BOOMSHAKALAKA!! NBA Jam is back! Again! Yep, last year’s return of the hit classic arcade baller was just the beginning as NBA Jam: On Fire Edition has crept onto the court, ready to light you on fire once again. The biggest question was if nostalgic gamers have another slam dunk-fest or if this is one of those unnecessary releases set to capitalize on a popular brand.
In short, it will depend mostly on whether you already have a copy of last year’s release. The On Fire Edition is essentially the game we would have received last year had the defunct NBA Elite 11 actually saw the light of day. Instead, NBA Jam was packaged for a retail release with some additional bells and whistles thrown in. Now, with this downloadable version, it is a bit stripped back, yet enhanced at the same time.
There are two primary modes: Jam Session and Road Trip. Jam Session is the standard single-match or exhibition option found in pretty much every sports release. Pick your team, pick your opponent, and hit the hardwood with as much over-the-top style and flair as possible. Road Trip is the actual campaign, letting you pick your team and vie to dominate the rest of the nation. All the exaggerated moves, oddball cheats like Big Head Mode, Easter Eggs, unlockables, and no-foul, hard-hitting action is present and accounted for, just as one would expect from a Jam release. Better yet, the irreplaceable Tim Kitzrow returns with new commentary, something that is just as synonymous with the franchise as a flaming ball.
What is missing is the Remix Modes found on the 2010 disc. Some fans may be a bit disappointed by this, but I much prefer the more streamlined approach the digital version has. Instead of cluttering things up with even more modes and options, EA Canada focused their attention on the gameplay itself. On Fire Edition brings a number of improvements that are much more welcomed over the the wackiness of Remix. The AI has gained a few IQ points, creating a more balanced challenge (and often times over-balanced, as the AI can be quite brutal). Speaking of which, steals can be offensively countered now with a properly timed pivot, which comes in quite handy more often than you would think. There is now a Team Fire option, where a team goes “On Fire” if they can sink three alley-oops in a row before the opposition can score. And Tag Mode is now default, although you can swap it back to the Classic mode if changing players mid game is not to your liking.
While the Remix Mode is MIA, don’t walk away thinking there won’t be much to do. Road Trip boasts a wide variety of challenges - running from Bronze through Gold - and will put fans to the test. Variety is the name of the game as not only are there three challenges per team, but players are not locked in to a single franchise. If you want to play as the Lakers against the Clippers, and then switch it up and play as the Clippers when facing the Lakers, you can.
The challenges don’t begin and end with Rod Trip neither. On Fire Edition boasts Arena challenges spread across friendly, co-op and vs categories. Essentially these help pad your wallet with Jam Bucks, bumping the experience levels for your persistent online ID (and leading to all those unlockables). As always, Jam is still best experienced when playing with others, and OFE supports both local and online play. This way, you and three other buddies can sit and talk all the smack you want, regardless of location. And really, that’s what Jam is all about, right?
This is easily the best version of NBA Jam to date. It has been improved where it needed to be, and made it a considerably more streamlined and fluid experience in the process. The fact that this was designed for the Xbox 360 and PS3 from the start, instead of a port from the Wii like last year’s entry was, is well apparent and made a world of difference. However, if you still have your copy from last year, it may be hard to justify picking this up unless you are one of the die-hard fans or have a spare $15 that is burning a hole in your virtual wallet. The casual fan may not see a lot of value in owning both version. Although, if you missed the retail release, this is by far the better choice.
Release date : 2011-10-04
Publisher : EA Sports
Developer : EA Canada
Gameplay : Sports
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