Just in case you didn’t know, let’s throw this out there: the NBA Jam series is not an authentic take on the game of basketball. With physics-defying dunks, players with oversized heads, and the ability to set people on fire, the NBA Jam series is not an authentic take on anything. It is, however, a hell of a lot of fun, especially with a group of friends. With the cancellation of NBA Elite 11 last year, the previously downloadable-bonus-only NBA Jam quickly became EA Sports’ only basketball title upon its release in November 2010. Luckily for EA, the game received strong reviews and decent sales, and has now returned in the form of NBA Jam: On Fire Edition, the supposed ‘definitive’ version of the game. Does the On Fire Edition offer enough definition to warrant a further purchase, or should you stick with your already whacked-out basketball ‘simulator’?
It’s Blocktoberfest! - If you’re looking for a game with character and attitude, NBA Jam has both in spades. From the announcer, who admittedly does get annoying at times, to the character animation, to the general atmosphere of the game as a whole, NBA Jam with draw you in and seduce you with its one objective: letting you have fun. The announcer spews amusing one-liners almost constantly, your players perform physics-defying slam-dunks with frightening regularity, and the fact that you can set your team on fire ensures you’ll have a good time every time you load up the game.
Championship Run - For a game which seemingly doesn’t offer much at first glance, NBA Jam has the potential to keep you busy for a while. The revamped ‘Road Trip’ mode sees you playing through five different divisions, with six teams in each, and each team has three basic levels of challenges for you to beat, as well as hidden challenges. Aside from this, you have teams, players and mascots to unlock, player icons and titles to earn, and cheats (more like gameplay adjustors) to discover. You get a lot of bang for your buck with NBA Jam.
Easy Three-Pointer - Coming into NBA Jam, my knowledge of basketball was limited as best. Sure, I knew some teams, and that we should all hate the Miami Heat. I understood the basic objectives of basketball, but not some of the finer rules. Turns out I shouldn’t have worried, as NBA Jam ignores the vast majority of the sport’s intricacies, and instead allows you to elbow, shove and generally cheat your way to the basket, as long as you do it in the most overblown way possible. With only 3 real buttons to learn, and a well thought out difficulty curve, you’ll be shooting epic hoops in no time.
WATCH IT BURN
Bad First Quarter - Although NBA Jam offers up a lot of depth content wise, this unfortunately isn’t the case for gameplay. Whilst still a lot of fun, there isn’t much chance for strategising or tactical input, and chances are you’ll see a lot of the same plays repeated over and over. Furthermore, the menus and gameplay screens are fairly barren of detail, and there isn’t a whole lot of flair on show (aside from the basketball itself). As a downloadable title, this can be excused, but it would have been nice to see a little more ‘oomph’ from the other aspects of the game.
NBA Jam: On Fire Edition is one of the most enjoyable sports games that I’ve played in a long time. Not in terms of authenticity or nail-biting tension, but in terms of something much more important: fun. However, when you consider this is a rehash of a game released little over a year ago, it’s a shame that more wasn’t done to increase replayability for those who purchased the earlier iteration. Still, invite some friends over, have a few beers, and bust out NBA Jam, and I guarantee you’ll have a good time. Although online multiplayer is an option, this is a game that deserves to be played when you’re within punching distance of a group of friends, as you’ll be throwing insults and (hopefully friendly) fists almost as often as slam-dunks and three-pointers.
*This review was based on the PS3 version of the game with a review code provided by the publisher.*