NBA Jam HD Hits and Misses

Posted December 1st, 2010 at 4:00 pm

NBA Jam for the PS3 and 360 was at one time a highly anticipated game. The remake, with the license having been acquired by EA Sports, would originally be announced as a Wii exclusive. Everyone though fully expected it would make its way to the HD consoles.

Soon it was announced as being a “free” pack-in with NBA Elite 11. Even at that time there were many people who planned on buying Elite in order to obtain NBA Jam. Over the following months the desire for the game dissipated at an alarming rate. When EA canceled Elite and revealed they would be releasing NBA Jam as a standalone retail offering the news was largely dismissed as consumers turned their attention elsewhere.

Would a game that was marketed as being “free” be able to sell for $50 even with added content? Would online play, absent in the Wii version, be the selling point needed to make it a hit? Unfortunately for EA they dug a hole they couldn’t get out of and most importantly the game just didn’t turn out to be compelling enough to succeed in the current economic climate.


  • Original Formula

EA Sports succeeded at updating NBA Jam with a fresh feel that still kept the charm and appeal of the original. The strategy, pacing, inclusion of mascots, legends, and unlockables all delivered. The nostalgia felt for the series was not damaged by the new release. Pretty much every other attempt at reinventing popular sports games of the past have failed miserably so this represents an accomplishment.

  • New Modes

In an attempt to add content there are new modes delivered, most important of which is the Remix Mode. That makes for a nice complimentary option to the standard Campaign mode. The mini-games within Remix are enjoyable in short bursts and provide some much needed variety. The powerups in Remix 2v2 games however are not a good fit. Elimination, Domination, 21, and Smash tend to be completely chaotic which is fun in a way but becomes tiring quickly.

  • Graphics/Audio

Where NBA Jam really came through is in this area. The graphics are very slick and the animated backgrounds and coaches are amusing. Using real photos to express emotions for the players was an ingenious decision, however when actually playing the game they tend to go unnoticed. Tim Kitzrow really ties the feeling of playing NBA Jam back to the days of the original. His commentary is very often amusing though it does begin to become repetitive.

  • No “Online Pass”

This was likely scrapped due to time constraints, but the “Online Pass” would have potentially killed whatever online community the game has. With sales sluggish, many consumers are either disinterested in the game or  are waiting for the price to drop. At least there is no “Online Pass” block in effect that will stop those who buy the game used from playing online. Without those playing online it may have been even more difficult to find opponents, leading to more people deciding to part with the game earlier than expected.


  • Online Play

Going in it was online play that appealed to me the most and it was immediately a disappointment. The one positive is that there has been no lag in any of the games played. However there are very few opponents online, and those that are end up getting spread between the different modes. There should have been a lobby room where users could have congregated to find matches. The ability to quit games without receiving losses, freezing of the gameplay in several instances when leading big (and getting a loss for exiting), and an issue now being seen once Level 49 is reached where only losses count on a user’s record, have made for anything but a desirable online experience. Outside of that the games against other users just haven’t been as fun as anticipated. Silence from EA regarding roster updates is troubling as well.

  • CPU Teammate AI

Easily the most frustrating part of the gameplay in NBA Jam is how poor the CPU teammate AI plays. They can not be relied upon for anything, and often it feels like the user is left playing one on two. The CPU teammate will often not even make attempts to block shots. There is nothing more maddening then watching a small guard slash into the lane and your “big guy” just stand there as he lays it in or dunks it. On offense they turn the ball over like crazy, big men rarely go for alley-oops, and guards have trouble scoring on their own.

  • Changes Made

While EA Sports was able to revive the feel of NBA Jam there have been a few changes that have proven detrimental to the experience. Removing “Tag Mode”, the ability to control whoever has the ball on your team, is a big one. This is especially troublesome given the issues with CPU teammate AI. Being on “Fire” is not as effective for shooters (seems like I actually miss more threes while on “Fire”) and doesn’t carry over to the defensive end for blocking shots. On defense the ability to push shooters while in mid-air is gone and that has changed quite a bit in the way of defensive strategy.

  • Controls

The new controls function well for the most part however the decision to not allow for a customizable scheme is indefensible. Putting “Turbo” on the LB/LT has proven to be awkward for many used to it being on the RT. What makes it worse though is RB/RT are left completely unused. At the very least they could have mapped “Turbo” to both sides and no one would be complaining. While I’ve enjoyed using the stick to shoot there are drawbacks like not being able to pass out of shots as easily and removing the ability to pump fake.

