EA's NBA Jam reboot last year was a great return to form for the arcade basketball classic. Even though it was a retail release, this year's On Fire Edition is download only on Xbox Live Arcade and Playstation Network. NBA Jam being download only is for the best since you're getting a better value for a decent amount of content. Some new gameplay additions and online features are introduced for this year's version, but its still NBA Jam at its core, which what matters importantly at the end of the day. From ridiculous dunks, Tim Kitzrow saying boomshakalaka numerous times, and tons of unlockables, NBA Jam: On Fire Edition is a great downloadable package that is worth your fifteen bucks.
The classic NBA Jam gameplay is still intact in this version sticking to the signature 2v2 format. Games are fast and intense with easy scoring, but as sports goes, a great defense equals a great offense. Defending is key to success with the classic pushes, stealing, and timed blocks. Players on offense can still use their elbows like the original to avoid pushes, but that can only do so much. Scoring still consists of normal shooting, crazy dunks, alley oops, and being on fire to do insane over the top dunks. The new gameplay additions are great adding along to your ways to score. Team Fire allows both teammates to be on fire by scoring three alley oops in a row then the ball goes on blue fire. There is a time limit with team fire, but the opposing team can distinguish it with an alley oop of their own. Razzle dazzle brings some style to the mix with tricks straight out of NBA Street even though it is just a way to show off and crazy shots you normally don't see in a real basketball game. Tag mode is simply controlling both teammates instead of one human and one CPU AI the whole game. Having that on has its advantages and weaknesses, but at least it makes Jam feel somewhat modern to the simulation b-ball games. The core gameplay is still fun, pick up to play, and a blast especially against local friends, where it can get pretty competitive once good games get going.
While last year's reboot has numerous modes that spiced up things from boss characters and other crazy stipulations, On Fire Edition sticks straight to the point of good old fashioned NBA Jam taking those out even though they were decent ideas at the time. Other than the standard Jam Now mode, you're going to spend most of your time in the game's Road Trip and Online Arena. Road Trip is the main career mode as you have to face all the teams at least three times to complete it. The first time will be against current stars while the second time is against a team's legends (some teams don't have legends though). It gets harder at the second half of the campaign as the AI gets better at defense pushing and stealing at will even though you can breeze through teams' current stars. Even though it can be played alone, Road Trip is a grind being longer than you think becoming repetitive even though the AI steps up their game as you progress. At least if you're tired of grinding it out alone, it can be played co-op locally and even online.
Speaking of online, On Fire Edition's Online Arena is deeper with lots of stat tracking, challenges to complete (also counts for Road Trip). The Jam challenges are self-explanatory performing certain tasks to accumulate Jam Points to buy the game's unlockables. Online specific challenges are there as well as your friends list that play this game can help achieve them even though they function the same. The big feature with Online Arena is that there is a time period to accumulate wins and racking medals every week. This is neat to have pushing players to keep playing online matches against the world. Other than that, be prepared to deal with players that like to spam three pointers as unless you can defend that, online play is going to be frustrating and it has been personally. In addition, there are ragequitters that will not finish games if they are behind by lots of points. It still functions fine with minimal lag during my experience so far, but it is rare to have a fair game of NBA Jam going against online opposition. There will be intense moments during close games as you just want to scream out loud pulling off a double overtime win to yelling curse words in defeat.
If you seen the graphics of last year's NBA Jam, On Fire Edition basically looks the same with accurate faces to current stars and legends. There are some missing legends probably because of likeness issues (Michael Jordan being in NBA 2K12 is obviously an exclusive thing), but it is still pretty much a who's who of basketball players from the 80s and 90s. The crowd looks fine for the most part and the unlockable teams are obviously a nice treat in a game like this. In traditional Jam fashion, Democrats and Republicans are unlockable as well as mascots and characters from other EA games that I won't spoil (unless you saw that launch trailer above). I also like the soundtrack in the game with beats that gets people going in-game and the menus. Tim Kitzrow's commentary is still as good as it was back in the 90s with his classic lines even though he can ramble too much and when he throws out references from today's times, they're cringe-worthy at best.
For fifteen dollars (1200 Microsoft Points), NBA Jam: On Fire Edition is as good as it gets when it comes to arcade sports games. Being downloadable is a great thing as you're getting lots of replay value out of it for that price from the lengthy Road Trip mode and playing against other people locally or online. The classic gameplay is still as fun and a blast to play as it was in the 90s along with the craziness the franchise has been known for. The numerous unlockables and completing jam challenges are also keep players going for weeks and months to come along with downloadable content and updated rosters. At this rate, who needs the NBA lockout when you can go boomshakalaka on your foes with this latest NBA Jam.
Score = 8.5/10
- The core NBA Jam gameplay is still fun and a blast especially with the new gameplay additions
- Tons of replay value and numerous unlockables
- Sticks straight to the point taking out the gimmick modes
- Lengthy career mode
- Deep online focus will keep players going
- Some of the commentary could of been better (Kitzrow can ramble too much at times)
- Online competition can be frustrating to play against (opponents that love to spam three pointers because they have a player with a high 3pt rating and ragequitters if they are down by a huge margin)