"super" versions of last year's hit games is starting to become
something of a tradition in the industry. But EA Canada may have just perfected
the formula. NBA Jam: On Fire Edition takes the much-loved Jam of 2010, adds
new players and teams, new moves, better AI, and a deeper unlocking system and
puts it all in a tidy downloadable package for $15 on PSN and XBLA.
much could NBA Jam really improve? As a Jam player in the past, I have to
admit, I too was skeptical. But some new controls and other tweaks make for a
better experience. The big improvements include being able to switch between
players on the court (though there is a slight lag to switching), calling for
alley-oops and shoves from your AI teammate, Team Fire, and what EA Canada
likes to call "Razzle Dazzle!!" I like to call it "Razzle
Dazzle, Baby!!" but I'm sure they know what they're doing.
you're a seasoned Jam vet, then you know that if you make three shots in a row
with the same player without your opponent scoring, you catch fire and get
massive skill boosts and cool flames on your shots. That's back, but added is
Team Fire, which ignites after three consecutive alley-oops. Both teammates are
now on fire for 20 full seconds. That's a powerful advantage than can only be
broken if the opposing team scores an alley-oop.
for the Razzle and the Dazzle, it's a fun piece of flair added to shoves,
shots, dunks, and dekes. Hold down both triggers and press the appropriate
action button and you'll pull off a taunt-filled move worthy of Razzle Dazzle's
two exclamation points. What's worse than having Jason Kidd swipe the ball from
LeBron as the final seconds of the fourth quarter tick down? Having Kidd then
drop to the floor and toss up a stylish trick shot while on his bum for the
game-winning three pointer. Even in NBA Jam, LeBron gets no respect.
these changes might sound like visual boosts and small changes, they end up
adding depth to a game famous for having no depth. You can do a little more and
have a little more fun. Razzle Dazzle!! upped the smack talk in my one-on-one
match from 90% to 99% -- which means I breathed 1% of the match and talked
trash the rest of the time.
the most significant change is one you'll only notice when playing solo. For
the lone wolfs out there, the AI in last year's Jam was pretty dumb. It could
suck and get beat down for three quarters, but was designed to snap back and
lay a challenge in the end in pretty much every match. It made progressing
through the single-player campaign mind-numbing after a while. Your mind will
no longer be numb with the On Fire Edition. EA Canada recorded themselves
playing thousands of gameplay situations, which the AI actually uses during the
game. In other words, when you play, every action from the AI is a developer
pulling off the moves.
comes into play in the deep career progression system. There's a ton to unlock
in On Fire through Jam Challenges. I was pretty shocked to see how much is
available -- including a Team EA with Faith from Mirror's Edge and Isaac from
Dead Space. The challenges have four tiers (bronze to diamond), getting
progressively harder, but more rewarding as you go. Challenges are things like
recording a certain number of blocks in your career. The diamond level is where
things get a little nuts. Remember how, just a paragraph ago, I told you that the
AI you play against is actually recordings of the developers playing? Well, for
diamond level challenges, the AI is (wait for it) you. That's right, the game
records your actions through all your playthroughs and when you reach diamond,
you battle yourself. NBA Jam just got existential, kid!
Canada's goal with NBA Jam: On Fire Edition seems to be to out-crazy 2010's NBA
Jam. Personally, I thought last year's Jam was a little shallow, and a little
too much like its arcade original. The On Fire Edition has me excited. This is
the real Jam update I was waiting for.
Sep 28, 2011