Man oh man is the virtual basketball court crowded these days (Live, ESPN, and Street, just to name a few). And now here comes NBA Bailers, the tricked-out Escalade (with dubs and spinners, of course) of basketball games. Midway's visually striking b-ball title doesn't follow the norm of arcade-style sports games--and that's a good thing. For starters, the 1-on-1 (and sometimes 1 -on-1 -on-1) gameplay is surprisingly deep. Seasoned sportos will welcome the challenge of mastering special moves like gravity-defying alley oops, as well as learning the precise timing for defensive counters. Secondly, Bailers offers a wealth of options to the lone gamer. The addictive rags-to-riches mode enables you to build an MTV worthy residence, while competing in tourneys unlocks NBA superstars and other sweet pads. There's more than 30 hours of action for the guy or gal who prefers playing solo. Bailers does shoot a few air balls, though: Computer opponents perform irritating catch-up antics on occasion, and the game suffers from ridiculously long load times. Still, no true fan should miss out on Midway's all-new hoopster.
It's nearly impossible to review NBA Bailers without using the term "bling," so I'm just going to get it out of the way now. Bailers' fairly basic game-play means just about anyone can pick up a controller and go, while the three-player 1-on-1-on-1 provides a nice variation of your standard 1-on-1. The player models--especially the detailed faces--look amazing, right down to Allen Iverson's tats and Larry Bird's disturbingly tight shorts. The deep-n-dope rags-to-riches mode is where you'll spend most of your time, starting as a playground scrub and hoopin' your way to worthwhile rewards: chromed-out cars, new clothes, and your own grossly ostentatious Xanadu. A cool b-ball single-player experience like this is truly a rare treat.
Midway's latest arcade b-ball game includes everything that made the NBA Jam games entertaining--like over-the-top dunks and getting "on fire"--along with new (and counterable) dribbling moves, upping the strategic element of 1 -on-1 basketball just enough to make it interesting. There's also a great career-type mode where you can earn some serious bling for your player. Unfortunately, like Bailers' predecessors, the A.I. can be ruthlessly cheap late in the game, but don't let a little challenge scare you away from the court.