Co-opting the Hip Hop Aesthetic?

Excerpts from the GameSpot review of NBA Ballers:

Ballers' excellent visuals give a great first impression. Even before you load the game, you'll see plenty of original, high quality photographs of the NBA stars you'll find in the game just by navigating through the menus. Once you reach the character-select screens, you'll see the amazing work the modelers have done with player faces, which are quite possibly the best we've ever seen in a sports game. If you're at all familiar with the NBA, the players will be instantly recognizable to you. The excellent graphics extend to the in-game engine, which features little to no drop-off in the quality of player faces, and presents great-looking body models. The artists have done a pretty good job at scaling the sizes of the various players, who look appropriately lean, muscular, or bulky depending on their real-life physiques. There's also a ton of detail in the game's various venues, most of which are set in player cribs that range from Kevin Garnett's home (which is surrounded by man-made waterfalls) to Jason Kidd's sprawling estate.

Courtesy of Midway

Ballers' presentation doesn't fall short in the sound department either. The included hip-hop soundtrack offers some great beats that fit well with the game's theme; it's just too bad there isn't any way to selectively remove tracks from the rotation (for those who wish to do so). In-game, you'll hear sideline commentary from MC Supernatural as you play. Although his comments do become repetitive after a short while, the basic sound effects of dribbling, bumping, and dunking are good. It's also fun to hear crowd and mechanical chatter from the sideline spectators and from the sounds of camera shutters going off whenever a player pulls off a spectacular move.

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On offense, you can use the right thumbstick to execute basic juke moves, not unlike other basketball games on the market. Beyond this, Ballers takes a page out of NBA Street's playbook by allowing you to execute more-effective juke moves by pressing various combinations of "juice" (turbo) buttons along with another button. Once you master this, you'll be performing killer crossovers, going behind the back, spinning, and more. The most powerful moves, called "act-a-fool" moves, allow you to do all the crazy streetball tricks you've seen on TV, such as dribbling the ball back and forth between your opponent's legs, throwing the ball up behind your back and over your man, and other "now you see it, now you don't" ball tricks. These act-a-fool moves aren't all-powerful though. If you can anticipate your opponent's execution of one, you can press a button to counter the move, and then you can instantly steal the ball.

Courtesy of Midway

Ballers has two primary game modes–rags to riches and TV tournament. The former is a story-based mode where you assume the role of an unknown streetball player who stars in a reality TV show. You start by creating a player using Ballers' robust character-creation engine, which allows you to tweak everything, like your facial structure, your clothes, shoes, accessories, and abilities. You'll start off with just a few options in clothes, but as you play through the rags to riches mode, you'll earn points that you can use to buy NBA gear, tattoos, and other accessories to customize your player. Your created player is also supposed to improve in skill depending on how you play him. Play above the rim, and score most of your points by dunks–and subsequently watch your dunk stat improve. Fire up lots of "treys," and your three-point shooting skill will rise. This feature seems to work as advertised, for the most part, but there are some quirks about it. One of our created guards, for example, always seemed to gain a lot in free throws and low-post offense, even though he never shot a free throw or backed anyone down into the block.


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