NBA Jam: On Fire Edition ReviewESRB:
Platform: Xbox 360
I have to admit, Basketball has never been my favourite sport. In fact, it likely falls outside my top 10 sports I care to watch. So when the opportunity to review NBA Jam: On Fire Edition came along I wasn't exactly 'chomping at the bit' to play the game. Despite this, I still recall the days I would play "Arch Rivals" at my local Mac's convenience store after school for a good six month period when I was about 15-years old. There was something so simplistic yet enjoyable the 2-on-2 game offered that had me coming back for more. Well, over 20-year later the 2-on-2 game is still around and this time in the form of a $15.00 dollar XBLA game. Is this game worth the 1200 Microsoft points you will spend downloading the game? You better believe it is and here is why.
As far as the visuals are concerned, NBA Jam: On Fire Edition is great looking game. The players, who look like animated bobble head dolls, look fantastic. The way the players and mascots run up and down the court performing those exaggerated slam dunks all look great and in a bizarre way very life-like. The detail and clarity of the game is truly an enjoyment to watch. It is a fast yet smooth experience. The special effects are a nice touch as well. The way the fire trail follows the ball and player when that player goes on a hot streak is a very cool effect. The play is frantic at times yet the game suffers from no noticeable slow-downs. Arenas are also wonderfully detailed and the fans in the stadiums come to life. All in all, EA Sports should be very proud of what they have been able to visually accomplish with NBA Jam: On Fire Edition.
The commentating has always been one of the most memorable features of the NBA Jam franchise. The over-the-top commentating has always been a staple and one of the more entertaining parts of the game. It is no different with NBA Jam: On Fire Edition as classics such as “Boomshakalaka!” and “He’s on Fire!” are back. The commentating and over-the-top quotes are better than ever and there are some new quotes added to the mix. The legendary voice of Tim Kitzrow returns and he once again offers up some old and new unforgettable calls. It was great to hear his voice again as the commentating is something I have associated with the franchise for many years now. It is cheesy, over-the-top and absolutely ridiculous at times but it works. As for the rest of the sound effects, from the sound of the end of the quarter horns, to the shot clock buzzer, to the power slam dunks - all of them sound great, especially in Dolby Digital. The soundtrack on the other hand is nothing spectacular and frankly very forgettable. Otherwise, the sound package in NBA Jam: On Fire Edition is top notch.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with the NBA Jam series of video games, I will briefly describe the concept as NBA Jam is not your typical EA Sports game. Although you are playing with authentic NBA players on authentic NBA teams, the traditional 5-on5 NBA rules have been tossed out in favour of a crazy 2-on-2 game where there are little in the way of fouls and running amok is the name of the game. The court is short, the games are short and your goal is to win at any cost. Goaltending and abiding by the shot clock are about the only two rules you need to abide by. Otherwise, anything goes in the NBA Jam franchise and the same goes for the NBA Jam: On Fire Edition. All the basic rules, gameplay, controls and concept of NBA Jam: On Fire Edition stays true to the franchise and remains unchanged. So for those of who played last years NBA Jam game you should be able to pick up where you left off.
This year, NBA Jam: On Fire Edition comes in the form of a downloadable game which comes as a surprise especially when you consider the amount of content in the game. NBA Jam: On Fire Edition features 3 core game modes; 30-NBA Teams; 32 Special teams including the Seattle Supersonics, teams with mascots, a Beastie Boys teams and so on; 77-lengendary players; a beefed up single player campaign; and a glut of unlockable content. Needless to say, NBA Jam: On Fire Edition is very good bang for the buck when you consider what you get for the price.
Once you download the game on XBLA and bounce into the games menus, you have your option of jumping into three game modes. "Road Trip" is your campaign mode where you play against all 30 NBA teams. Not only do you play against all 30-teams but also you play multiple challenges against their whole roster. You start off playing Bronze challenges where you play the teams weaker players but once you win you unlock Silver. Complete a Silver challenge and you unlock the Gold. It is a simple yet slick little progression system that gets tougher which each level you unlock. Completing all the Gold Challenges in a division and you unlock something special. You can play Road Trip by yourself or with a buddy either online or offline. The credit you both earn also carries back to your offline game which is a nice little touch by the development team giving gamers incentive to play with each other.
In addition to the Road Trip mode, NBA Jam: On Fire Edition features "Arena" which is the competitive online mode. Playing online and winning goes towards your Arena Rank. Completing these ranks will give you a rank on your Jam Card. Your Jam Card is your online presence and acts as your online NBA Jam profile of sort. You can get new icons, titles, and backgrounds in the JAM Store once you have earned enough XP, which is called Jam Bucks in the game. Arena is a little different than your typical EA Sports online play. "Arena" involves a weekly dynamic ladder tournament that gives everyone a chance to be the best every seven days. If you have a bad week, no big deal as the timer resets every week.
The last of the three modes is the "Jam Now" mode. This is your pick up and play mode. If you want to just jump into a game, this is the best place to start. You can invite up to three other friends and team up however you like. You can select any of the NBA Teams and create whatever rules you want.
As I mentioned at the outset, the original concept of NBA Jam has not changed. You take control of a team of two players, and your opponent will consist of two other players. As you start your game you will be able to choose from a few players from your team of choice, and you will unlock more as you play. In the early going most games are easily won once you figure out the basic shooting, passing and defending mechanics. But in order to progress you need to use alley-oops, awesome dunks, pump fakes, spin moves and take advantage of the times when either your team or player is on fire.
Team Fire is one of the new additions to the franchise is one of the more rewarding perks in the game if you can manage to trigger it. In keeping with the NBA Jam tradition of rewarding streaks of three, Team Fire kicks in after hitting three alley-oops in a row. Once that is accomplished, your team will erupt in a blue flame, and you will get 20 seconds of possession time. Your players run at turbo speeds and perform magnificent dunks at high speeds. After 20 seconds, Team Fire will expire. It can also be broken by the other team scoring an alley-oop. A regular basket is not enough to stop Team Fire.
Also new to the gameplay in this instalment of the NBA Jam series is "Tag Mode". In NBA Jam: On Fire Edition you are in control of both players on the court which is now called Tag Mode. This mode puts more control in your hands and bottom line I preferred this way of playing. But if you prefer the old method of control where you play with one player then you can turn Tag Mode off in the Gameplay Options screen. "Call for" is another new addition to the series. How it works is when you are on offence you can command your team mate to go up for an alley-oop. Passing the ball to your team mate then completes the action. You can also call your team mate to shove a player which can free up some space for you.
With NBA Jam: On Fire Edition, is not just about gameplay. There are a bunch of unlockables and hidden goodies for you to open up as you progress along in the game. This gives the game some very good replay value and has you coming back for more and more. Additionally the multiplayer was a smooth and highly enjoyable experience.
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