Published on October 8th, 2011 | by G. Bargas, Managing Editor
NBA JAM: On Fire Edition Review
Platform: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
Price: USD 14.99, 1200 MS Points
Release Date: Out Now
Is it true, that indeed the bigger the shove, that it is direct correlation to the increase in love? Or, can nylon be found in the upper most drawer of my mother’s dresser? Of course, he who holds the answer to these life questions and more is none other than NBA JAM announcer, Tim Kitzrow.
In your face slams, over-the-top JAMs were something that drove NBA Jam to become what it is today. The prior year’s release of NBA JAM brought us all of those things and released on the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and Nintendo Wii in hard copy form. This year’s release comes to two of the former three consoles, but comes packing a few more pieces of essential carry-on luggage.
One piece of luggage that was left behind in the newest JAM rendition was the “Boss Battle” modes. This was also previously discussed when we sat down with Trey Smith during the EA Showcase. Although the game does take away from the would-be challenges of past NBA stars, it does make up for these with dedicated challenges throughout each matchup while on the road.
The individual challenges are laid out at the bottom of each team matchup for the sectioned off areas of the map and separated by region. Completing these challenges will reward you with “JAM Bucks” which can be spent in the JAM Store.
The store in itself consists of unlockable players and modes. Nothing feels better than smashing an online opponent while you play as Slamson the Lion, or new editions like legendary tiny slammer Mugsy Bogues. Completing other in game challenges will also pay out in the same fashion. These challenges include things like 3-Pointers are worth “4” and others worth “2.” There are some other challenges that limit each quarter to only a minute long, leaving you to play smart, or simply go for the blowout. The tracker keeps your overall completion percentage, as well as your level each time you progress on in your trotter trip.
For those not wanting to pay the price of time well spent, there is a solution. If you access the option at the main menu you can download the “Time is Money” DLC which gives you access to all of the teams and unlockables that would have been given to you if you made the effort. It also pays out with 10,000 additional JAM Bucks, which believe it or not, can be used for more characters. The DLC hits at 400 MS Points, which is by no means expensive. This was essential to for me to be able to write this review, but it also gave me a chance to jump into the unlockable teams. Without spoiling anything, there are some great returning politicians and some excellent choice of inclusive players to the franchise.
The other new features are little things here and there that show growth. There are such things like the blue flame that fires off from your player’s shoes like a spewing stream of burning butane. Team Fire accounts for three unanswered alley-oops in a row, which offers some variation to the basic “on fire” rule. It also looks pretty damn cool on screen to see the bright blue flames burn through the air as you alley-oop another one in your opponents face.
Some other aesthetics inclusions are things like the soundtrack. There are a few more that bring some texture to the music scene and adds a little more depth to the games main track. The tracks keep the game moving along and pick up with more style once the player becomes on fire. Don’t like all of the tracks? The developers also gave you the option to turn some of the not so like tracks off. The tracks were implemented well as an additive feature that really moves the game along during battles. At least you can nod your head along to the beat while you are getting beat.
The AI for the game also made a big jump in improvement. Speaking from playing the previous JAM on both PlayStation 3 and Nintendo Wii, it has come quite a ways. They are more responsive and more on cue, which makes it feel like you are playing a more decisive and difficult opponent. On the flipside, having an AI teammate did leave you to switch players quickly in order to really guard and keep the offense at bay. While playing against as the Heat against the Nuggets on the road, Mutombo (also a new addition to the roster) and Gallinari were two great examples of the new AI implementation.
During this match, it was essential for my team of Lebron and Wade to d-up to swipe the ball loose, but it also meant to play safe with my shots. Any shots for three’s were likely to get swatted by Mutumbo and the shove was more always waiting for me when I left down my guard, especially during in-bound passes. The AI is more aggressive on taking you out, which provides great preparatory experiences for online matches.
These matches also follow up with a newly added weekly Arena mode. This allows you to play your best as a clock counts down for seven days. This means that you must win, win, and win. It will give you a ranking and it will also reflect on your JAM Card, thus giving the game more depth in the multiplayer aspect of the game, which was one thing where the previous Wii version could just not contribute to.
The only real gripes I have about this iteration of JAM didn’t really affect the gameplay. One of these gripes being the non-release on to the Nintendo Wii. This was by far the more fun of the two consoles to play JAM on in the previous release. With all of the new implementations to online modes and features, there was no doubt that this was just something that could not happen with the consoles lacking online community.
The other thing I noticed while playing with some of the unlockable teams, that just happen to include some female players, it caught me off-guard for Kitzrow to refer to them as “he’s” and “him’s.” For a game to pay so much attention to detail, AI and scenery aesthetics, it seems that this was just simply missed.
NBA JAM: On Fire Edition brings more flame to the fire. The lineup has changed a bit, but the team is still the same. More options, unlockables, and value added into the way in which you progress through the game. Also, bringing the title to Xbox LIVE and PlayStation Network exclusively doesn’t leave room for me to complain about the Wii version not hosting any online multiplayer. By the same token, it also allows me to be disappointed in the lack of motion controls, which made the first NBA JAM so JAM-worthy.
There are enough moves and newly added depth for an all around great NBA arcade experience. If you played the last years release, which doesn’t feel as tight and good looking as the ‘On Fire Edition, this is one pickup-game with an HD upgrade you shouldn’t pass on.
++ Game Features (Progression/Online Mode)
+ Opponent AI
+/– PlayStation 3/Xbox 360 exclusive
– Minor Game Details