Midway’s bi-yearly attempt at an arcade basketball game, NBA Ballers: Chosen One, is one of those games that looks like it could be fun at first glance, but due to an overall clumsy control scheme and repetitive game play, just falls flat. With EA putting out a good street ball game last year, with NBA Street: Homecourt, Midway had a lot to live to up to. However, due to mediocre visuals, repetitive game play and ridiculously overpowered special moves, live up to it they did not.
The best way to describe the visuals in NBA Ballers: Chosen One is bland, due to a distinct lack of flair. That’s not to say the graphics in the game are bad, because there are much worse looking games out there, but over a year later, Ballers still does not look as good as NBA Street. Ballers features a number of stages to play, but they all look pretty generic. On the upside, Midway got a fairly impressive lineup of NBA greats, both present and past. The likenesses to the players are pretty good, in both their look and their actions.
For single player exhibitions NBA Ballers features only 6 different game modes, none of which are overly exciting. Players can play a simple 1v1, a 1v1v1 or a 2v2, or you can choose to do a 3 point challenge, shootout or practice. Playing these modes outside of the story is fun for a couple of games, but due to the games bad A.I, it gets old fast.
Story mode is the one part of NBA Ballers that is passable. Story mode starts out with you creating your baller using the games somewhat robust create-a-baller mode. There are 15 base looks for your baller, but almost every aspect of their face and body are able to modified, from the size of your characters forehead to his chin. You are given a limited number of attribute points to start with, and your character’s skills will progress based on the way you play the game. For example, if you block a lot of shots, your block skill will increase. Created ballers will look pretty generic when you first start the story, but as you progress through you will unlock a ton of outfits for customization.
The premise behind story mode is simple, and relatively generic. Every year top players from the NBA take part in a street basketball tournament, with the winner being crowned the “Chosen One.” Story mode features a total of six episodes, each of which contains 5 chapters. After playing through the first one, you realize that they are all almost exactly the same. There are slight modifiers in each game, but overall, you are going to play a bunch of the same game modes with slight tweaks. Each episode starts out with a video clip of Public Enemy’s Chuck D explaining to you what’s coming next, and while his intros aren’t terrible, they are not great, and I found myself skipping them most of the time.
NBA Ballers does feature many of the things you would expect from an arcade basketball game; such as over the top jukes, crazy dunks and violent fouls. However, it also features a few things you might not expect, and most likely do not want, like those fouls being penalized and goaltending being called. The penalty for committing more than the allotted 5 fouls is steep, giving the other team a foul shot worth 3 points, and possession of the ball. While these inconsistent rules don’t ruin the experience, there are a number of other factors that do, such as the insanely overpowered Act-a-Fool moves, which are almost impossible to defend.
The overly complicated controls don’t help either. In an arcade basketball game one would expect simple, intuitive controls, and by Midway’s theory on game design, one would be wrong. Once you perform enough combos to fill your meter you can choose to perform a number of moves such as super steals, jukes and the ultimate finisher, the super dunk. When you successfully pull off one of these moves the 15 second cut scene that follows is boring and repetitive.
Overall, NBA Ballers:Chosen One was a game with some great ideas, and a lot of potential, but somewhere these ideas got jumbled up and the game fell flat on its face. Midway tried to bring some originality into a tired, stale genre, and they most definitely did not succeed. It would be hard for me recommend NBA Ballers: Chosen One to the even the most hardcore basketball fan.