previews\ Aug 12, 2003 at 8:00 pm

NBA JAM - PS2 - Preview 2

Dunk you very much!

Shaquille O’Neal is over 7 feet tall, but even he can’t duplicate the high-flying acrobats his alter ego can. Imagine taking off from behind the three-point arc, about 20 feet above the backboard and doing a helicopter spin on your way to a monster dunk.

Sounds surreal, doesn’t it?

Well, that is part of the stunning shots featured in NBA JAM, a PlayStation2 release from Acclaim slated for an October release.

This is three-on-three basketball at its most outrageous. The courts are abbreviated NBA courts, with caricatures of the players taking part. Gary Payton, Kobe Bryant and O’Neal take the court for the Lakers at the Staples Center. Lightning flashes and dances on the ball as Kobi launches for an amazing laid-out jam. The crowd goes wild, the music pumps up and the announcers complete the excitement with dynamic play calling.

Time to lace on the hightops and take to the court. was invited to step out on the hardwood in the PS2 beta, and laced up the hightops for a bit of roundball.

‘Pass me the rock!"

The ball whizzes around the perimeter, then a player flashes into the paint, goes airborne and illuminates. The ball is launched, collected and slammed home to the raucous sound filling the arena. The place is going wild, as well as it should.

Ok, this makes very little pretense about being true NBA basketball in spite of the fact that it features more than 150 players from the NBA. Much like the ball, bodies have a tendency to be slammed all over the court as well.

The game has arcade qualities with unlockable features, and players earning points for scores and answering the trivia questions between games.

There are three ways to play the game: exhibition, JAM tournament, and Legends tournament. In the latter players can control a current threesome against a team of legends - though not the high-profile legends, one might think. The interesting sidenote to that though is that in one game played, a trio of 76ers took on a group of pre-1970 allstars and the game was played out in glorious black and white. Nice touch.

The camera is fixed to the side, though players will be treated to a variety of angles in replays of the spectacular shots. The problem with any basketball game with the fixed camera angle is that it is hard to judge where players are relative to each other.

The look of the game is a little jerky at times. Players do not seem to move fluidly, but some of the high-flying antics are truly a joy to watch. If a player is knocked down, they will flip back up, shrug and carry on. While the black-and-white pre-1970s game is fun for the players, it does lack the impact of the color games.

The game sound features a variety of music, all grooving tunes that strike the right chord when it comes to they game style. The play-by-play is fun, enthusiastic and energetic. Again, this hits the mark.

NBA JAM is not for the serious hoops fan. It is intended for the player who likes to see arcade-style basketball mixed in with some light-hearted caricatures of famous NBA players, and free-wheeling, high-flying, three-on-three basketball. Acclaim has done a solid job of bringing the arcade look and feel to the console and this is a title that is fun to play and watch.

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