Those who enjoy the low-post game can use the post-play battle feature to get more physical. You can initiate this challenge by approaching your opponent and then pressing a button. Once locked up, you simply pound on a button to try to gain an advantage in position. Defensively, you'll attempt to push your man away from the basket, while on offense, you'll try to back your man down into the paint. Win decisively, and your opponent will be stunned momentarily and, thus, pushed far out of position. Defense is a challenge in Ballers, because the game seems fairly slanted to the offensive player (as in real-life streetball), but once you get the hang of it, you can use your quick- and power-steal buttons to great effect. The timing of blocked shots seems spot-on as well, although rebounding is pretty quirky at times.
Low-post battles are modeled, albeit in a shallow manner.
Much of the strategy in Ballers involves chaining together your various moves and finishing them off with a made basket or dunk. Performing chains increases your score and ups your "house" meter, while it also reduces any "house" that your opponent has accumulated. If you can manage to fill your house meter, the crowd starts chanting "Juice house!", which is your cue to do the juice-house oop, a powerful dunk that will both automatically win the match for you and break the backboard. We also noticed that player luck seems to be tied to your house level. While Ballers features noticeably annoying computer-assist AI at times (which means that you'll miss dunks more often or give up the ball more easily when the computer is behind), this effect appears to be lessened if you can maintain a decent house level.
Ballers has two primary game modes--rags to riches and TV tournament. The former is a story-based mode where you assume the role of an unknown streetball player who stars in a reality TV show. You start by creating a player using Ballers' robust character-creation engine, which allows you to tweak everything, like your facial structure, your clothes, shoes, accessories, and abilities. You'll start off with just a few options in clothes, but as you play through the rags to riches mode, you'll earn points that you can use to buy NBA gear, tattoos, and other accessories to customize your player. Your created player is also supposed to improve in skill depending on how you play him. Play above the rim, and score most of your points by dunks--and subsequently watch your dunk stat improve. Fire up lots of "treys," and your three-point shooting skill will rise. This feature seems to work as advertised, for the most part, but there are some quirks about it. One of our created guards, for example, always seemed to gain a lot in free throws and low-post offense, even though he never shot a free throw or backed anyone down into the block.
Rags to riches is set up as a series of tiered tournaments against NBA stars. As you complete each tier, you'll unlock bonus tournaments against NBA legends, as well as in-engine cutscenes that advance the game's story. Your character will also unlock material riches, such as individual pieces to a luxurious crib, cars (some fictional and a couple of real-life Cadillac models, including the Escalade), friends, and clothes. At the end of it all, your crib will be complete and playable in the other game modes. It would have been nice to have seen Xbox Live support here, but, unfortunately, only the PS2 version of the game features online play.
TV tournament is set up in a similar manner, but you can choose to play as an NBA player against other NBA players in themed tournaments, which earns you points that you can use to unlock certain players. For example, one tournament features former number-one picks, so you'll face off against the likes of Lebron James, Chris Webber, and Kenyon Martin. Another tournament will have you facing off against Laker legends, like Magic Johnson and James Worthy. The points you earn in TV tournament can be used to unlock players, alternate clothing, and player cribs; these points are separate from the ones you get in rags to riches. Aside from these mentioned modes, you can play a regular one-on-one match or the three player one-on-one-on-one mode by using any number of computer players to fill in. You can easily set special rules for these matches, like no ball clearing, no fouls, and legal goaltending, for instance.
Cutscenes that advance the story mode are unlocked after each tier in rags to riches.
Our main beef with NBA Ballers is that most of the game's 84 players (60 current and 24 legend) start off locked--as do most of the game's cribs. Depending on what player you're looking for, you're liable to be working pretty hard to earn him. It could easily take dozens of hours to unlock everything in the game, so if you lack patience, just be warned that it could take a while to get Kobe and Shaq or Vince Carter's downtown penthouse. The game does include a mysterious "phrase-ology" feature for entering codes, so it's possible that easier ways to unlock your favorite players will surface over time. Of course, the quantity of locked items does have the side benefit of giving you plenty of things to work toward, so it's a minor issue. We also wished the game was a little more transparent about telling you what moves are available to you and how to pull them off. At first, it seems like the types of dribble moves you do and the dunks you pull off are chosen at random, but over time, you begin to learn the nuances of each NBA player, and you learn how to perform each specific move. Rounding out the flaws are the annoying load times on seemingly every menu option. Just changing between the player lists, game modes, and clothing options in the menus results in a brief but annoying load screen overlay that discourages you from browsing just for the sake of it.
Overall, NBA Ballers offers a great gameplay experience for fans of the NBA and of streetball culture. Midway has done a great job at combining a fun style with a solid underlying gameplay design to create a unique basketball game experience. If you've ever watched and enjoyed the Rucker Park tournaments or the And1 Mix Tape Tour on television, you owe it to yourself to check out NBA Ballers. Fans of arcade-style basketball and people who live for unlockable challenges will find no shortage of stuff to discover in NBA Ballers.
- Similar model: $
- Set Price Alert