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NBA Jam Review


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On 12/07/2010 at 04:40 PM by Nick DiMola

Improved controls and an online mode give the HD versions of NBA Jam a leg up on the Wii title.
RECOMMENDATION:

For fans of classic NBA Jam without access to one of the old titles.

I'm sure I'm not the only one who has many fond memories spent playing countless hours of the original NBA Jam titles. The over-the-top antics were undoubtedly the attraction; breaking the backboard, playable mascots, the Clintons, "Boom-shaka-laka", "He's on Fire!", rampant fouling, and fast-paced down-to-the-second gameplay. All of it is back in this latest edition of the series now under the control of EA Sports after the closing of originator, Midway.

While it's all back, something's still off. At first it was hard to put my finger on it. Everything looked right, all of the characters acted right - hell, even the announcer was the same. But as I played more it became obvious that for one, all of it was a bit too much the same.

Controls, the one place where you don’t want things to change much, did. However, this change is far less drastic in the HD release when compared to its Wii counterpart. The dunk still remains the problem, which is a shame considering its importance in the experience. With motion control out of the way, things are much better, but it’s still too complicated. In order to perform a dunk, you have to click the A (or X) button once to initiate it and a second time, at the right moment, to actually perform the maneuver. The process feels a bit simulation-like and is a needless complication of a simple control.

This isn't the only remnant of simulation-like design found in NBA Jam. In addition, players will find that all of the teams in the game closely resemble their true NBA counterparts. The problem with this is that the teams that really suck in the NBA also suck here, and vice-versa. Of course, everyone who plays will be making a beeline for the Lakers... or the Celtics... or the Magic. Since I'm a glutton for punishment, I still chose my old standby, the New York Knicks. As expected, they are absolutely terrible, and a match-up against the Lakers really drove this point home for me. If EA was trying to make an arcade experience, they should've dedicated themselves to it; as it stands, the game feels like it's straddling the line in some ways.

For all the negative points, NBA Jam really does have an enormous amount of personality and positive traits. If it's not praise enough, EA has captured the gameplay essence of classic NBA Jam to near perfection. All of the catch phrases players may remember are present, as well as the insane dunks, breaking the backboard, cheat codes that change the game's appearance and gameplay, a multitude of modes, and fast-paced intense basketball.

Two-on-two basketball hasn't been this good since NBA Hangtime two generations ago, and EA has even chosen to adopt the same visual techniques used in the original titles. This time the players and court are all in 3D rather than pseudo-3D, but the heads are 2D images of the stars making various faces given the situation. It's a little wacky looking, but it does a great job simulating that classic look while adding some character. When moving from one end of the court to another players can still smash their enemies with a push, steal the ball, reject them at surprising distances, take ridiculous three point shots, jam from the top of the key, or perform insane alley-oops. Everything players knew and loved about NBA Jam is still here and still a blast.

This is especially true when going head-to-head with a second player, or playing a two-on-two with three other friends. The game bolsters its offering with a number of new modes that cut things to just half court with a new basket head-on viewpoint, like the new game of 21. In addition, players can now go on a campaign, or play 1-on-1 boss battles.

Again, the HD versions of the game get a leg-up on the Wii title thanks to an online mode that allows players to go head-to-head, in addition to local multiplayer..

Even better, the game includes hidden codes to unlock players as you could before, as well as in-game cheats. The game also includes a pure arcade mode that turns off any of the remaining rules and includes power-ups on the court, similar to what was seen in NBA Jam T.E. years ago. The extra point spots haven't quite returned, but the spirit of the mode is still present.

For those of you out there who have never had the opportunity to play NBA Jam, EA Sports' NBA Jam is a no-brainer. The same goes for those who no longer have access to a classic NBA Jam title. Anyone who still can play one of the classic NBA Jam titles, or NBA Hangtime, for that matter, might just want to stick to those because they are just as good, if not better.

Review Policy

In our reviews, we'll try not to bore you with minutiae of a game. Instead, we'll outline what makes the game good or bad, and focus on telling you whether or not it is worth your time as opposed to what button makes you jump.

We use a five-star rating system with intervals of .5. Below is an outline of what each score generally means:


All games that receive this score are standout games in their genre. All players should seek a way to play this game. While the score doesn't equate to perfection, it's the best any game could conceivably do.


These are above-average games that most players should consider purchasing. Nearly everyone will enjoy the game and given the proper audience, some may even love these games.


This is our middle-of-the-road ranking. Titles that receive three stars may not make a strong impression on the reviewer in either direction. These games may have some faults and some strong points but they average out to be a modest title that is at least worthy of rental for most.


Games that are awarded two stars are below average titles. Good ideas may be present, but execution is poor and many issues hinder the experience.


Though functional, a game that receives this score has major issues. There are little to no redeeming qualities and should be avoided by nearly all players.


A game that gets this score is fundamentally broken and should be avoided by everyone.


 

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