Do you have dreams of NBA stardom? Wish that your lifestyle was the stuff of ?gMTV Cribs?h? Wanna floss the throwbacks and jewelry like your favorite rappers? Fantasize of owning a dope pad, pimpin?f rides, and an entourage sponging off your fame and money? Well Midway has the game for you!
Mix a little NBA Jam with a healthy dose of NBA Street, throw in the spoils of the celebrity lifestyle, shake like a Polaroid picture and you have NBA Ballers- the ultimate bling-bling simulator.
Ballers is Midway?fs challenge to the current king of extreme basketball, NBA Street. Hoping to reclaim its long-lost throne from EA Sports Big – cast aside after one too many NBA Jam clones- Midway dishes up a game that mimics the new school upstarts. While a little too similar to the current street-hoops games, Ballers comes with its own tricks. Gorgeous graphics, loads of customization and a solid hoops experience bring it into the ranks. And the conquest of fame and riches is the icing on the bling cake.
The story for Ballers is a blatant rip-off of MTV?fs reality show ?gWho?fs Got Game?h mixed with the street dreams of NBA stars. Seeing the success of their NBA Ballers show- a ?gMTV Cribs?h-style show, network executives decide to launch a spin-off. Focusing on an underdog street-baller from the playgrounds, the player rises through the ranks and plays against the NBA?fs best. Said upstart battles for fame and fortune, viewers get a voyeuristic peek into the world of street hoops, and rich old white men roll around in piles of money. God bless America.
Ballers makes a great first impression in the visual department. Like their previous sports games, Midway crafts a nice-looking arcade-baller. In particular, the players set a new level of graphic realism. The texture mapping of each player?fs face is startling, looking indistinguishable from their human counterparts. You can even spot individual blemishes and frown lines. When I saw Jermaine O?fNeal?fs mug, I swore it was really him- it was that good. The body builds are a little less impressive, with blocky polygons and visual seams. Player animation is similarly realistic and varied. Using motion-captured moves from real street-ballers, everything from simple crossovers to ?gcript walk?h dances are fluid. The minuscule details in types of dribbling and jukes screams authentic. Player reactions are a little off, looking in different directions and celebrating when they shouldn?ft. But this is a small nit-pick of an otherwise fine job.
The courts look nearly as good as the players. Animated crowds and exotic-looking locales create a great-looking atmosphere. There is a lack of movement aside from the fans, and a few background elements are sparse, but they don?ft detract from the action or overall impression. There are a few funky camera angles during replays, but they?fre typical for a Midway 3D basketball game.
Midway matched the game?fs flashy visuals with a high-budget front-end. Clean menus and loading screens showcase the star-laden talent and add authenticity to a game toting its hoop heroes. The use of high-resolution pictures and videos is a nice touch for fans.
Ballers strives for the top spot in the sound department, as well. The success of the licensed music in recent ballers influenced Midway to do the same. The rap-loaded soundtrack gets points for effort, but is weighed down by a few weak tracks. Jurassic 5 and Phife Dawg are the two big names, and inevitably have the best songs. The in-game music is typical Midway, with serviceably bouncy beats. The sound effects add realism to the hoops experience. The metallic clatter of chain nets, the clank of the rims and thump of the ball on the court are spot on. Crowd noise is lively, although the cheers sometimes mix with boos. Additionally, a few remarks are cringe-inducing. Some border on red-alerts for the NAACP (?gThey ain?ft got no chicken??h).
A special mention goes to the game?fs announcers. MC Supernatural does a good job of providing play-by-play, and rarely gets in the way of the action. While a few lines do repeat, it?fs not enough to take issue. And then there is Bob Benson. Vying for the title of corniest middle-aged guy ever, MC Bob takes ?grappin?f to the kids?h to a whole new level of pandering. And pander he does. Imagine Bob Saget hosting ?gThe Source Awards?h and you?fll have a good idea. While good for a few laughs, it makes you wonder if Midway is likewise playing their audience for fools.
For the controls, Midway borrows a few notes from the street-balling handbook. The layout is a mixture of NBA Jam and more practical b-ball games. Buttons designated for tricks (act a fool) and specials are ripped from Street. Also, using your ?gjuice?h (or turbo) in combination with the face buttons pulls off distinct moves. The use of the analog sticks- particularly the right analog- for movement and crossovers owes heavily to NBA Live 2004. There are a few inventive thoughts penciled in, such as pass buttons to throw the ball to the crowd and yourself (off the backboard). The feel of the controls is slightly stiff, with some moves taking multiple stabs to accomplish. Conversely, leaps feel floaty and lack a sense of command.
Game play is where Ballers brings its a-game. Like its precursors, it is a one-on-one game of hoops. But unlike the games of old, Ballers is no one-trick pony. You can play roundball against two other players, face off against the NBA?fs greats and climb the ladder to NBA stardom. Create players that attempt to knock the league?fs stars off their pedestals. Rack up cribs, cars and women- yes, women- and show off your riches. The sheer variety in options elevates Ballers above its competition.
