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It's a better game as a whole, but due to the minimal changes, you find yourself getting more excited about the side content than shooting the ball.
This is one of those series that showed so much promise, but seems to have gotten stuck in a rut its second time around. NBA Ballers: Phenom does a couple of minor additions to its formula, like the story mode and the bolstering of the roster, but the control, graphical and gameplay issues from the original title haven't been addressed at all, leaving a title that doesn't feel like an improvement; rather, it's more like a tame departure from the original formula.
That said, I really want to see some innovation in the gameplay. Midway has take the story mode to the next level, no we need to see the gameplay step it up a notch to match the flash.
The two-on-two gameplay and the drama-rich Story Mode are the aspects of NBA Ballers: Phenom that separate it from its predecessor. There’s not a huge overall jump in this series, which is a bit of a letdown (unless Midway is saving their aces for the Xbox 360). I would give NBA Ballers: Phenom a rent unless you’re hell-bent on playing online. There are few areas of NBA Ballers: Phenom that disappoint, but don’t expected this title to be a true “phenom” like its namesake suggests.
Phenom is a good overall sequel to the original Ballers. The free-roaming story mode isn't quite what it's cracked up to be, and some of the quests and minigames can be cheesy, but the plot is interesting enough to warrant a play-through, and the story mode is definitely a more-fun way to build up a created character than playing a series of tournaments. There's a ton of content to unlock and explore, and the online mode is a nice, simple complement to the single-player gameplay. While the core game feels too similar to the original, if you've never played a Ballers game, or you liked the original a lot, you'll likely find Phenom to be a worthwhile experience.
NBA Ballers: Phenom probably won't be remembered alongside NBA Street V3 and NBA Jam as the next big thing. Its own flair to do something different is in fact its downfall, as it seems a bit limited when it should be soaring through the sky like ol' Michael Jordan did. However, fans who ate up the first game will be stuffed full with the offerings here, including online features, 2-on-2, and story mode. I guess it's just a matter of whether or not you're really a fan of ballin' by yourself.
Phenom is a solid overall draft choice for your current-gen lineup. The story mode is rather hit-or-miss, depending on the level of connection you draw with your baller. There are definitely enough elements to have some fun with it, and it breaks up the monotony of the usual "win tournament to gain points" model. Gameplay draws on the strong elements of the original, and 2-on-2 action combines with the online mode to offer a variety of play formats. If you liked the original, or are intrigued at the notion of dominating the one-on-one world, there's ample reason to pick this one up.