NBA Jam: On Fire Edition Preview

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EA Sports found itself in a real fix last year when it came to its basketball products. At one point, it was set to release NBA Elite 11 against the polished 2K Sports effort, NBA 2K11, but after hearing fans complain about the demo and gameplay flaws, it decided to permanently shelve the product, and rushed a high-definition version of its hit Wii game NBA Jam to both Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. While it was well received by most press (including myself), fans were feeling a bit iffy about paying $50 for the game, as well as the limited features it brought to multiplayer.

Well, EA Sports actually listened, and it’s making up for past mistakes in just two weeks time. EA Sports will be releasing NBA Jam: On Fire Edition for both Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 – this time in downloadable format. Instead of worrying about popping in a disc to get your 30-foot dunk-a-thon on, you can download the game with ease. We managed to take Jam for a test drive a few weeks ago at PAX 2011, and came away feeling more dunkeriffic than ever before.

First off, most of the presentation from last year’s game is still intact. The fancy, fast visuals are still in place, with arcade-style players expressing themselves and flying through the air with the greatest of ease. The side-scrolling court format from NBA Jams of the past is still intact, and the crowd manages to get into the action with each new thunderous dunk. What’s more, Tim Kitzrow, seasoned announcer for the series, is back, making all sorts of classic Jam-isms as you play, as well as a few new ones that were voted on by you, the fans. You’re definitely gonna like what he has to say.

EA has done away with the boss battles and half court games with On Fire Edition, instead opting for a richer NBA Jam-style experience that the fans truly want. They did include new options, such as Tag Mode, where you can switch between your players at any time (a feature vastly missing from the original Jam), as well as the ability to catch your whole team on fire, not just a single player, by scoring three shots in a row without someone screwing up.

Gameplay has also been fine tuned so that players won’t feel like they’re losing the ball too easily. The AI will be as aggressive as ever, just as it’s been in the previous game and past arcade games of yore, but you’ll be able to compete with a number of cool moves. Some of these new additions are Call For Shove, where you can have your AI teammate knock someone to the ground, and a Call For Oop, where you can set yourself up for a dazzling display of one-handed passing alley-oopness. (And yes, alley-oopness is a word. Shut up.)

Razzle Dazzles have also been added for showmanship. If you’re up by a huge lead or just feel like taunting your opponent in the closing seconds, you can execute a number of humiliating moves, such as an underhanded granny shot or “The Dougie”, where you head to the rim in a humiliating, almost Harlem Globetrotter-like sense. Be warned – the other teams can do it too!

Along with the enriched gameplay (it really does feel better), the solid presentation, and the new additions, NBA Jam: On Fire Edition also has boosted online options, so you can take on your friends with new options. The Road Trip Co-Op Campaign lets you team up with a buddy for a number of stops along the NBA circuit, while the Arena lets you challenge other folks in full-on battle. The game is fully playable with locals off-line too, should you be lacking internet or just want to teach local chumps a lesson.

Best of all, NBA Jam: On Fire Edition won’t be coming at you with a full retail price. This time around, the slamfest goes for a meager $15, or 1200 Microsoft points, depending on your format. That’s a steal, especially considering all the fun that’s inside.

We’ll be back to review NBA Jam: On Fire Edition in about two weeks time, when it arrives on the 4th for PSN and the 5th for Xbox Live Arcade. We loved the first game though, so we have a feeling this one will catch fire as well. KABOOM!

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Robert Workman
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