NBA Ballers Updated Preview

Our latest look at Midway's upcoming arcade basketball title gives you a look at even more of the game's many features.

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Since our last preview of NBA Ballers, we've spent some more time getting to know Midway's unique upcoming addition to the arcade basketball genre. Specifically, we've spent more time examining the particulars of the game's basketball mechanics, scoping out the list of unlockables, and getting our online competition on via the PS2 version's online mode.

Jukes and
Jukes and "playground" moves manage to both look impressive and leave your opponent flat on the ground with nothing but a pair of sore ankles.

If you've played any of Midway's previous NBA titles, such as the early NBA Jam games or any from the Showtime franchise, you should feel pretty well at home playing Ballers. The game uses several elements from both of these games, as well as a few new features to boot. When in control of the ball, your baller can perform a number of unique jukes and "playground" moves to skirt a would-be defender. These moves are performed on the PS2 by pressing the square or right analog stick in conjunction with one of several "juice" buttons. Juice is measured by a meter that sits right above your crowd response meter on the heads-up display, and as you press the various juice buttons, the meter will drain. Additionally, when pressed while the meter is full, you can also perform some special, slow motion-style maneuvers that are pretty impressive to watch. Juice also comes into play when you're on defense because you're able to straight up grab an opponent and fling him to the side, often leading to a dropped ball that you can dive for. Of course, doing so will cost you a foul, and if you get five fouls, your opponent gets the opportunity to shoot a free throw. If he sinks it, he'll gain three points and will retain possession of the ball.

Since Ballers is essentially a one-on-one game of basketball, you might assume that flashy maneuvers like alley-oops would be out of the question. Well, you'd be wrong. One especially intriguing mechanic in Ballers is the game's alley-oop system, which gives you a couple of different options for performing the move. One way is to simply bounce the ball off of the ground or backboard, thus essentially passing the ball to yourself. Another way is to actually pass the ball to a member of the crowd, who, when signaled, will pass the ball back to you, thus leading to an alley-oop. The timing on an alley-oop is a little hard to get used to at first, but once you get it down, the move can be an especially effective weapon for confusing defending opponents.

In our previous coverage, we discussed the game's various modes, such as the rags to riches and TV tournament modes, both of which reward you with credits to use in the game's "inside stuff" mode. The inside stuff mode is basically your standard unlockables mode. Here, new players, cribs, cars, and other collectible items can both be unlocked and housed for your personal viewing. To give you an idea of how many things can be unlocked, 25 different players are unlockable through the mode, as well as 25 subsequent "lifestyles." More than 10 different cribs are available, which range from Kobe Bryant's vacation villa to Allen Iverson's studio, and eight different cars are available for purchase, each with four available colors. Cars include a Range Rover, an Interceptor, a Dakkar, an Escalade, and a Cadillac XLR. All told, it looks as though you'll have plenty of stuff to unlock come the game's release.

NBA Ballers features all kinds of goodies to unlock, such as new players, cribs, and even cars.
NBA Ballers features all kinds of goodies to unlock, such as new players, cribs, and even cars.

In terms of NBA Ballers' online functionality, it appears that it will retain many of the basic elements from Midway's other recent online sports offerings. Once you've signed onto the server, you'll be able to jump right into a quick match against anyone by perusing one of the in-game lobbies. Unfortunately, it appears that the only mode you'll be able to play online is the basic one-on-one matchup, since there are no options to play the frenetic one-on-one-on-one mode or to use any of the game's unique rulesets. However, you will have the option to take your customized baller from the rags to riches mode online against other players so that you can show off your hard-earned bling. The online mode also contains a tournament feature where a number of the top-ranked ballers can compete against one another in a ladder-style tournament to determine who truly is at the top of the heap.

After having spent more time with NBA Ballers, we're feeling pretty good about what we've experienced with the game. We'd still like to see some quirks--such as the somewhat loose handling of the players and the slightly cheap AI--ironed out before Ballers goes gold, but on the whole, the game is looking to offer a solid arcade basketball package with some intriguing twists on the genre. Look for NBA Ballers to come out in stores early this April, and look for our full review as the release draws near.

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