NBA Ballers: Phenom
This morning I met with Midway and they showed me NBA Ballers: Phenom, the sequel to last year's hit NBA Ballers (1.5 million copies sold). The game ships in March 2006 for Xbox and PS2. An updated version of the original, NBA Ballers Rebound will be available for PSP. Although far from complete, the PS2 and PSP versions looked great.
The premise behind the game is that this is an RPG for basketball players. With a deep story mode and a lot of wide open game play there is plenty to do. The story revolves around a series of 2 on 2 tournaments (2 on 2 brings back memories of NBA Jam) and side missions that are like mini-games. Gamers create their character and assign attributes. Later, attributes increase according to how you play the game (if you are strong on D when you play then your character's defensive attributes go up). The other way to increase attributes is to drink a Sprite which is something like drinking a potion in that it gives a temporary attribute boost. Attributes can be boosted also by wearing special items like better sneakers.
As far as in-game dynamics, this game looks good. The character modeling is very strong and the players look like themselves. Because it is 2 on 2 there is now team play calling. The animated trick moves, called "Act A Fool" are hilarious. It's all about showmanship and tricks.
Midway says that game play breaks down to about 70% on the court and 30% in the open world. The open world is where the bulk of the story takes place centered on a pro-am streetball tournament in LA. Everything is interactive in the open world and there are plenty of side missions like "find Tracy McGrady's lost Sidekick" and "help the Laker Girls wash cars". The latter is interesting because it encompasses a music oriented mini-game. In the open world you can go into stores, attend events, play in tournaments, meet people, etc. There's also the ability to create a mansion or design your crib, complete with MTV Cribs episodes as unlockables.
All in all, NBA Ballers: Phenom looks like a great game to play. It goes beyond the usual basketball sim and immerses gamers in the world of LA streetball. There's plenty of replayability because of the open world aspects and mini games.
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Here's the trailer.