Whenever a publisher revives a classic game or series, the hope is that the developer can keep the feel of the old while adding some new. Many have tried to relaunch an old franchise, with the results often disappointing. With EA Sports bringing NBA Jam to the HD generation, lifelong fans of the series were understandably hesitant about the reboot. But is the game any good? Read on below to find out if this effort from NBA Jam rains true from down town or is it rejected at the rim.
The basic gameplay of the NBA Jam series hasn’t changed over the years, and doesn’t really here either. It is all about crazy high-flying dunks and on-fire threes as two teams of two face off. Nothing displays this more than the main mode in the game, Classic Campaign. Here, players must fight their way through a ladder of 36 NBA teams and Secret Teams to win it all. The only rules here are the shot clock violation and that darn goal-tending. The gameplay here, and through all the modes, is basically the same with a shoot, jump, turbo and steal being available to players. Score three-in-a-row and you will be on fire, which should dramatically boost your accuracy of your player. This falls a bit short as your player never feels amazing enough, something you felt in past NBA Jams. Controls are very responsive, with the analog stick controlling your jumping, shooting and, the always loved, shoving. It is nice to see EA Sports sticking to the simple formula of fast paced, and easy to pick up, fun – though with this simple design the gameplay can become a tad repetitive, with games often playing out much the same as those before. Luckily, the title packages in 1-4 player local co-op, which helps to take away some of the repetition that comes when playing against the computer.
If you tire of the normal run through Classic Campaign then EA Sports has a thrilling alternative with the Remix Tour and the many new modes that it introduces to the table. Remix Tour will have you competing in games to earn points, which in turn you use to unlock new divisions around the league. It is basically the same as the classic but now features power ups and has different goals than before. The power ups range from increased accuracy to lightning speed, but sadly they don’t seem to make as much difference as you would like. The new modes combined bring something new to the table, even if that something rehashes the same basic gameplay of the rest of the modes. For instance, smash mode has you trying to destroy your opponents backboard before they destroy yours which turns into a dunking contest at both ends. Other modes include 21 and Elimination, which is 3 players all trying to score with one ball. The last man standing wins, lowest score is eliminated after each round. All of these modes can be played separately or as part of the remix tour. None of these modes are bad but none of them stand out either. In fact for most they will drive you right back to the classic campaign where there is nothing to distract you but your opponent and the basket.
Online play was added to the game for its release on the PS3. Like a team in the middle of a losing season, it is impossible to find people sitting around to play this game with. Most of the time spent online was simply sitting and hoping that the game would find someone, somewhere out in this vast world to match up against. When you do finally find someone to match up against it’s a good bet that if you get up, they will quit. With no penalty for quitters this happens far too often and with a lack of online players, it cripples the fun that could be had. Add in the fact that there are no lobbies and no way to see how many people are playing online, gamers will quickly turn back to local play. The online is not all bad though – if you can find games with icons and titles to win online along with a leveling up system.
Besides the real gameplay itself, NBA Jam is most known for its presentation and, specifically, its audio. Thankfully, Tim Kitzrow returns as the voice behind the game, echoing plenty of boomshakala’s. The visuals all see a nice bump up and players faces are downright hysterical as they soar in for a monster dunk. All 30 teams are represented and the players picked to do so have their actual faces planted on a cartoon body, adding to the humor in the game. Overall, the game looks and sounds good with a good blend of nostalgia and new age.
At the end of the day, NBA Jam is a solid reboot that does a good job of keeping to the franchise’s roots, while adding a few new game modes to the table. The lackluster online is a bit disappointing and the remix modes feel a bit tacked on. The Classic Campaign continues to be an addictive drive to the hoop and the audio commentary never fails to inspire a grin. While the price ($50) might be a bit too steep for some, you will find plenty of fun here and with friends over this game will be worth every penny spent.
PlayStation LifeStyle’s Final Score
+Easy controls are perfect for pick-up and play
– New modes and online fail to add much to overall game