NBA Street
| NBA Street

Though every barman in the whole of the UK refuses to believe it, I'm getting old. When you begin to hurtle towards your late 20s, suddenly you realise you're no longer aware of what's 'hip' any more. The mere fact that I've used the word 'hip' almost certainly means that 'hip' is unlikely to be a 'hip' word itself.

Therefore, when I'm confronted with one of EA's Street titles, I'm never sure just which part of it is especially 'street'. If it refers to the literal fact that you can, amongst many other settings, play your matches out on the street, then NBA Street certainly delivers.

But I tend to think EA's street-savvy has more to do with a more relaxed, often arcade take on what can often otherwise be stiff, stern sports.

NBA Street scores well on that front. Stripping away half of the rules, dropping the players down to three on three, setting a score limit of 21 points and adding a few almost superhuman moves into the mix makes Street a much more palatable play for those who can't tell their Michael Jordans from their Michael Parkinsons. Cool or not, this is old school sports gaming at its most welcoming.

It's welcoming because of its simplicity. With each basket counting for just one point instead of two, play focuses on you managing to tally up slam dunk after slam dunk rather than simply aiming for a plain ol' shot or two.

Said dunks are almost an art form in NBA Street, the ball swooping through the net not once, but twice, totting the points tally up to two. This makes Street a question of getting to the basket with enough space to dunk it rather than merely taking a shot whenever you have the ball.

Of course, with only three rivals on the court finding such space is easier than it might be in a real tussle, with two quick passes or a trick or two (you can wrong-foot your opponent either by taking a step backwards by double tapping the '4' key, or swishing past him with a trick by pressing '6' twice) usually getting you room enough in the area to attempt a slam dunk.

It’s then a case of holding down the '5' key, releasing it when the gauge hits the 'sweet' green spot to smash the ball down into the hoop.

Both scoring and pulling off tricks builds your 'Gamebreaker' bar which, when activated in the centre circle, transforms slam dunks from two pointers to three pointers. This makes winning a case of playing with style and scoring the most baskets, rather than simply striving for the latter.

It all makes for quick and absorbing matches, where falling behind isn't disastrous and playtime can be squeezed into the bus trip back from work.

All light stuff, you might think, and it's fair to say EA has approached NBA Street with the mainstream in mind. But there's an added incentive to splash out on Street for those who love this game as much as the pros.

The game's Challenge mode still puts you in match situations, but charges you with winning them under certain conditions, such as by a particular points difference or by scoring when in Gamebreaker mode.

It's a canny way of proving any success you have isn't just the result of a fluke, also helping to give NBA Street the kind of edge that transcends notions of faddishness.

On the contrary, rather than isolating players by conforming to any code of cool, NBA Street embraces one and all, taking to the court with engaging play that sticks to you like glue after just a few minutes.

Managing to tie it all in by strapping on an added challenge or two is an bonus, and while it's never going to move basketball on, there's fun enough here to suggest that EA's streets will be paved with solid gold for some time to come.

NBA Street

Sticking solidly to a mainstream style of 'street', EA's latest NBA venture manages to capture the pace and skill of basketball by keeping things beautifully simple