Before I even start this review I have a confession to make. I don't play a lot of sports games. In fact, I'm not a really big sports guy period. The last basketball video game I played was NBA Jam on the Super Nintendo sometime in the mid to late 90's. So it was with great trepidation that I set foot onto the courts of NBA Ballers: Chosen One.
NBA Ballers: Chosen One is not a straight up basketball game. Instead, you create a character and participate in an unofficial off-season tournament. Selected as the only "Street Baller" in the tournament you go up against real professional players to win the coveted title of the "Chosen One". You compete in a variety of different game types, like 1 on 1, 2 on 2, shootouts and more. Every victory brings you closer to being declared the chosen one.
NBA Ballers: Chosen One definitely has a lot of style. Each set of levels is introduced with an ESPN style show. The show is hosted by rapper Chuck D (of Public Enemy fame). It really adds to the feeling of the game and makes it feel like a modern basketball competition that is actually leading up to a grand finale. It also helps to establish the feeling that there is more to it than an endless string of games. The courts you play on and the introduction of the new arenas adds a lot as well. Each place is packed with screaming fans and the players roll up to amazing apartments with indoor courts in limos. It's all very impressive, and really gives you a feel of the idealized pro-athlete lifestyle.
This over the top style is evidenced in the Super moves your player can perform. As you play you build up a meter that can be filled three times. The first time it is filled it allows you to perform a steal, the second allows you to take a shot, and the third allows you to perform a dunk. When these moves are activated a cut scene will play providing a demonstration of your Globetrotter-esque skills that results in a successful steal or score. They also provide you with a temporary boost to some of your stats. Different moves provide different stats, and they are unlocked by beating the pro-athletes in different events.
Unfortunately, I couldn't help but feel a little lost when it came to gameplay. This is a fairly common thing I've found with most sports games I play. Since a lot of sports games are the most recent entry into a successful franchise (or borrow heavily from a successful franchise) I end up feeling like I've missed the boat. The gameplay seems to be based on refinements made over the years, and it is just assumed that the player has followed the series as this progress has been made. I found I didn't even grasp the basic fundamentals of gameplay. I did reasonably well on offense, but I was a mess when it came to defense. I was constantly flailing around like a spaz or jumping up and down like an idiot. Whenever I did manage to get the ball away from my opponent I was unable to capitalize on it because I simply wasn't expecting it to actually happen. For once I actually found myself wishing a game had a tutorial level.
On offense dunks and lay ups seemed to be my only reliable way of scoring. If I tried to make a distance shot I just didn't feel like I was really contributing anything to it. The end result seemed to be randomized, making it to risky to use. On the other hand, there was another move that seemed to score nine times out of ten with no effective response from the defenders. It made for a very odd gameplay experience. When I was losing I felt outclassed, and when I was winning I felt like I was cheating. Neither one made the game feel very rewarding.
You have a set of stats that cover a wide variety of skills. These stats are built up based on how you play and automatically distributed. Unfortunately, this creates something of a cyclical problem. Since my shooting was unreliable I wouldn't attempt it very often, but my shooting wouldn't improve because I didn't try it very often. It would have been nice if I had simply received a pool of points and been able to distribute them as I saw fit.
While the cut scenes of the moves are impressive they are a little on the long side. It's cool to see your player roll the ball down his back and then kick it into the basket it starts to get old after the fourth or fifth time. And when you're already frustrated because your opponent is running circles around you and he uses a move on you it will fill you with an unreasoning hatred. Had they been just a little bit shorter it would be easier to take. And this is just my own lack of knowledge of the finer points of professional basketball but I swear half of my opponents points came from me goaltending. Things were just moving to fast and my defense was so ineffective that I couldn't tell the difference between goaltending and a legal block.
I found NBA Balllers: Chosen One to be incredibly frustrating. If you're big into basketball games and you're looking for something a little different then check it out. But if you're trying to break into the genre then I'd recommend looking elsewhere.
I like a wide variety of games. I’m great at action and rpg games. I tend to be too much of a perfectionist with first person shooters and stealth games. I’ll spend 20 minutes in a level, only to reset it the first time a guard sees me. Platformers aren’t really my thing, I think the technology has better things to offer than that now. And I don’t do sports games.
I love games with a good story. I’ll play for hours just trying to get to the next plot twist. In a perfect world, I’d be writing my own video games someday