Archives by Day

July 2018

NBA Ballers: Chosen One

Platform(s): PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
Genre: Sports
Publisher: Midway


X360 Review - 'NBA Ballers: Chosen One'

by Jesse Littlefield on June 26, 2008 @ 2:45 a.m. PDT

The fast-paced one-on-one and two-on-two action returns as players can select from more than 65 NBA superstars to be the next "Chosen One". NBA Ballers: Chosen One's pick-up-and-play gameplay allows Ballers of all skill levels to master combos and pull off amazing super-moves as they hoop-it-up with the best players in the NBA.

Genre: Sports
Publisher: Midway
Developer: Midway
Release Date: April 21, 2008

Sports games that strive to be stylish and over-the-top have always filled an interesting gaming niche. They're never as deep as their simulation counterparts, but they emphasize and encourage such unrealistic moves that you end up having a blast watching your favorite players doing absolutely absurd things. I got my first taste of this with NFL Blitz on the N64 and absolutely loved it. Since then, these titles have largely been hit-or-miss, and NBA Ballers: Chosen One, the third entry in the NBA Ballers series, is certainly a miss. It won't impress very many gamers, and it's light years behind its NBA Street competition.

It's a shame to see that Midway has fallen so far from grace. As the creators of NBA Jam, which was the original arcade basketball game, you'd think that they would be at the top of the genre. However, Chosen One clearly shows that Midway either doesn't have the magic anymore or doesn't have the money to fund a project that can seriously compete with NBA Street.

When you first boot up the game, you'll be treated to a simple, yet elegant menu system that allows for quick access to everything that Chosen One offers. This is where you'll need to create your profile and your "Baller," who is supposed to be some sort of street ball phenom. The game has a decent character creation system, which allows you to generate a fairly unique character right off the bat. The amount of customization that you can do to your character's clothing is absolutely ridiculous; the combinations are endless, and there is a lot of clothing to unlock as you progress. Unfortunately, none of the clothing is very interesting, and it manages to fall flat almost every time. Making it even more laughable is the "baditude" approach that they decided to take. Sunglasses are called "Stunners," t-shirts are "Up High," shorts are "Down Low," etc. The clothes also fail to interact with each other at all, so you'll often see your character's clothes clipping through one another during gameplay.

Chosen One is an arcade basketball game with a story; it's not a very good one, but it's still there. The main offering is the story mode, which follows a made-up competition, the Chosen One, which takes place right after the NBA Finals. In the competition, rookies and vets face off with style, but it's just an excuse to gather NBA players on exotic courts and have them do crazy things. It's all linked together as a TV series called "NBA Ballers Chosen One" that spans six episodes, with an ESPN Sports Center-esque studio intro by Chuck D before every episode. (He even interviews Al Horford three separate times. Horford isn't a very good actor, as it turns out.) Each episode consists of five chapters where you might play one game — or five.
Sometimes, you don't even play a game and are just handed some sort of challenge. When there are multiple challenges per chapter, the game gives you three continues in case you fail, so you don't go right back to the beginning. It's fairly easy until the final two chapters or so, so you probably won't even notice the feature.

Games in Chosen One consist of one-on-one, half-court matches or two-on-two, full court matches. Things would get really boring if every single chapter consisted of just defeating an NBA player, so you'll often have to meet requirements in order to beat them in style, such as blocking four shots or holding the opposition scoreless. This would be well and good if the game didn't feel a little broken and have clunky controls. Each of the shoulder and trigger buttons seems to serve two or more purposes, depending on what you press in conjunction with it. This makes the controls needlessly complex, so it becomes difficult to pass the ball off the backboard, and a screw-up quickly results in an easily stolen ball.

