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February 28, 2005
NBA Ballers - Review
Release Date Distributor Developer Players Rating Difficulty
10/10/2004Red AntMidway1-3, 2 GMedium
Save Size Sound Format Vibration 60Hz Mode 50Hz Border Widescreen
100KBDolby PLIIYesYesNoneYes

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Checking out the bling.
NBA Ballers was released in the US last March and after an extremely long wait it has finally arrived on our shores. Stateside this game shot to the top of sales charts, and with very good reason this is another step in Midways long overdue quality comeback. The wait was certainly worth it with the online modes and cracking gameplay modes all arriving intact.

The main story to NBA Ballers comes in TV Tournament. Which is set up as a reality TV show staring you as you play against some of the NBAís elite new stars and some old school legends such as DR J and Larry Bird. From here you battle your way to the top by winning each tournament. Then the TV execs line you up in increasingly tougher competitions to see if you really have what it takes. Also winning some of these tournaments unlocks some of the players for you use in other modes as well. The place where I spent most of my playing time was the Rags to Riches mode however. In this mode you build your own young hoops star and aim for the top of the Street B Ball world. You must win certain types of tournaments along the way like beating the NBAís young guns, or the 1970ís Knicks etc. to make life even harder they throw in challenges like you must get five steals, or five blocks or hold your opponent below a certain score.

You will have a blast going through all these modes though, whether you are a sports fan or not. It plays much closer to EAíS NBA Street series than the simulation world of the NBA Live franchise. It really is NBA Jam brought to the next generation the right way, with crazy one on one street action. You will spend a heap of time just learning the crazy special moves. You will have a big smile on your face the first time you bounce the ball of your opponents head and then go in for the monster dunk. There are a stack of special moves for you to learn on the way, most of the special moves use a combination of the shoulder buttons along with the face buttons to create some awesome action. By pulling of these moves you build the House Meter which when filled allows you to perform a game ending super dunk, though the computer AI will do everything in its power to prevent this from happening.

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He slams it!
The game has over 60 past and present NBA players though you have to buy most of them with the points you earn in the various game modes. The action also takes place in a number of cool locations from Allen Iversonís recording studio, Scottie Pippens yacht, Tim Duncanís Virgin Island home and a number of other great locales as well. Another great feature of this game is in the Rags to Riches mode, as you work your way through the various tournaments your skills get automatically upgraded. Plus you earn cash which can be spent on a number of cool items, such as new clothing, new special moves and of course the all important bling bling. You will also gain some new rides, start to build your own crib complete with court and even win some friends. The friends can even be placed on the side of the courts and return passes to you for alley oops, it is a feature which is pretty cool and can really help you out in a tight game.

This game seriously shines though in Multiplayer. The online mode from the US version surprisingly made it down under. The online features are pretty cool with you being able to play one on one against your fellow Aussie ballers everywhere, you can even take your crib online to gain a home court advantage. If you can find someone online you should have a blast. If you canít go online donít despair this game is a ripper to play with your mate right next to you as well. The sheer style of this game is perfectly suited to two player sessions. Bouncing the ball of your mates head, then threw his legs off the backboard for a huge dunk is as good as it gets. Even if you aren't hoop fans it doesnít matter, you will still have a lot of fun and I am sure this game will get many repeat plays.

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What the...
There are a few little things that stop this from conquering the sports game world however. When you first start out in the Rags to Riches mode your player can barely hit a lay up while the computer has no problems at all. I am not saying you should start out as a superstar but it is a touch unfair. This being a straight out arcade fest brings with it another problem that has caused gamers to smash controllers in rage for many years, the good old cheap AI trick. Just as you fill your house meter to pull off a game winning super dunk, all of a sudden the computer comes up with blocked shots, steals and knocks down every three point shot they get and it gets old very quick. This problem is obviously fixed with another human as your opponent, but in single player it should have been fixed. Another problem is caused by the massive time delay to get this game here, the rosters are massively outdated which non hoops fans wont notice but for the rest of us it is annoying. These are only minor quibbles that donít ruin the experience much at all, but there is one thing that does. This game suffers from shockingly long load times; these are among the worst I have experienced on the PS2. It is not just the loading of the games themselves that is the problem, just switching from the Western character selection to the East brings with it a lengthy delay, throw in some long loads for the memory cards and you find yourself waiting for far too long.

One thing this game gets brilliantly right though is the graphics. They are absolutely superb, large chunky accurate looking players with a level of detail that is simply unmatched on the PS2. Everything from terrific player likenesses to the little things, like Allen Iversonís tattoos, Tim Duncanís little goatee beard, Steve Nashís flowing hair to Doctor Jís big afro it is all there. The various courts themselves are also well done, even the crowd a pretty lively which is rare for a sports game. All in all the graphics are as good as I have seen in a PS2 sport title yet.

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Check out the facial expression.
The sound fits this game very well, with plenty of good new hip hop to accompany the on screen action. The entire sound track is provided by unknown rappers and it gives the game a nice edge which the big names of rap sometimes canít provide. On court the crowd will make some noise the better you perform which is a nice touch. Overall if you like your sounds urban you will love it if not you may want to turn the sound off altogether.

NBA Ballers was one of my most anticipated games in a long time, and despite the few gripes I have and the long delays I still enjoyed practically every minute of it. It is one of those games that makes up for its faults with the pure fun factor. This game is flat out action that most people should really enjoy. The only other disappointing aspect I can think of is that offence in this game really dominates, and I know that is how it is meant to be in arcade sport games a few more defensive moves would have been nice. Still once you start putting a few moves together or embarrass your mate these flaws are quickly forgotten. With its great multiplayer and online features NBA Ballers comes highly recommended.

Review By: Graham Darko

Order your copy now from Amazon (NTSC version)
GRAPHICSSuperb player models and the level of detail overall is terrific.
SOUNDThe audio suits the game pretty well with some good hip hop tunes.
GAMEPLAYThis game is a lot of fun and is awesome in multiplayer.
VALUEIf you find a friend to play against it is endless, single player less so.
OVERALLNBA Ballers is a must buy for sport fans or any one looking for a good game for when a friend drops around.

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