Not even Superman
could Save this Game
The Ballers series offers players a taste of what living the life of an NBA superstar might be like by proving their worth on the court, earning the right to play in exotic locations while receiving luxurious rewards along the rise to fame. With “Superman” Dwight Howard on the cover, NBA Ballers: Chosen One is definitely the most over-the-top installment as of yet, with a strong focus on its new trick system and unreal court locations. But in a genre where gameplay is essential, gamers may have more fun playing against friends (or enemies) than they will against the computer.
The overall goal of NBA Ballers: Chosen One is to build your character, presumably yourself, and rack up stat points through a series of games while unlocking various goodies. The story mode is pretty much as simple as this: You, by some stretch of the imagination, have been chosen to play in a tournament against top NBA ballers, and by winning you eventually become the Chosen One.
As you begin, you are required to create your player, customize your facial features, hair, clothing, and your available stat points using the fairly basic create-a-player system. The story mode is broken into six different episodes, each made up of a series of games. Each of the six episodes has its own introduction that is, for some reason, hosted by Chuck D. of Public Enemy of all people. While it’s unclear why he is even in this game or what he has to do with streetball, you begin competing in different match-ups with different rules and build your stats as you move along. What’s different about this stat point system is you cannot simply assign points to the attribute of your choice. They are auto-assigned based on how you played the game, which is a new concept that can help players learn to use all their skills to balance out the stats so you can’t simply crank up the Speed and Dunk power to run and slam it in your opponent’s face as much as you want. It is definitely something new that players will either love or hate and creates a new dynamic to bringing your created player online to face others.
While the episodes feature a few different game styles including one-on-one, American, and two-on-two full court games, the story mode definitely becomes repetitive in time. In fact, there really isn’t any kind of story to follow as you are just pinned against different ballers in different game types. Your partners and opponents seem to be chosen at random, and as you are partnered with an individual in one match, you may have a completely different partner in another match. The only real purpose of the story mode is to unlock new rewards and build up your stats if you wish to compete online with a half-decent character.
Story mode aside, multiplayer and versus is really where Chosen One is in its element. The trick move system seems as though it was designed for trash-talking and annoying your friends with all of the combos, self-alley-oops and the humiliating self-pass off your defender’s head. While moves like these were really pioneered by EA’s Street series, Ballers features its own unique Act a Fool combo system that comes down to hand-eye coordination and quickness against opponents. To pull off a combo, a face button will flash onscreen which both players can hit, no matter who has the ball. If the dribbler hits it first, he does his first trick move and the button will appear again. If he hits it before his opponent a second time, he will pull off another move and so-forth to build up a string of combos to fill his super-move meter. The amount of combos you can put together depends on your position on the court. If you are on defense and you tap the indicated button before your opponent, you can swipe the ball away and end the combo. It is a unique system that works best in two-player, as there is no excuse for being late to hit that button, giving the player with the quickest reflexes the upper-hand.
On the negative side, there seems to be too much focus on this mechanic and the constant button-prompting can become both annoying and distracting. However, it certainly gives the game its arcade-like feel as both seasoned gamers and newcomers can have a fair advantage. Unfortunately, linking online only allows you to play one-on-one matches, though you can hook four players into one console and play full court two-on-two.
Building up your super-move has different affects on an opponent and is broken into three levels, from a simple steal or dribble, to a remarkable block or shot, or a devastating game-ender. When performing a super-move, a cutscene will show your character performing a completely over-the-top maneuver. There is just something about it that seems a tad borrowed, as the super-move concepts and cutscenes are very reminiscent of an NBA Street Gamebreaker.
But one of the biggest flaws in Chosen One is its game rules. While Midway is attempting to bring a streetball element to NBA players and teams, they have made a game that is completely devoid of normal streetball rules. Players do not have to clear a ball after it hits the rim, making much of the gameplay consist of hanging around under it to catch rebounds and slam the ball back down into the net. While not having to check or clear the ball increases the game’s pace, it doesn’t allow for any strategy, and though it doesn’t affect a full court game negatively, half court simply just does not work. It would be nice if they at least offered the option to turn clearing and takeouts on or off at the player’s choice, but unfortunately you have no other option than to play this illogical rule system.
Graphically, where Midway has done a great job of capturing the players’ likeness and facial features, they have seemed to lack their concentration on texturing. Players such as Lebron and Dwayne look incredibly akin to their real-life counterparts, though their clothing looks almost solid and not at all mesh-like. Fluidity of motion is another problem with this game. Animations of trick moves look stiff, even with the most nimble players such as Iverson, and little things such as players floating through the backboard – and sometimes even each other – are never a good thing from a visual standpoint.
On the plus side, there is a lot of detail in the courts where bright-lit hardwood shows the reflection of the players and interesting locations make for beautiful atmosphere. One cool aspect is the players’ intros, which is where the “baller” status comes into play. Dwayne Wade pulls up to the court in his whip and Kobe cruises up in a yacht during story mode. Only some players feature an intro sequence, though it definitely is an original concept with a basketball game that focuses on the high life of being the best in the business.
NBA Ballers: Chosen One is definitely a game that focuses on its themes rather than gameplay or functionality. The theme is definitely the building of your “baller” status, though the process of doing so is sometimes nonsensical given the rule system and gameplay mechanics. Still, playing among friends or online can prove for fun times as you get a taste of the baller life – even if it is from you’re living room.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 3.2 Graphics
Excellent likeness of most of the players and atmospheric court locations. Animations seem robotic at times and textures need work. 2.9 Control
Button-prompting becomes annoying and repetitive for veterans, though it gives the game an arcade feel beneficial to newcomers. 3.5 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Excellent instrumentals by Just Blaze for the soundtrack. Not too sure why Chuck D. is even in this game. 3.2 Play Value
Solo, this game becomes predictable and repetitive, though there is a lot of boasting and smack-talking to be had against friends. 3.2 Overall Rating – Fair
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.