Further frustrating matters are the new features that Chosen One brings to the table: Act-A-Fool combos and Shut 'Em Down super-moves. These moves are so overpowered that most players will simply abuse them non-stop instead of actually playing. If one were to ignore these two new things, he'd find a basketball game with the basics in place and functional, if a bit unpolished. However, these new moves completely overshadow the rest of the game simply because of how strong they are. Activating Act-A-Fool is easy to do and starts a little button-pressing minigame that builds up your Shut 'Em Down meter. If that's successfully completed, you get several bonus points if you score a basket shortly thereafter.

These combos are easy to pull off because the computer almost never counters, and the huge point bonus makes it worth abusing. As you perform these combos, you get access to better and better Shut 'Em Down moves, which will allow you to automatically juke someone, steal the ball, block a shot, make a shot, or if you completely build up the meter, hit a game-ending super-dunk. Every time you activate one of these moves, the game plays a small sequence on a black screen where the move occurs. There are about 35 of these moves in the game, but seeing the same 10-second sequence over and over again gets annoying in a hurry.

At least there are many different kinds of matches you can play, with a decent selection of rules to customize. One thing that really bothers me about the rules is that there are several NBA rules in place that can't be turned off; Things such as the shot clock, charging, and goaltending are fouls in the game, and you're penalized if you foul the other players enough. I can understand the shot clock, but the rest of the NBA rules have no place in an arcade basketball game and just frustrate the player more than anything else.

Chosen One is the first next-gen title in the series, although you might not think so at a casual glance. This title has some of the worst-looking environments I've seen thus far on the X360. The only environment that actually looked interesting was a neon court that was in a night club, but the other courts are utterly forgettable. The metal statues are especially laughable and seem to show up in virtually every arena, and completely generic character models with some strange glitches drag down the appearance even further. The game frequently experiences clipping issues, especially when battling for the rebound down low; invisible walls seem to form around characters and restrict their movement; and there's a bug where the ball transports about five feet in front of your character. The final nail in the coffin is the extremely distracting bug that occurred in virtually every game I played, where my created character's head would constantly change shape. Dozens of little issues like this constantly cropped up to demonstrate just how unpolished this title was.

Thankfully, the game sounds a bit better than it looks. Although the audio can be just as buggy as the graphics, the announcer Chuck D (who does a surprisingly good job with the commentary) continues to commentate the game after it's ended and the title is loading up the next menu. Sounds on the court are pretty standard fare, but unlike the graphics, nothing about it feels broken.

The game's soundtrack is an interesting choice. There are 30 songs, and all of them are made exclusively for Chosen One by Just Blaze. While the songs themselves are thoroughly mediocre and aren't something that I'd listen to outside of the game, they fit the tone of the game perfectly and serve their purpose as background noise. Occasionally, I felt the urge to plug my Zune into the 360 to play my own tunes.

The main story mode is only about five hours long, and you probably won't want to play it again, especially with the huge amounts of in-game advertising found in it. An entire episode of the main game is all about trying to become the right NBA player for the new Sprite ad, and then filming the commercial. Chuck D can't stop saying "Obey Your Thirst" during every game, every player you face during this episode is named Sprite and wears Sprite clothing, the court on which you're playing is Sprite-themed, and your reward for playing through this episode is that you get to watch the new Sprite ad. Chosen One sports one of the worst examples of in-game advertising since Yaris.

Once you beat the main story, the competition on Xbox Live might keep you playing for a little while. The Act-A-Fool combos don't work very well against real people, and unless you're hosting the games, you have no chance of pulling them off, so you actually get a real game of basketball. It's a little laggy, but finding games is fairly easy, although not very many people are playing the game.

NBA Ballers: Chosen One is a title that has solid basics in place, but it really needed a lot more time and budget to get everything just right. As it stands, the title is a buggy, unpolished mess with easy-to-use, overpowered moves and gameplay that is often more frustrating than it is fun. A slick interface and competent basics can't save the game from the broken garbage it's piled on top and refused to refine. If you need an arcade basketball title, just get NBA Street Homecourt, which is a better game in virtually every aspect.

Score: 5.8/10

More articles about NBA Ballers: Chosen One
blog comments powered by Disqus