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NBA Ballers: Chosen One Hands-On

We take on Kobe, LeBron, KG, Ray Allen, and even Magic with our first hands-on experience with NBA Ballers: Chosen One.


Although NBA Ballers: Chosen One was announced in November of last year, there wasn't much known about the latest installment in Midway's popular arcade-style basketball game--until now. We were recently able to spend some time with the PlayStation 3 version of the game, and we came away with a wealth of information on the series' move to current-generation consoles, the story mode, and the new gameplay elements.

You don't want to be on the wrong end of a super move.
You don't want to be on the wrong end of a super move.

Chosen One offers a variety of play modes. There's a single-player story mode, head-to-head online play, and minigames, and you can play quick games of 1v1, 2v2, and 1v1v1 with custom rules. The two minigames are shootout, where you try to make shots from small, roving circles that assume different point values as they move around the court, and three-point shootout, which is just what you'd expect but with more-dynamic camera angles to make things interesting.

Like previous games, NBA Ballers: Chosen One focuses heavily on its story mode, which is centered on your created baller's attempt to defeat a host of other NBA players and become the "Chosen One." The story is told via SportsCenter-like video segments hosted by none other than Chuck D of Public Enemy fame. Chuck details your progress, interviews real players, and sets up each of the game's six episodes, each consisting of five chapters. Not only do the episodes take place in locations around the world, but they also feature a number of different challenges. For example, at one point you'll find yourself filming a commercial with LeBron James. Rather than standing around looking pretty, you'll actually have to perform moves as the commercial's director calls them out. Once you're done shooting, you'll get to view the finished product.

Each of Chosen One's six locations is headed up by a superstar player who acts as the area's boss. As if having to take on the likes of Gilbert Arenas, Kobe Bryant, and LeBron James isn't intimidating enough, each boss baller has a unique entrance designed to show you just how big a star you're up against. Gilbert arrives to the court in a limo, flanked by an entourage of players, women, and paparazzi; Kobe shows up to the oceanside court in a yacht that would make Donald Trump jealous; and LeBron really does it in style, landing about 50 yards from the court in his own private jet. As long as you've got some skills, you won't have to envy the stars' lifestyle for long; once you beat them you'll unlock pieces of your own over-the-top intro, which you can then put together for your own custom entrance.

Customization plays a large role in Chose One. Not only will you be able to choose how and with whom you arrive to the court, but you'll have a tremendous number of options as to how your player--known as "The Phenom"--looks. You can alter nearly every aspect of your player's physical appearance, and you can also choose from a wide variety of hats, shirts, pants, shoes, tattoos, knee and elbow pads, glasses, wristwear, necklaces, and more. Customization options aren't limited to your looks, either. When you beat certain star players, you'll unlock their special moves, which can then be swapped in and out of your player's move list as you see fit.

The action on the court has just as much variety as the off-court portion. And although each player has a large number of moves available, we were able to pick up the controls easily. Using the right analog stick to perform dribbling moves worked well, and the moves themselves looked fantastic. It'll take more than a few fancy crossovers to become the "Chosen One," though. That's where the game's combo system comes in. By stringing together moves, you'll earn a bonus point (or two) when you make a shot at the end of a combo, and you'll fill your player's super meter as well. The meter is divided into three levels, and the more levels you fill, the more outrageous a move you'll perform. In just a few quick games we saw a player breakdance to knock his opponent off his feet. Another pulled off ball tricks that would make the Globetrotters envious. And yet another simply abused his defender and nailed an impossible shot.

It stands to reason that at some point you'll be on the wrong end of a combo or super move, but don't worry--most, if not all, of them can be countered. Performing a basic counter is as easy as recognizing what move is coming and pressing the corresponding button as fast as possible beforehand. Countering combos is a little more complicated, but it's not necessarily difficult. As the ball handler performs his moves, he must watch for button icons to appear onscreen and then press the indicated buttons as fast as he can. You must watch for these icons, too, because if you're able to press the button before your opponent, you'll end up with a steal.

Dunks like this will send your opponent running for cover.
Dunks like this will send your opponent running for cover.

We've covered the story mode, customization options, combos, counters, super moves, and player intros, and yet there's still so much we haven't mentioned: The game features dynamic music that changes depending on which player is winning; each player has a sweet spot on the court; player models have been totally redone to take advantage of the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360; and there are 80 players, 15 of which are all-time greats such as Magic Johnson, Clyde Drexler, and Larry Bird. No doubt there's a lot to NBA Ballers: Chosen One. The game isn't due in stores until April 21, so check back before then for the very latest.

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