Around this time of year, gamers who love basketball are getting their fix from the latest NBA 2K
or NBA Live
entries. Both series offer authentic simulation experiences with slick controls and impressive graphics. Hoping neither hardcore sim catches your eye, Developer JoyCity released their multiplayer-only title, 3on3 FreeStyle
, offering a new playground for all to ball. While it does stand out from other titles in the genre, it does so for the wrong reasons leading would-be players to be better served elsewhere.3on3 FreeStyle
is a free to play basketball game that attempts to find a balance between simulation and arcade. Games are played via half-court and operate with familiar streetball rules. For example, when your team gains possession, you must first clear the ball behind the three-point line. It begins to teeter into arcade territory when examining other aspects of the title. The idea that all six players can play as the same character simultaneously and score from nearly anywhere is a perfect example of its arcade roots.
The title’s main focus is grinding to unlock every character and increase their skill level. To do this, you’ll have to play games to unlock in-game currency simply known as coins. Completing each game will reward players anywhere from 100 to 200 (or so) coins, which is almost nothing in the game’s economy. With character recruitment fees priced at 20,000 coins, it’s fair to say that the game involves a grind much too annoying for most players. The only alternative is to purchase points via microtransactions to speed up the process. These microtransactions don’t truly allow for a “fair playground” which leaves a sour taste for those who choose to earn each victory via the more economical route.
In terms of playable characters, 3on3 Freestyle
offers a handful of interesting ballers to choose from. When you first dive into a game, you’re introduced to Joey who comes across as a “ball is life” sort of character. As you begin to unlock in-game currency and purchase others you’ll notice other characters each have their own cliché backstories. For example, Lulu is a plus-sized southern belle that has a “love of less-than-healthy foods.” These character descriptions found in each corresponding baller profile makes each character stand out from the rest, but ultimately they’re all built on stereotypes or things we’ve seen too often before.
The game offers two playable modes, 3 vs 3 and 1 vs 1. Oddly enough, both modes are guaranteed to have six characters on the court at all times. In 3 vs 3, players team up with other gamers and face another team of three. If you’d rather have other friends join your crew, you’re given the option to invite them before searching for a pickup game. In 1 vs 1, players take control of one character as two AI join your crew and face off against another player and their AI teammates. In case you need peace and quiet, there is a practice lobby where you can get a feel for which characters you prefer based on their individual play styles.
Each character further stands out thanks to specific skill sets. The skills will vary from trick passes, fadeaway shots and different maneuvers to trip up the competition. Each skill can be upgraded and maxed out by equipping training balls to said skill which, you guessed it, are purchased via coins. Sadly, this means investing a ridiculous amount of grinding just to perfect something as simple as a layup. To put things in perspective, playing 100 games (win or lose) will net a player around 20,000 coins which still won’t front the cost of fully maxing out a skill slot, let alone a character. Players focused on upgrading are forced to either endure the tedious grind or shell out money.
Regardless of the mode, gamers can expect to run into a few issues. For example, when playing 1 vs 1, I noticed that there’s poor balancing between the AI teammates and yourself. Unfortunately, the AI doesn’t always make the right decisions and can ruin a match-up. I found the best way to win is to basically become Kobe Bryant and keep possession until you’re given the proper opportunity to score. When playing 3 vs 3 mode, you’ll notice the same ball hog mentality applied. The title doesn’t offer any option to avoid players or search for players willing to play specific positions, which taints the overall experience.
Gameplay-wise, the controls are a mess. General movements, pump fakes and other animations don’t quite feel as smooth as they should be. It can feel a bit sluggish and inaccurate when completing simple tasks such as running for a loose ball or even blocking. Additionally, there isn’t any complex crossovers or techniques used to break ankles aside from a simple dash. It’s not as fast paced or over the top like NBA JAM
so don’t expect any crazy ESPN-worthy plays. The controls are simplistic, which can make the game feel a bit bland in comparison to other titles in the genre.
Aesthetically, 3on3 FreeStyle
is pleasing to the eye. The art style is exceedingly cartoonish, making it at least look interesting, even as the gameplay isn’t often holding up on its end. The courts are filled with NPCs in the background that make them feel lively. For example, when a game goes into overtime and your team scores, they’ll make their way on court to celebrate the big victory. Different weather conditions, times of day and locations also are randomly factored in. These minor touches don’t impact gameplay but they make the atmosphere a bit more fun.
The achievement list is clear and attainable if players are willing to endure the grind. Seriously, there’s a heavy time investment that’ll require plenty of effort and patience. Unfortunately, gamers seeking an easy completion will not find it in 3on3 FreeStyle
. I found myself unlocking the first handful of achievements with ease but that’s it. Still, the list becomes a pain as you progress. With achievements focused on streaks, buzzer beaters and being the MVP multiple times, it’s fair to say that the list is overwhelming. Those who find themselves deeply invested into the title may possibly unlock the full 1,000 gamerscore organically, however, the grind isn’t worth it.
At its core, 3on3 FreeStyle
offers a basic basketball experience that can be entertaining for some gamers. It carves out its own personality with simple gameplay, cartoonish presentation and cliche-ridden characters. Whether you’re stuck with AI or others, players will constantly find themselves working towards various goals. Unfortunately, gamers are rewarded scraps for their time and effort which results in either a heavy grind, or the use of microtransactions to speed up the process. 3on3 FreeStyle
won’t replace other titles and shouldn’t occupy any space on any gamers hard drive.
- Aesthetically appealing cartoon style
- Can be fun to play with friends
- Controls are a mess
- Lack of game modes
- Insane grind for coins
The reviewer spent 4 hours scoring buckets and breaking ankles against countless opponents across both modes. 11 achievements were unlocked during the review. The title was reviewed on an Xbox One X and the download code was provided by the publisher for the purpose of review.
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