EA Sports had no shortages of titles on display at X'11. Its staple franchises were well represented in Madden 12, NHL 12 and FIFA 12. Another potential franchise in the making; Grand Slam Tennis 2 looked like it could hold its own amongst EA Sports' heavyweights. In between the old and the new franchises was NBA Jam: On Fire Edition, an online, downloadable exclusive follow up to the recently resurrected NBA Jam. Considering EA Sports has the presently AWOL NBA Live (nee Elite) and NBA Street already under its banner for virtual hoops action, it was curious to see what they had in store in presenting their second attempt at updating an undeniable classic, but at the same time appease basketball enthusiasts to the franchises that have been left by the wayside indefinitely.
For those in need of a primer, NBA Jam is a two-on-two, arcade styled basketball experience consisting of death-defying dunks and a blatant disregard for the rules you'd expect to see on television. When it was first released by Midway back in 1993, NBA Jam blew up arcades nationwide with its over-the-top representation of basketball. It spanned many sequels, but perhaps more importantly, paved the way for other sports titles to get the Jam treatment. Throw in equally absurd and awesome hidden characters and courts plus the ability to have four players throwing down and you had something simple, yet extraordinarily special. EA Sports realized this when they released NBA Jam earlier this year as an homage of sorts. The graphics, audio and presentation were updated, while the gameplay and specifically the rubber-band AI was largely kept untouched thus bringing back faithful memories of the original, but arguably appealing mostly to the purists who wouldn't want their Jam any other way.
NBA Jam: On Fire Edition, made by the same team that handled the NBA Live series serves as more than a meager update. Boasting tons of gameplay enhancements, On Fire maintains the source material but enhances it by doing away with the rubber band AI of yesteryear resulting in a more user-friendly pick up and play experience. This is not to suggest the game has been watered down. On the contrary, EA Sports has added some significant depth to the core gameplay which means you will be able to do much more than passing, shooting, stealing and blocking shots. Among the depth maneuvers include the familiar calling for alley-oops as well as calling for your teammate to blatantly shove a pesky defender away. Gamers familiar with NBA Street will be pleased to see that On Fire has incorporated razzle dazzle taunts and trick shots. Team On Fire also returns allowing a team of brick layers to score with incredible consistency from anywhere on the court. While all of these enhancements improve the gameplay at the expense of realism perhaps nothing is more outlandish a maneuver in On Fire then what can best be described as a super poke. By executing one, you do not knock an opposing player down or most likely even strip them of the ball. What is accomplished however is stopping any momentum the opponent may have and make them more susceptible to a swipe or throwing up an ill-advised shot. What would easily be classified as a fragrant foul in the NBA is sure to be a cause for instigation in On Fire.
The demonstration at X'11 allowed for exhibition play only but On Fire will offer much more beyond that. Play Now pits two teams chosen at random against one another. Roundtrip takes gamers to all thirty NBA locations and Arena promises to provide a huge tournament for gamers of all skill levels. Online co-op will be available for casual gamers and the best-of-the best to hone their skills. Throw in NBA challenges, privileges and experience acquisition in the form of Jam bucks and players will be bringing the "Boom-Shakalaka" from all corners.
Despite everything new and borrowed, On Fire still manages to look and feel like its coin-op grand-daddy. While players have never looked better with their three-dimensional big heads, and the voice of NBA Jam, Tim Kitzrow has added to his repertoire of one-liners and his astute brand of play-by-play and colour commentary. On Fire personifies arcade-basketball and what NBA Jam achieved almost two decades ago. AI now shows more realistic tendencies such as actually playing defense, and setting up screens. Players act like they do in the NBA, with sharp shooting pairings like Golden State's Monta Ellis and Stephen Curry favouring raining shots from outside the arc. Meanwhile teams with players that penetrate the lanes such as Miami's LeBron James and Dwyane Wade will show no fear as they split the defenses on their way to the hoop. Visually, On Fire triumphs, as everything is automated from the boisterous crowd in the stands to your teammates on the bench when they react with unadulterated enthusiasm for a 360 degree windmill dunk from the free throw line. Each NBA team is represented with current players but also legends and team mascots. If that isn't enough, gamers can unlock and play as the 44th President of the United States Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, and any one of the three members of the American Hip Hop Trio, the Beastie Boys. EA Sports assured the secret characters list will be extensive when On Fire is released on the PlayStation Network and Xbox Live on October 31st.
To commemorate both its release and the fans that waited patiently for a Jam revival, EA Sports will make NBA JAM: On Fire Edition available to download for the incredibly reasonable price of fifteen dollars. Taking into consideration this is an entirely new game to the full priced NBA Jam released earlier this year, EA Sports is providing gamers with a treat over a trick this Halloween.