As sports games have evolved in the HD era, many gains have been offset by a loss of soul. While this current generation has ushered in an era of gorgeous graphics, super-deep franchise modes, and expansive online options, the public at large now struggles with hyper-complicated controls and a steep learning curve. NBA Jam is the perfect solution to this problem – a simple yet deep and stylish game that will appeal to everyone.
It’s impossible not to have fun playing NBA Jam. From tipoff to final whistle, EA has done a spectacular job recreating Jam’s glory days, and you’ll be flying around the court doing helicopter dunks with fiery basketballs within minutes. The player models look amazing (especially the digital photo faces that change expression based on the action), the backgrounds are retro-arcade beautiful, and that famous NBA Jam voice Tim Kitzrow is back with his great array of over-the-top calls. Boom-shaka-laka!
Even the controls scream simplicity, supporting stick- and button-based schemes. What’s nicer, you don’t have to choose one or the other – they both work at the same time. You can easily shoot, jump, pass, block, steal, or shove whether you’re a stick-flicker or button-masher (or both). To be sure, the shooting feels pretty loose, but Jam has never been about intricate timing. Maybe the 2K series could learn a lesson here.
Have no doubt that Jam is fast-paced and high-scoring, but we even had a blast playing defense. Taking risks to try and knock down an opponent or steal the ball won’t work every time, but when they do, it’s extremely satisfying. It wouldn’t be Jam without loads of secret unlockable characters (athletes, loathsome politicians, and otherwise), and it won’t be long before you’re playing with and against players you used back in the day – names like Dennis Rodman, Patrick Ewing, Hakeem Olajuwon, and Larry Johnson pepper a huge list of retro ballers.
Jam is always best played with or against a buddy (both co-op and head-to-head options are available), but it’s no slouch in the single-player world either. The old-school Campaign mode pits you against every team, advancing until you’ve defeated the entire league. There’s also a so-called Remix campaign, sporting power-ups, non-traditional modes like Elimination and 21, and Boss Battles that pit you against an impressive array of NBA Legends. A lot of these modes switch up the view, offering a distinctly different look and challenge.
Every mode old and new is also available online, which helps immensely if you don’t have a buddy or two at close range. Our limited online matches all played pretty well, too, and we hope the community grows.
Jam is our favorite sports title of the year. Sure, our memories of wasting scads of hours playing the original in the arcade color our judgment, but no matter what, Jam flat-out rocks. It’s gotta be the shoes!
Nov 23, 2010