NBA JAM: On Fire Edition Review (Xbox 360)
NBA JAM: On Fire Edition is the second JAM title from EA Sports since the comeback of this historic arcade title. JAM has the razzle-dazzle of current generation graphics with the simple gameplay enhancements to the classic game.
JAM: OFE fuses the best of NBA All-Star weekend and throws it all into four quarters of hoops. In 2011, Black Mamba and his flywire Nikes catch fire off the dish from Magic for an alleyoop – just one of the many dream teams that can be formed with the playable legends in the game.
The controls are simple. Ballers have to weave their way through shoves and elbows as you try to take flight for the classic freethrow line jam. You have your standard turbos on each trigger hand.
There are plenty of challenges to play through. Achievements will provide JAM points to go and unlock your favorite dunkers of all time in Jam Central: Magic, and Alonzo Mourning being some of my personal favorites.
As you play through the game, you’ll quickly realize that the player ratings have a considerable influence on your strategy. Guards with speed and quickness will have the ability to counter the power dunkers through steals and shiftiness. Each player performs as expected according to their real-life attributes. Defensive beasts like Alonzo Mourning and Dennis Rodman will protect the paint at all costs, shoving anybody they see into the first row.
Players such as Durant may be the ultimate weapons in NBA JAM. Durant’s outside shot, speed, shot blocking ability and dunk ratings make KD the most dominant player I’ve seen in this title thus far.
AI teammates will actually make a good amount of plays for you in NBA JAM: OFE. Dunkers take backdoor cuts for alley-oops and your players attack on defense in crunch time moments and go for steals.
The bumpers are used to control the AI teammates on the fly; RB will send your teammate out for an alley-oop and LB will set a pick with a push. This control allows for a few options from the point of attack for the users.
When you are not controlling teammates, they do make bonehead plays. If you get blocked and tossed onto the baseline after a missed dunk, teammates always feel the need to try and go up for a monster put-back jam, leaving the opposition a clear run at a dunk on the other end. These hiccups occur, and you can combat them by quickly clicking on the teammate if you have to in these types of situations. Another example occurs on fast breaks. Occasionally your teammate will go try and clear somebody out behind you instead of running ahead for the alley-oop to get team fire.
This year’s title added triple-threat pivot moves. If you lose your active dribble, you won't be completely defenseless against oncoming shoves by throwing your elbows. Players can evade shoves by dodging under and around them while planted on a pivot foot.
This year's opponent AI technology was originated in the NHL series, and was also used with the Fight Night series. The computer will learn and record the sequences playing out on the court and adapt. The AI will also merge with online opponent's tendencies to constantly evolve its approach. In the time I have spent with the game, the opponent AI had different strategies in every game depending on how the game was playing out.
The only repetitive AI I found was playing against the classic Orlando Magic of Shaq and Dwight Howard - all they want to do is jam on you - which is expected, and almost unstoppable.
In JAM: OFE, the cameras flash and Spalding genuine leather catches brilliant red and blue flames. NBA Jam’s colors pop off the screen. The graphic work and camera work create awesome entertainment on every end of the floor. The camera follows dunker's rising through the air from the third-story balcony back down to the throwdown. These emphatic dunks and put-back jams rock rims, and shake your television monitors. The put-back jams in a close game are one of the most exciting plays in sports gaming I've had in quite some time.
Players feature their subtle details in their signature shooting styles. It adds a bit of character to each player. Durant has long arms that can make it rain from anywhere from his half of the court. You'll notice the players balling in their signature shoes as well, fully licensed across the board from the uniforms down to the laces.
Not to be outdone, the commentary is what we've known to love. Announcer Tim Kitzrow returns with the catch phrases that will leave you scratching your head.
Main Modes of Play
The Road Trip mode will allow gamers to play through each region of the country through a series of tag teams for each franchise. Each team will have three levels of duos to go through, each providing new rules to the game along the way. The third level tag team for each team typically will be the legendary team or some type of new-school, old-school roster. The achievements are broken down into five categories, each becoming increasingly more difficult as you progress.
The Celtics suit up Bird and Ray Allen, and value three pointers at four points. The rules will play to your opponent’s strengths causing gamers to rethink strategy on what squad to employ with the new game rules and skill sets of your opponents.
JAM’s online mode will enable gamers to ball across all borders. The online co-op allows up to four gamers to compete in glass shattering throw-downs at a smooth frame rate. EA Sports’ servers have always proven to be pretty stable.
Players can team up with online friends and battle through all of the NBA teams from coast to coast in online Co-Op Road Trip. Co-Op provides some significant help against unstoppable gold teams you will encounter on your campaign.
JAM: OFE tracks your record online and off and ranks your numbers against the world. I suggest to befriend some of your biggest competition with the new friend system – friends on your buddy list carry stats towards your own achievements. For instance, if 100 alley-oops are needed to level up, your buddies’ stats will help you get there. There is also a new weekly leaderboard that ranks everyone who is playing the game. Each week, the best of the best will get to play each other to see who is the most dominant JAM player. After the seventh day, it starts over again giving you another chance at domination.
The idea of playing friends from anywhere and anytime in an old-school game of NBA JAM online is truly a lovable feature.
NBA JAM is a game where the nonstop highlight reel dunks are always satisfying. Road Trip provides unique challenges along the way, forcing gamers to employ some basketball strategy and knowledge to get through each level of a region. This title is a must have for basketball fans, simulation fans included.
Learning Curve: Straightforward gameplay with a subtle layer of depth that keeps you coming back for more.
Control Scheme: Simple and welcoming control scheme to all gamers.
Visuals: The graphics and colors are beautifully done, retaining the classic 2D look in a 2011 HD broadcast.
Audio: The audio is non-stop, featuring cartoon sound effects for every action.
Value: For such a classic and enjoyable title, this game will always provide entertainment to basketball fans.
Score: 7.0 (Good)
What does a 7.0 mean? "7.0 - 7.5 (Good) -- These games are pretty good, and while having several notable flaws, they generally play well and are quite fun. They definitely are not great yet, but with a few fixes they could get there. These are solid buys, especially if you like the sport."