  • Devalued Brand

Much has been made of how NBA Jam’s tie-in as a “free” game included with NBA Elite 11 has damaged the brand. Even though EA had planned to offer different modes as paid DLC, it is hard not to evaluate NBA Jam with the thought of it being “free” or at least represented as such. Needless to say consumers have spoken as the game has failed to gain traction at retail. It has been remarkable to see the shift from widespread excitement when the remake was announced to pure indifference in just a matter of months.

I still don’t take issue with the amount of content provided in NBA Jam for its asking price. The value would be there had online play reached its potential and had the CPU teammate AI been competent. Unfortunately the drawbacks of NBA Jam have made it anything but a must-have game and consumers are more aware now than ever of what they are spending their money on.

In this case with the way EA Sports fumbled the handling of NBA Jam since its original announcement it was just too much to overcome.  For more on NBA Jam check out my initial impressions article as well as full online impressions.

  • Anonymous



    • Oaf

      Disagree, this game is amazing.

    • Anonymous

      and to think, this shit over NCAA Basketball Fuck You EA

  • Hungryandrew

    EA Sports=FAIL!!

  • Anonymous

    I’d buy it if it was either on PSN or for no more than $25. I’ll wait for it to come down on amazon and buy it there. I’m sure I speak for most people when they say that they’ll wait for the price to come down.

    • Dunepbeam

      Im waiting also

  • Jason Starks

    They put so much EA into JAM that the Midway tactics that made the game remarkable in the 1st place was missed.

  • Beef Jerky Fanatic

    is shaq in this?

    • BCYa

      Yes, but it’s old school Shaq on the Magic.

    • BCYa

      Yes, but it’s old school Shaq on the Magic.

  • Clintbeastwoods

    Only a moron would give those thieves at ea 50 dollars for this outdated arcade game! It should be 10 dollars for download on xbox live arcade! Ea is charging 50 dollars in an attempt to make up for all the lost revenue from the Nba elite debacle! Ea should focus on making a solid game instead of focusing on gimmicks and ways to rob the consumer for half assed products!

  • Malikstarks2

    I say again EA is the most incompetent multi-billion dollar company that still exists. They can’t even program the computer AI for a two on two basketball game. How pathetic.

  • joe/mike

    i got nba jams for $30.00 black friday its fun i have a 42 in flat screen 1080p 120 hz looks n plays amazing which i had a bigger screen.,nba 2k11 controls suck no matter what you have it on it just dont feel right i sold it for$25.00.jams i enjoy much better n i play my nba live 10 still best basketball game ever.2k9 is better then jams is made to have fun nothing serious,layed back.2k 11 is just a headache nba jams dobt suck its a break from live or 2k duh

    • Tecmobrowns

      To say that nba live 10 is the best basketball game ever ,and to say nba 2k11 sucks shows you are 1. you like playing s@*t games(nba live 10). 2. you are a complete moron. nba 2k11 didn’t get high ratings for the hell of it. It’s that you were used to playing a inferior game(live 10) and when you tried to run up and down the court with same mindset of live 10 2k11 smacked the hell outta you with it’s defense!

      • joe/mike

        2k11 controls dont make sense ,lag n so 10 is way better ea can chill for a year cause 2k really didnt do nothing special.gameplay in live 10 is slow pace in 2k 11 like its takes 8 sec for the player your contrling to actually ,move that gonna be lma next yrear ea will bring the heat,they just laying low.when you do any type of businness its good 2 lay low some times,specially when a competitor isnt rally doing nothing.its like 2k 11 players have disabilitys but a guess its playable if you have mental promblems to.

        • They didn’t really do anything? You mean making a game that critics call the best sports game ever made is not doing anything? Or the fact that having Jordan in the game makes it basically a collector’s item? LOL, yeah okay… have fun waiting for Elite ’12.

  • joe/mike

    like people act like this is a 5 on 5?its all fun enjoying.i payed 30.00 i would pay 50.00 i payed 60.00 for 2k 11 n the game looks awesome i like that about but the controls default,a,b,c n the three different configs you can do with each of them wasnt cuttting it.i was more mad playing had to drop it.n go back to live 10.n also now nba jams.really fun whether you playing ai or a real person i like it.RENT it n you will see the greatness 8 out of 10 stars i give it.

