Basketball video games have incorporated hip-hop for years, but a new NBA game out next week may be the most beats-and-rhymes-drenched title yet. "NBA Ballers: Phenom" will feature 35 original tracks from rappers and R&B artists such as Bubba Sparxxx, Chingy, Mannie Fresh, Freeway and Ne-Yo.
If that's not enough of a hip-hop connection, the game forces the player to steer their hoops hopefuls down a number of forked story-line paths, taking advice from an in-game version of Detroit Pistons point guard Chauncey Billups or getting pulled toward the life of an off-court celebrity by none other than Ludacris. Will you put in more hours practicing your jump shot? Or do you raise your profile by participating in a benefit car wash with cheerleaders?
"NBA Ballers: Phenom" features an over-the-top street-balling brand of basketball that allows players to pick up one-on-one and two-on-two games against NBA pros in the hopes of making their mark and eventually getting picked #1 in the NBA draft.
Players who choose to have their phenoms build some hip-hop credibility (this would be the Ludacris path, no doubt) can enter a rap battle. According to the game's developers, lyrics for both sides of the clash were written by freestyle veteran Jin.
The game plays out as a story, a mode of play that is popping up in a number of sports games as developers reach the limits of realistically portraying the sport yet want to attract gamers. Midway did this with last year's "Blitz: The League," a non-NFL football game in which contests were connected with a story about the decadent lifestyle of pro players. Sony used a similar tactic with fall's "NBA '06," which let gamers engage their character in off-court activities such as getting endorsements and doing motion-capture moves for a video game.
"Ballers" attempts to one-up other recent story-driven sports games and test the limits of sports gamers' interest in off-court activities by letting the player walk city streets, making celebrity friends and seeking challenges. Help the local barber out and he reveals that he's Detroit Pistons center Ben Wallace's dad, who gives out his son's cell phone number. The two ballers head to a playable basketball showdown at Wallace's mansion.
"NBA Ballers: Phenom" is developed and published by Midway and will be available for Xbox and PS2 next week. The first 500,000 units sold will include a bonus second disc acting as the game's soundtrack. The songs featured in the game, many of which will also be on the soundtrack, are:
- 4th World - "It's on You"
- Abstract Rude - "L.A. City"
- Ali - "Y'all Ain't Ready"
- B. Lloyd - "Take It to the Hoop"
- Basement Beats - "I'm a Baller"
- Bubba Sparxxx - "Pull Up and Pop"
- C.I. - "Put It on the Line"
- Camp Lo - "I Wanna Be"
- Chingy - "The Lifestyle of a Baller"
- Freeway - "The Only Way"
- Gena - "Just Begun"
- Goodie Mobb - "Break Bread"
- Heavy Mojo - "Got to Get It"
- Jeff Lacey - "I B-Ballin' "
- Jelly Joe - "Gimmie Dat"
- Jin the Emcee - "Choices"
- Juice - "Gotta Come Up"
- Kaine Cioffie - "Ballers"
- Kanjia - "Keep It Movin' "
- KoKo - "What It Iz"
- Mannie Fresh - "#1"
- Nappy Roots - "You Don't Want It"
- Ness Lee - "Super Star" and "The Blacktop"
- Ne-Yo - "Ballin' "
- Northern League featuring Ming + FS - "We Hot Now"
- Phife Dawg - "I Got This"
- Planet Asia - "Back 'Em Down"
- Point Game - "I'm a Playa" and "It's a Shame" (featuring Ness Lee)
- Raskal - "Raise Up"
- Rock City - "Ballin' Out"
- Shak-C - "Let's Ball"
- Smoke & Numbers - "Go Hard or Go Home"
- Ty Jilla featuring Raskal - "They Know Me"