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Game Review

Five-foot-eight, 170 pounds.

These were not statistics upon which to build a basketball career when I was in high school. Nor did growing up in a small rural community necessarily grant me the best springboard to hoops glory—Hoosiers and the state of Indiana notwithstanding. I didn't have game then, and 18 years and 25 pounds later, I'm pretty sure I don't got game now, either.

Or at least I didn't until I got my hands on NBA Street V3. The latest incarnation of the popular NBA Street franchise, V3 (short for Version 3) offers the opportunity to match player-created ballers against the NBA greats of today and yesteryear (not to mention the chance to pit marquee players of all eras against one another). The venues? Not today's corporately sponsored 30,000-seat palaces, but the street courts where many of the greats honed their skills—urban blacktops with names like "The Cage."

Turns out my basketball glory days may still be ahead of me, virtually speaking.

Game On
From the moment your players' hands touch the ball, it's game on. I got a grip on the fundamentals—shooting, passing, blocking and stealing—quickly. (Mercifully, dribbling is automatic, something it never quite was for me in real life.) For the first time in my relatively non-athletic life, I'm competitive!

The obvious objective, of course, is winning games (which are played to 21 points). But it's not just winning that matters. Rather, it's about winning with style. Your players can win a game, but still lose badly when it comes to trick points, which you earn with combination spins, assists and jams. Learning the various moves available to your players (and unlocking ever-more spectacular ones as your game improves) is what NBA Street V3 is all about. After all, what's more satisfying than the artistry of a perfectly timed alley-oop or a crushing monster jam over your adversaries?

Especially memorable plays, or gamebreakers, are rewarded with another slow-motion look at your domination—and huge points. A slam-dunk contest augments normal three-on-three, full-court play. And street rules mean you can bounce the ball off the pavement, the backboard—even your opponents.

Victories and massive trick scores translate to points you'll use to customize everything from your character's look, á la The Sims (including his or her wardrobe, haircut, jewelry, tattoos and, of course, shoes) to your own personalized basketball court, to tuning up your repertoire of skills (stealing, blocking, rebounding, shooting, dunking, handling, quickness and power).

Each street game comes complete with an over-the-top announcer, DJ Bobbito Garcia, whose ongoing commentary sounds like Dick Vitale in the 'hood. The announcer's verbal dexterity matches on-court action move for move, as he fires one-liners such as, "This is tight like clenched teeth!" "Wide of the promised land." "That's not a brick—it's a super brick." And the ever popular, "Ah, man, you just got picked like a ripe tomato in a supermarket."

Almost Fun for the Whole Family
If all that sounds like a blast, read this before lacing up. This E-rated game's biggest content question mark when it comes to everyone in the family participating is its hip-hop soundtrack. Some of its urban-flavored music (from artists such as the Beastie Boys and House of Pain) includes occasionally bleeped profanities. Another problematic area is the fact that female hoopsters can play in a sports bra or purchase a cut-off tank top.

That's about it, though. And I should add that you have to listen carefully to hear the bleeped-out profanities. For sports fans, NBA V3 provides lots of head-to-head hoops to enjoy together—and a chance to mix it up without killing opponents or breaking the law—things many of today's most popular games thrive on (Halo 2, Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, and even Need for Speed Underground 2, for example). The urban battlegrounds of NBA Street V3 provide a challenging, mostly trouble-free context to let your game do all the talking.

And for the first time in my life, I've actually got some street-ball skills worth bragging about.

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Episode Reviews

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