  • joe/mike

    like people act like this is a 5 on 5?its all fun enjoying.i payed 30.00 i would pay 50.00 i payed 60.00 for 2k 11 n the game looks awesome i like that about but the controls default,a,b,c n the three different configs you can do with each of them wasnt cuttting it.i was more mad playing had to drop it.n go back to live 10.n also now nba jams.really fun whether you playing ai or a real person i like it.RENT it n you will see the greatness 8 out of 10 stars i give it.

  • joe/mike

    id say the negative stuff you who are saying dont have $50.00 nor money to rent it n you probally are in a public library reading this now cause you have no internet at home,or the half way house you in…im only being real player.

    • I don’t think it really matters whether $50 is a big deal to someone or not. Is the value of whats being offered worth $50 to a given person? That will always vary, and in this case it could simply be that $50 spent on NBA Jam is not equal to $50 spent on another game that could be chosen.

  • joe/mike

    like the controls for jams was any better back n the day its better now then what it was ,trying getting a nin 64 or playstation n see how much improvements they made since then. you ever think they only remade it again for people to have fun with it.

    • Anonymous

      WTF are you talking about man?!?!?

  • Nolabeast504

    NBA JAM vs NBA2k11 ????? No comparison. NBA JAM is 4 kids. I was lik 10 yrs old when this game was hot. The video game world evolved past NBA JAM. JAM was like the caveman on the evolution chart behind the human. Its not a game that I would take minutes or hours out of my life to play AT ALL……………. EXCEPT on my smartphone. If im on a flight or bored or doing anything where I would play a game on my phone THIS IS AN APP i would download. NOT a game i would spend 60$ and invest vaulable time that I could playing something I actually like on VG console. EA marketing team dropped tha ball, this would be a hot app . EA Sports is lost as far as understanding the video game world.

  • DonRSD aka DonVCorleone(psn)

    where is TAG MODE?

    when i pass the ball i want to control who has the ball

  • 123

    if you have real, live, friends…you know the human kind. the kind that you actually interact with in the 3D world…the ones you go to school with, eat with, drink with…the kind you play basketball with on the hardtop…and not the kinds of friends many of you complaining have…the kind that only live in cyber space because you are so geeked up you can’t even socialize…then yeah the game sucks for you.

    But if you have your friends over, at your house…in your room…next to you…playing the game 2 on 2. It’s an amazing game. Grab a 12 pack (mt dew for you youngsters), a pizza and a couple controllers for some 2 on 2 old school nba jam with a friend…a real friend…and you’ll have a blast!

    • Haha exactly. The game is fun to me and was worth $50. Even when I play by myself I suffer from the “I say “”one more game”” but end up playing 3+ more”. I understand ones that may not feel that this game is worth $50 but to me, it’s one of the most fun games this year, especially when playing with other people in the same room.

      • As one of the original Midway designers of NBA Jam, NBA Jam Tournament Edition, NBA Hangtime, Maximum Hangtime and NBA Showtime, I only wish the future of the “other” Midway franchise (Mortal Kombat is now with WB) good luck. I hope the sales turn out well, despite the initial not-so-great sales. – Jon Hey

    • Nolabeast504

      I seems like u feel offended. Im grown dude, im not sure if ur 13 years old. But I dont have any “live” friends that i hang with that after cracking open a brew or sipping alcohol says ” lets play NBA JAM” ………….. sorry 🙂 LOL. Game was hot in the 90’s let it die there. Some things are not meant to be re-created (i.e. Mortal Kombat 2 the movie) ……………… this is one. I would like it as app though to play wen im bored.

      • 123

        good job at contributing something constructive to the topic of the thread. People like you, you know, people who go around aimlessly invading blogs with your hopelessly narcissistic rants because it makes you feel better as a person, are a complete waste of productivity. You seem offended by my comment, so, you must be one of the few who don’t have real friends (wonder why…). I’m grown. In fact, I’m in law school. Plenty of my friends who are also in law school love the nostalgia of playing the new NBA…it is refreshing because so many games are so simulated and intense they take way too long to play. People like myself, who have limited time to play a game, enjoy the ability to kick back a brew and play some relaxing title taking us back to our childhood. People like you are debbie downers, who belong far away from the blogosphere.

  • Shawn

    The EA smear campaign in full effect I see

  • joe/mike

    lets take a fund up for the people that cant afford it.

  • Lucasamborn

    where can i find it NBA ELITE 11 for ps3