NBA Ballers
System: X-Box
Publisher & Developer: Midway
Released: April 2004
Genre: Sports (Basketball)
Capabilities: Memory Unit

Review  Written: May 11, 2004

If there is one publisher that knows how to do Arcade-based basketball games, it is definitely Midway. They have been doing it all the way back during the 8-bit days from the old arcade hit that is Arch Rivals, to the first batch of NBA Jam titles which they later turned into NBA Hangtime after they lost the Jam license to Acclaim. They then took their game to the realm of 3D with NBA Showtime and NBA Hoopz. With their newest release dubbed, NBA Ballers, Midway takes to the realm of one-on-one gameplay with about a total of 85 current and classic NBA players to choose from and the ability to create your own baller and take him to the top of the NBA.

I had to admit I was skeptical at first, I never thought I would have as much fun with one-on-one hoops after clocking in hours on end of the three-on-three gameplay in EA’s NBA Street franchise. However, Midway knew their stuff and made this a blast to play. It took me several games to get the hang of the controls and have a good feel of the game as there are many different types of moves you can pull off. On offense, you have a ‘juice’ meter, and when it isn’t depleted you can use it to do one of an abundant amount of moves at your disposal.

Simple jukes can be done with the right analog stick, or combine them with your juice buttons to pull off flashier maneuvers. There are even some far fetched specials that can be done where your player will dance around your opponent and taunt him, however all these moves can be countered on defense. Besides trying to do your basic steals and blocks on defense you can also push and shove the opponent in hopes of him losing the ball, however this is a counted as a foul and after doing five of them your opponent will get an attempt to do a free throw worth three points. Now this sounds like a whole lot to swallow, and there are still plenty of other tricks to be discovered too. Your best bet is to monkey around in Baller’s practice mode for a while until you feel like you’re ready to hit the courts.

There are a few different ways to play NBA Ballers. For starters, there is the basic one-on-one, and one-on-one-on-one versus match-ups. Then there is the TV Tournament mode where you face a ladder of several NBA Players to win credits to purchase other players, and other unlockables in the game. The main way to play is ‘Rags to Riches’ where you customize your own Baller as he participates in the hottest show on television, which is obviously the title of the game. The goal is he starts off winning a tournament against a bunch of no-names at Rucker Park, and then he moves up the ladder as he takes to the court against the other stars of the NBA. The more you win, the more dough you earn to purchase stuff like your own crib, ride, and even a yacht!

Now since it’s only two or three players on the court at all times you can see where Midway has the advantage against its competition by adding in as much detail to the players as possible. The player models are absolutely gorgeous, the best to ever grace any basketball game. The player’s faces are mapped almost flawlessly to their real life counterparts. Each and every wrinkle on veterans like Reggie Miller and Karl Malone can be counted, and you can see the light reflect off the foreheads of rookie sensations’ Carmelo Anthony & Lebron James. Even all the tattoos are identical for all the players in the game, the insane amount of labor Midway put into its graphics gets major props from me and deserves major recognition. The animation is top notch, as all the dunks, blocks, and jukes have a realistic flow to them. The courts you play on look amazing as well, from the streets of Rucker Park to all the way of playing hoops on a specially designed court on a yacht!

NBA Ballers gets props for having a well complemented audio presentation. The soundtrack is right on the button with 20 licensed tracks from top hip hop and rap artists along with a plethora of instrumental tracks for background music during gameplay. Custom Soundtrack support would have been nice, but Midway decided they wanted to make the most out of their licensed soundtrack by making it the only one selectable. Commentary is handled by MC Supernatural and while his tone sounds like he is really into the game at all times, his lines do get repetitive right away and within a handful of games you’ll be counting the number of new lines he adds in each game on just one hand.

There is plenty to keep you coming back to play NBA Ballers. The Rags to Riches mode should take about a good 13 to 15 hours to fully complete. All your earnings can be blown on unlocking other balers to use in your roster or on other unlocks such as items to use to create your character with or for cheats like hot spots, faster juice meters, special dunks, and other maneuvers. There are also hundreds of covers from old issues of NBA Magazines that get unlocked by accomplishing one of the many different statistical achievements in the game. What else can Midway throw at us you ask, how about over 30 different movies to watch from the Cinema option that range from the many hairstyles of the NBA to a documentary on the making of the game. However, I do have to dock a bit for Midway skimping out on online Live support after gladly boasting it on the PS2 version of the game.


Graphics: 9.5
Sound: 8.0
Gameplay: 8.7
Replay Value: 9.0

Overall: 8.7

I was hesitant that Midway’s one-on-one gameplay couldn’t stack up against the established Street games. I couldn’t have been more wrong. The one-on-one gameplay is in a completely different realm and takes the arcade basketball genre to a whole new level. While the one-on-one action eventually gets a little stale towards the end, all of the insane amount of rewards will be worth all your hard work. If you’re into arcade hoop titles then go out and add NBA Ballers to your library today.

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