NBA Ballers

July 14, 2005

[floatleft][/floatleft]Not too long ago, I revealed the awkward love affair that I have with basketball. I also made mention of a journey in which I was to find the perfect basketball game. The first stop in my journey was with [i]NBA Ballers[/i], a game that glorifies the ghetto side of basketball and presents a unique one-on-one streetball experience.

One of the first things you will notice about [i]Ballers[/i] is the immaculate work Midway has done with the graphics in this game. The player models are outstanding, and they do a decent job of creating interesting venues for your games to take place. The venues include the homes of a few of the game’s players such as KG and Jason Kidd. The modeling is only surpassed by the even better game animations as players perform insane dunks and wacky Globetrotter-style dribbling maneuvers. Special effects even come into play during certain animations that bring back some [i]NBA Jam[/i] nostalgia.

Midway didn’t stop there, as they laid out a nice hip-hop soundtrack to accompany the sleek visuals. In addition to the tunes, you will hear spot-on sound effects for everything from dribbling to crowd chatter to camera shutters. Midway spared no expense in creating a true-to-life audio environment.

[floatright][/floatright][i]Ballers[/i] is a one-on-one game with best-of-three matches against each opponent. The winner of each match is the first to 11 and you must win by two points, or whoever is on top when the time runs out. Points are scored according to standard rules with two and three pointers. Goaltending is very rarely called, but it can be a momentum shifter, so be careful. Fouls are called, but there is no penalty until the fifth foul regardless of when the foul was called. On the fifth foul, your opponent gets to shoot a free throw worth three points AND they retain possession of the ball. In a game to 11, this can be deadly, so watch those fouls. In addition to standard first-to-11 games, you will run across the occasional game that has special rules and twists. These special matches add a layer of variety to the stream of matches you will play throughout the game.

The player you choose to use will greatly determine the set of moves you have at your disposal. Guards like Nash and Tony Parker will have a larger arsenal of jukes and dribbling moves, while big men like Amare Stoudemire will have deadly dunks and the ability to back you into a low post. After trying a variety of players, I can say that the big men definitely have the advantage from a strength perspective. The speed advantage of the guards isn’t enough to offset the power of a player like Amare, and using a smaller player will make it tough to gain the upper hand.

[i]Ballers[/i] comes equipped with a nice set of easily used moves that you can chain together to smoke your opponent. Offensive jukes are done with the right thumbstick and can be enhanced with the “juice” button, which is basically the turbo button from [i]NBA Jam[/i]. The ultimate juke moves are called “act a fool” moves and are true streetball moves that range from passing the ball off your opponents’ back to dribbling between their legs. This set of moves is the most humiliating but is also easily interrupted if your opponent anticipates it. Be careful not to become predictable.

[floatleft][/floatleft][i]Ballers[/i] has two different game modes for your enjoyment. Rags to Riches lets you create a custom player that is an unknown streetballer and take him to the top of the circuit through various tournaments against some of the NBA’s top players. TV Tournament has you playing as a NBA player against other NBA stars in themed tournaments. You can also play standard one-on-one games in exhibition style.

My only complaint about [i]Ballers[/i] is that there is a hint of the old AI advantage that would rear its ugly head in [i]NBA Jam[/i] back in the day. Thwarting this AI hot streak is usually as simple as trying to keep your house meter full. You accomplish this by stringing together jukes and moves and finishing in a dunk or a made shot. There is a slight learning curve to the game, but anyone familiar with basketball games should be just fine.

In the end, [i]Ballers[/i] is a really solid game that has a ton of unlockables to keep you busy. The sound and graphics deliver a rock-solid environment that really lets you showcase your skills. The different game modes provide enough variety to keep you playing for a while. [i]NBA Ballers[/i] gets a thumbs up from me. I just hope I didn’t start with the best game out there or I am going to be sorely disappointed from here on out.

Score: 5/5

Questions? Check out our review guide.