At its core, this is the same NBA Jam you?fve played for years. The no-rules play features the high-flying dunks, shoving, and on-fire frenzy of its forefathers. New to the bloodline are street-ball rules: playing to 11 points, best of three rounds, an assortment of trick moves, and taunts worthy of a bootleg And 1 video. While vets may not recognize NBA Jam in its new clothes, the arcade roots do shine through.
Creating a player takes on another level in Ballers. In the Custom Ballers mode, you choose your name and attitude for your player, and wade through the endless options to modify their appearance and skills. The typical facial and body tweaks are present, but the clothing options take center court. Want a baller that could fit in at a prison yard? Care for a player that looks like the posers at your high school? The options are endless. Hair (on top and on your face), shirts, pants, hats and tats are only a few of the numerous variants you can choose to change. You can save them to your personal profile. One slight negative is the rigidity of the Custom Ballers mode. Once you decide on their names and bodies, you can?ft go back to change them.
There are four different play modes at the onset of the game: Rags to Riches Versus, 1 vs. 1 vs. 1, and TV Tournament. The Rags to Riches mode is Ballers claim to fame. The offspring of network executives, a scrappy street baller takes on basketball?fs best for money and fame. Creating a player from scratch, you face off against nine levels of ladder-tournament competition. Get discovered at the hallowed Rucker Park, and you?fre on your way to challenging for the top ranks. Get up there among the elite, and you can show your bling. You can build your own crib from the ground up to make it a playable court. Unlike most sports games, you improve your player by how you play the game. To advance in shooting jump shots, making baskets increases your abilities. The same goes for other offensive and defensive abilities. The involving options and play will keep you occupied for weeks.
Versus mode is the standard one-on-one mode. Challenge the computer or friend on the star?fs courts and earn points towards tailoring your baller(s). You can change the rules to fit your playing style, such as allowing goaltending and roughhousing. 1 vs. 1 vs. 1 is an extension of versus mode, with an extra body on the court. The addition of another player creates an even more frantic element to the game play, as you have to back down two individual players to the hoop. Get one or two friends against you and let the fun begin.
TV Tournament is somewhat similar to Rags to Riches. The 19 episodes are matches against a set amount of opponents. Win the tournament and prize points, and move onto the next level of tourneys. Unlike Rags to Riches, you can use your custom baller to compete. This is a fun diversion for those wanting a break from the other options.
There are a few fouls against the game play, but nothing to send it to the line. Like the Custom Ballers mode, the personal profile setup is rigid. Only one player has access to a profile at a time, which can?ft be shared with other players. Those wanting to use your other characters are denied the chance. The juice meter is slow to recharge, and those crazy trick moves quickly deplete it.
The biggest fault lies within its best feature: the insane amount of creative options. Whether you are creating a custom baller or upgrading your stats, load times rear their slow, ugly head. This is most prevalent when you are customizing your player. The different items to choose from- clothing, hair, etc.- take seconds to load each variable into memory. When you have hundreds of potential items to sift through, the load times become unbearable. When your friends complain about them, that is a telling sign.
Ballers dishes up a nice challenge for both hardcore and casual gamers. The five levels of difficulty- ranging from ?gpretender?h to ?gNBA Baller?h- will test your skills. Squeaking by with a victory at the highest difficulty level is rare, and requires a lot of time behind the sticks. The mind-boggling depth of the play modes provides good opposition for any player. And depth there is. Midway stuffed Ballers to the gills with endless challenges and hundreds of items to collect. Earning every single player, ride and crib will take several solid weeks of play- if not more. Much of the game time will be spent in the Inside Stuff menu. From here, you can: unlock players, create players (Custom Ballers mode), acquire cribs, manage your cars, keep track of your collectibles (stills of NBA players), watch highlight reels and tinker with the Phrase-ology option. The points you earn are well spent here, acquiring new players and spoils of fast living. The Phrase-ology mode is a code bank. Inputting combinations of words can net you player gear, movies and even cribs. It never feels monotonous; the engrossing game play milks hours off of the clock.
For the discriminating game player that needs a side of bling with their b-ball, NBA Ballers is their knight in iced-out armor. Playing underdog to EA?fs Street, the originators of the arcade basketball craze turn to the streets to inspiration. Stunning visuals and engaging audio bring the game into the paint. The deep game play and limitless amount of replay and collectibles take Ballers strong to the hoop. Most importantly, the game is all-out fun in an old-school way: playing for hours on end and wanting more. While it doesn?ft unseat NBA Street on the arcade basketball throne, it is a viable alternative for those wanting a little more flash. This is another fresh update of the Jam bloodline, but stands alone on its own merits. Living the life of a baller never sounded less corny.