Bling Bling

Its all about the bling in NBA Ballers, as the games main mode 'Rags to Riches' sees you create and then play the career of a new 'baller' from off of the streets.

The mode is introduced in a direct to the point way in which a cutscene depicting two television network executives trying to think of a way to boost ratings, they decide to go with, as they put it "The American dream - reality TV" and set about making a reality show following a new baller as he rises from the streets to fame, fortune and all that comes with.

After creating your baller, you set about a series on one-on-one matches in various pay-per-view events to see who is the hoop-daddy against a slew of AI opponents, and the character creation is actually pretty in-depth, you have great control over you ballers appearance down to how big and what size their nose is. I managed to create a big tall broad guy - body like the proverbial brick-outhouse but with a tiny head on his broad, heavy duty shoulders which I suspect may have detracted from the seriousness of the game for me as I actually found myself laughing at the television whenever my character appeared on court. You can also allocate your initial stat points during the character creation process and the game is quite generous with the stat points too, you can pump up to maximum of 35 points into various areas such as shooting, speed and many others but you are given a decent enough number of free stat points to allocate so that you do not feel as though you have has to sacrifice something important to make a well rounded character.

The matches themselves are rather straightforward, you have to reach a set number of points before your opponent does, rather than being team based this is all handled one-on-one, with both of you shooting for the same hoop, the skill lies in trying to outwit your opponent and slip past them to score, and in keeping them from doing the same to you.

You have a variety of moves to assist you in this endevour plus some secret ones to discover too, you have three 'juice' buttons amongst the shoulder buttons which when combined with the symbol buttons on the PS2 pad will allow you to perform some nice tricks, juice+square for example will bash the ball rather embarrassingly against your opponents face, you can also 'juice+right-analog-stick' to slip by your opponent in a rather slick move and then try to go on to score.

The controls can seem a little confusing at first but it is a rewarding game to master, as with most move-based-matches games there does come a certain satisfaction with pulling off some of the more impressive feats in your repertoire. The game will see to it that some of your shooting moves will miss to add to the difficulty but sometimes it's a little silly, its perfectly understandable that not every long ranged shot is going to result in points for you but sometimes your guy will miss from practically point-blank range having jumped to place the ball in the hoop to begin with.

As the name 'Rags to Riches' implies, you do get some bling as you go along your little ratings-boosting exercise, new clothes, new rides and even your own crib as the game goes by, in the ultimate over the top money and power display in the game you can even buy some friends, yes that right you can buy some friends who do actually serve a purpose, albeit a very limited purpose which can do more harm to your game than good, they will stand at the side of the court and you can pass them the ball so they can throw it back to you when you have moved into a better position.

The presentation of the game is undeniably slick with a nice front end consisting of animated menus that are nice to look at and quite easy on the eyes. The ingame visuals are up to scratch too, nice looking courts and court surroundings populated with well made character models that look the part too.

Aside from your Rags to Riches mode you have all the usual modes for a sport sim, versus modes, practice modes etc but buried amongst all the standard gameplay modes comes a rather interesting 1-on-1-on1 mode which sees three ballers compete for hoop-based supremacy.

You can also take the game online and play your way through tournaments over the web, there is also an online ranking system at work and all the usuals such as chat etc

If you happen to be a fan of this type of basketball or you liked NBA Street then you may well be impressed with NBA Ballers, the game will probably be lost on non-fans of Basketball though who will probably find no reason to carry on playing once they have mastered the moves, definitely a rent before you buy game I would say

I Give NBA Ballers a 7 out of 10, but if you're not a fan of basketball it will be more like a 5