NBA Street Homecourt - hands-on

The NBA Street series has always valued fun over realism. You don't need to know how to break down a full court press defense or set up a 2-1-2 zone offense to play these games. You don't even need to know what those terms mean. So long as you can appreciate the pure beauty of a trick pass... of a physics-defying dunk... of one man bouncing a basketball off another man's face and then making the shot around his dazed and clueless head... you can appreciate NBA Street.

But even the simplest and arcadiest of sports experiences need to evolve occasionally if they hope to keep fans interested. That's why NBA Street Homecourt, the first next-gen entry in the franchise, is pulling out some fresh moves for its February 19 release on Xbox 360.

To begin with, it looks new. And, at the same time, old. The character models have never been more realistic and the court environments more authentic, but both are now drenched in a warm saturated glow that made us feel as if we were shooting hoops in a long-forgotten home movie. Classic '70s and '80s funk tunes accompanied player introductions that focused on childhood beginnings instead of current overblown celebrity. The whole atmosphere of the game was relaxed, personal and much less in-your-face obnoxious than previous installments.

Don't worry, though, because the action on the asphalt is as over-the-top and theatrical as ever.