When I first heard of 3on3 Freestyle my mind was immediately taken back to the late 90s and mid 2000s. These were the days that arcade and over-the-top sports games rained supreme. NFL Street, NBA Jam, NBA Street, NHL Rock the Rink, NFL Blitz, amidst others. I love those types of games where the sports genre is turned on its head and there’s crazy things like powerups, backflips, wall running, etc. So with bated breath I searched for all the information I could about Joycity’s latest project.
The first scoop was a rumor that the title would release in May 2016. That turned out to just be a rumor according to Joycity’s Twitter account. In the rumor’s place they announced that a beta for 3on3 Freestyle would release in the summer of this year. Summer came and went without a peep and I even tried contacting the developers for an update. I never got a response but a few weeks after, it was revealed that the beta would finally be available on September 26th.
You best believe I rushed to download it, with the dedication of someone who habitually jumped on a wall to pass a football while making the wide receiver also jump on the “wall,” make the catch, and then dive into the end zone from said “wall.” Also, it was done a lot on top of a sky scraper’s roof with only a thin, metal fence around the edges acting as a wall. Trust me an eighty story drop isn’t as scary as you think. What was I talking about again? Ok, no more distractions.
So I booted 3on3 Freestyle up, took a quick gander at the controls, and plunged right in to the 3v3 multiplayer. My first impressions were something along the lines of, “Why am I moving as fast as a senior citizen with a leg injury in 100x gravity?!” Honestly, it really isn’t that far from the truth. I’ve never played any variation of a sports game where the characters move this slow. Even their walking and running animations don’t match up with the steps they actually take. Plus, the sprint/dash ability only gives you a miniscule boost that lasts a literal second. Some have said it needs to be like this because the title is primarily set in half-court but I don’t believe that.
It was obvious I needed to adapt and get over my dashed hopes for what I thought this game would remotely be. 3on3 Freestyle seems to try to be both an arcade and simulation game. However, it doesn’t really succeed at either. There’s nothing that stands out that would make this a bona-fide arcade, basketball title. I suppose the apparel some of the characters wear would be absolutely absurd to play a game of hoops in, but I digress. Plus, too many passes or shots go through character’s arms or hands to make this a successful simulation. It also doesn’t help that the stealing mechanic is completely broken.
I can definitely applaud the different characters and their positions though. Except there are only two for each in the beta. There’s no jack of all trades to be had here. Whether you choose a center or a power forward, each have their own role to play and will rarely succeed in anything else. However, this stems into another problem. Even if you choose positions that are good at shooting, such as point guard or shooting guard, you can still miss a three-point shot with no explanation as to why. You can hit the shot meter perfectly, be completely open, and have your feet set. Still it’s too likely you’ll miss the basket. Same can be said with dunking. In addition, once your chosen player gets too tired you’ll have to switch them out with another. (If you want to do well anyway.) You are able to do this mid-game and the progress bar doesn’t last very long for this to take effect.
Luckily, the experience does slightly liven up when you play with friends. I found myself slightly enjoying it and laughing when ridiculous things happened. My favorite is when farm girl Lulu posterizes people while wearing high heels. My least favorite thing is when the game slows to a halt and everything runs in slow motion for an extended period of time. It was also when playing with friends that I discovered that each character could be customized with certain moves. Of course you aren’t able to do this in the beta but when the full game comes out, you’ll be able to mix and match appropriate basketball abilities to all players. I’ll admit it’s a nice touch along with actually being able to level up the characters themselves.
In the end I know it’s a beta and there’s still work to do. However, as it stands now I’m simply on the fence. Maybe I’ll get it if Joycity sticks to the original announcement of free-to-play. Heck, maybe I’ll even purchase it if the price is right. At this stage it’s all about what improvements will be made to the gameplay itself and the server problems. For those seeking a basketball experience that isn’t from 2K, 3on3 Freestyle definitely check marks the basketball box. Beyond that it is really up to you. Do you like a slowed down version of the sport or the fact that each position has a set role? Head on over to 3on3.fsgames.com yourself and sign up for a chance to receive a beta code. You still have plenty of time as the beta lasts until October 17th.