by the animators. This allowed us to use time-scaling and directed posing to exaggerate hang time and exaggerate impact, and I think the results speak for themselves.”
The game offers a single-player challenge mode and a variety of game styles, which can be played solo or with others. All variations can be fun, but the game is best enjoyed with friends — who, of course, will marvel at your phenomenal feats.
You can select for your teammates a host of NBA players, as well as a few women from the WNBA. Your team can go shirts or skins — unless you select WNBA players. (Get your mind out of the gutter. This is an E-rated game.)
You can also create your own baller. However, that function isn’t all that hot. You select a playing style and create a face. This involves selecting a primary face and the faces of two NBA players, and then blending the three. The results aren’t exactly satisfying.
This is a minor drawback, though. The rest of the game is as billed: “better than reality.”
Platforms: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3
One the Web: www.easports.com/nbastreet4/