Basketball games are divided into two sections; simulation and arcade, and there are fans for both. NBA Jam is one of the most well known basketball games because its over the top dunking mechanism and there has been various other basketball games which can firmly be called arcade games released over the years. What the developers have tried to do with Ballers is introduce a new element to the sport and that is the lifestyle off the court of an NBA player. The game is fairly decent but there is a few problems with it that keep it from being a game that lives long in the memory like NBA Jam.
While NBA Ballers contains a number of game modes, the main mode features a storyline where you build yourself from unknown player through to one of the most well known players and with everything that comes with that. The game has been built with the help of some of the biggest stars of the NBA and it really shows. Ballers is built around a reality television show where you play through a number of tournaments taking on progressively tougher opponents to win your way to the lifestyle of the stars . The storyline is fairly decent but it has one issue and that is it just doesn't appear enough to make you want to keep playing.
NBA Ballers is one on one street ball which may turn some people off straight away. It means that the key to victory is the skills of your player which build up as you win matches throughout the various tournaments you have to enter during the storyline. Although NBA Ballers is not a simulation in the vein of NBA Live and other games, don't expect to see ridiculous dunk moves or anything else you may see in an arcade game because the players come to play street ball and that means tough hits and rough play. The game is not easy to get into and this is another problem with the title.
The single player game is made up of a number of tournaments which is expected but how they are constructed is what really dampens the enthusiasm for the game. To win a tournament you have to win three matches in a row which on paper is ok but considering you have to beat each player twice before moving on it makes the tournaments extremely long and it gives the feeling the game is artificially extended. This is one reason why the storyline components do not appear enough. Also, moving away from the simulation aspect of the game you can also unlock the ability to perform normally illegal things such as unlimited goal tending. This kind of goes against the rest of the game which seems to be a simulation of the sport and lifestyle. It's not a good feature because it can't be turned off for fans of non-arcade titles.
The other side of the game is the lifestyle side and is really what the game is built around. As you progress through you begin to win money and can start to buy things such as cribs (houses) such as Bryant's holiday villa and the Basketball Hall of Fame building, cars even jet planes and various things for your player. It's an interesting side to the game and to get the best of the best you have to take on well known players from the NBA which does give the game a bit more longevity because playing well known players are far more interesting than players which are fictional for the earlier rounds. You can also unlock the ability to play with these characters in other modes via the TV Tournament game mode which basically unlocks a player once you defeat them in a one on one match.
The game features a number of actual cribs of the real players including Shaq and you once you have the cash, you can purchases these. It doesn't change much other than give the player credibility and also gives you a place to store your jet plane and hotted up cars. Once you have unlocked these you can play basketball there which offers the game some variety in terms of the courts on feature. Along with this there are also a number of items to unlock with the money you earn such as character art and other things from the development cycle. One of the better extras is a video taken from one of the players parties and it shows just what the lifestyle is that the developers have tried to replicate in this game and really shows how authentic the game is.
The graphics of the game are highly impressive especially considering its PS2 (the game is PS2 only in PAL territories). The character models are highly detailed as is the three dimensional crowd and the courts seem to be an accurate replication of the cribs that the players live in. The sound effects are fairly average with the crowd just cheering with no real comments from the players. The soundtrack is full of tunes that you will either really like or dislike.
NBA Ballers is a decent title that could be a great game for those who like the sport but not necessarily the whole team aspect which mainstream NBA titles provide. One on one basketball can be fun but can also become monotonous so its really a case of needing to like the sport because the storyline and other modes really aren't going to keep you playing the game for a great deal of time.