And 1 Streetball dribbles all over itself. by Patrick Evans
June 27, 2006 – The AND 1 Mix-Tape Tour has captured the imaginations of millions of basketball fans for years by providing high-flying dunks, impressive no-look passing, and the prettiest dribbling moves ever dedicated to film. In trying to capture this flashy presentation and transform it into a game, developer Black Ops stumbles from step one, developing a game that doesn’t impress anyone, but instead looks as lost and confused as the defenders searching for the ball that just hit them in the face.
While it provides online gameplay for multiplayer, most of the emphasis is in its Mix-Tape mode. Like the name implies, players will take their customized balers on the court across the country to compete for a position on the AND 1 team and a big-money contract. Building your player is simple enough, altering all the various features you would expect like height, weight, skin color, and starting clothes. There are typical statistics as well, such as shooting range, dunking ability, speed, stamina, handles, and others. After building your player, you jump right into a pickup game against your friend in which you have to beat him while accomplishing a specific goal.
It is during this first game that you will notice that your player sucks. Terribly. You are given 500 dollars to spend on your initial attributes, but it simply isn’t enough. Trying to make a shot beyond ten feet without a shot range stat above 60 percent is a headache. So, unless you spend every single dollar on shot range, you will not hit a straight up jumper. Looking at your player at the beginning, he would have absolutely zero chance at even keeping up at the local gym, let alone be on a team to compete against the AND 1 squad.
The lapse in logic doesn’t end here, however. From the first game on tour, where you are part of the local team, goals are put before you that are overly difficult to achieve. In the open runs, you aren’t forced to win in order to move on, but in the games against AND 1, which is essentially a team of three no-names and two prospects against the established AND 1 squad, you are forced to win. If I remember correctly, and I might be mistaken since I haven’t seen the tour since The Professor won, but the local team hardly ever won. I was almost sure that these games were set up this way, so that the AND 1 guys can show off and still win. And in any event, the two prospects were hardly punished for losing as they continued on with little more than a “You better bring it every night” from the guys on the bus. In this game, if you lose with your pathetically underpowered player against a stacked team of professionals, you are dismissed and forced to retry the game. This does nothing but lead to unnecessary frustration, especially when you played a decent game and were pummeled in the final three minutes.
Even without the computer’s tendency to whoop you in the last minutes, the controls and gameplay in AND 1 are beyond broken. The idea that you can “break a player’s ankles” on a whim is laughable, but alas its here and is an integral aspect of the game. To break an ankle, you must perform a series of dribbling tricks in succession, from a simple flick of the right analog stick, to a combination of the two analogs together in different directions for a level two move, and finally, when the “Anklebreaker” bar is full, holding L1 and moving both sticks to perform a maneuver so devastating that your opponent falls down in a random direction and is lost for the immediate couple seconds. While this mechanic works reasonably well in-game by itself, it means that there is no defense in these games, ever. Stealing the ball is sheer luck while blocks are even more difficult to achieve. Some may argue that this is simply recreating the AND 1 experience, but it certainly leaves you for a loss when your opponent scores three in a row and your team of misfits can’t buy a bucket.
The laundry list of poor mechanics doesn’t end there unfortunately. Since the title didn’t get much of anything right elsewhere, one could hope that the game looks good. At first glance, the dribbling animations and dunk replays look fine, offering some sweet street ball moments amongst the dread. But when looking at the entire package closely, ugly character modeling and poor collision detection mar the overall product. For instance, when you do a “Breakdown,” AND 1’s version of the NBA Street Gamebreaker, the game zooms into a set animation that ends in a slam or a sweet jumper. The problem is that these animations show just how poor the game animates the defenders in relation to the offense and other discrepancies in the graphics. The overall package, especially the cut scenes between games, just looks dreadful.
With everything that is wrong with this title, it’s simply rubbing salt in the wound by plastering in-game advertising everywhere. In fact, I can’t remember a more blatant example of in-game advertising ever; the tutorial is sponsored by Dodge and the replays are sponsored by Tylenol. I understand that in-game ads generate revenue to cover the rising production costs of many of these games, but when the gameplay in a title is this questionable it’s hard to get behind plastering ads anywhere you can.
While the obnoxious ads shouldn’t be taken into account when critiquing a title, its poor execution of nearly every aspect of gameplay warrants plenty of scolding. Placing players in a position early for failure, then failing to reward them with engaging gameplay or satisfactory basketball action is simply unacceptable.
- Experience Real Streetball- Step into the shoes of the AND 1 players to execute mesmerizing moves like Hot Sauce’s killer crossover, Helicopter’s rim-bending dunks, and The Professor’s no-look passes.
- A Basketball Game Revolution- Build your own character and create your own signature moves using AND 1’s revolutionary Create-a-Move editor, loaded with custom showboating, scoring, and celebration moves.
- Can You Handle It?- School the competition with I-Ball controls, an intuitive control system that gives you fluid and precise command over every offensive and defensive move. Not only will you do it, you will also feel it.
- Become the Next AND 1 Phenom- Story mode allows you to experience the trials and exhilarations of getting signed to the AND 1 Mix Tape Team, as seen on ESPN. Dominate the open run, survive the hazing, and bring it home in the final game, as seen on ESPN.
- Run It How You Want It- Play the game you want to play. Scale your teams anywhere between one-on-one to five-on-five. Run a full-court game, or do a half-court battle – the choice is yours.
- Heavy Rotation – Station Identification- Just like the AND 1 Mix Tapes, the music soundtrack features a loaded library of unreleased songs. The eclectic mix of exclusive hip-hop tracks represents various styles including West Coast, East Coast, and the Dirty South Crunk! Each court has its own sound and flavor.
- Online Multiplayer- Put your skills to the test against other top players as you showcase your own creative moves and strive to gain a reputation as the best.
By Patrick Evans
CCC Staff Writer