Take one familiar sport, add an urban theme to it, and it's guaranteed to sell, regardless of whether it's actually that well made or not (yes FIFA Street, we're looking at you). But there are also games that cry out for a little street treatment, one of these being Ubisoft's forthcoming AND 1 Streetball, a hip-hop-themed take on the basketball genre. Developer Black Ops has been careful to avoid just putting an urban spin on things for the sake of it, and we're pleased to say AND 1 is shaping up to be a game with plenty of substantial b-ball action under its superfly exterior.
While we're holding out for the review soon, we've already played it, and we love the fact it's more than just running up and down a court dribbling a ball. AND 1 Streetball plays like quite a few other basketball games we've come across, but get this - you can now kick and punch the ball as well as perform the usual set of moves.
If it's easier to boot the ball towards a team-mate rather than bend over to pick it up, you can boot it straight into his hands. See the ball flying the wrong way? Punch it back where it came from. There's no penalty for holding onto the ball too long either - players can perform tricks with the ball while trying to get it in the basket. From spinning it on the end of your fingers to bouncing it through a rival's legs nutmeg-style, as long as you move the ball up the court they're all accepted as legitimate moves.
Even better, you can kick and punch other 'playaz' too! If a rival is in your way, bounce the ball off his head, throw him a sly punch with your spare hand, or use his back to angle-bounce the ball across to another team-mate. Now that's what we call urban! The game mechanics are alright, not the best we've seen, but it's cool to be rewarded points for bouncing the ball off an opponent's head then breakdancing in the middle of the court.
Beyond the disco tricks and bad-ass attitude, AND 1 is packed with real-life streetball superstars and a treasure trove of extras and options. From 'inking' your player with personalised tats right through to full-blown court design, this game seems to be recreating an existing genre rather than attempting to create its own.
The players handle competently enough at the moment, even if they do have that slip-slidey feel that betrays the idea that they're actually supposed to be walking/running/jumping. But as we mentioned, it's those tricks that make AND 1 stand out from being just another basketball clone. Using both Thumbsticks at once to control your player's hand movements, you can pull off some neat tricks - as you sweep the Left stick, for example, he'll throw the ball down, then catch it in his right hand when you jiggle the Right stick about. This dual-stick use is unique (okay, apart from Fight Night), and adds a greater depth to AND 1 than we we ever expected. It takes some getting used to, but once you've mastered it you'll be pulling 'phat tricks' and looking 'proper fly' in no time. We'll have a full review very soon!