I'll be the first to admit that most sports videogames are either love-them-or-hate-them affairs. Sure they have television-quality graphics, with every league player and statistic accounted for, and the option to manage a team for longer than a virtual lifespan, but unless you love the sport in question, you'll eventually end up wondering what it has to do with video games at all.
Well, EA Sports BIG is a company that has increasingly started to remedy that situation. Their games actually play like video games first and sports simulations second. Under the trappings of NBA Street Vol. 2 is a fast-to-learn, addicting-as-hell video game. While the game is about three-on-three playground basketball, what's really happening is more like a sophisticated, lightning-quick fighting game with some flair. Instead of trading blows, players shoot hoops. But the dynamics of this game rest not in the rules of basketball -- those are pretty much automatically enacted for you -- but in the timing and attitude with which you can execute your moves. It even makes defense fun to play.
The Playstation 2 version of NBA Street Vol. 2, while having the worst graphics of the group, is best designed for some of the game's moves, although the controllers on both the Xbox and GameCube work reasonably well. After learning how to control the action in the training mode and a few games, players can begin to unlock the loads of special features hidden in the game. Every victory awards points that players can use to purchase jerseys, unlock hidden players and gain access to a number of different courts. In addition to creating their own players and improving their skills in-game, players can also make teams with the game's prefabricated characters, or assemble a team of NBA greats both past and present (one of the game's best features is the ability to earn an all-MJ team).
Every player has unique moves that need to be discovered, but the most versatile way to personalize NBA Street Vol. 2 is to jump in and start coming up with a unique way of playing. Whether it favors bouncing the ball off of your defender's head, or rocketing upward to block some impossible-looking shots, this game is all about style and action. Forget basketball -- this is fun.
Publication date: 05/22/03