It's been an interesting journey for NBA Jam on the Xbox 360. First being announced as an included game with the purchase of EA's NBA Elite '11 then as a standalone title after Elite was postponed - all the while the Nintendo Wii version was released.
Nonetheless, the game was finally released with the promise of HD graphics and online multiplayer but how does it stack up?
From the main menu, gamers will have the option of jumping straight into a game with “Play Now” while other game modes are available such as Classic Campaign, Remix Tour, Remix Modes and Boss Battles. The first thing players will want to do is jump into Jam Camp which is a training mode that introduces you to the game’s controls. The true benefit of completing Jam Camp however is that Big Head Mode becomes unlocked – an absolute must, if one is to enjoy the hilarious faces made by the players.
Control-wise, gamers can use the face buttons to shoot, cross over, steal and shove though the right analog stick is also mapped to jumping and shooting (as well as dunking). A flick of the analog stick in an upward direction will cause the player to jump while flicking it downward will result in either shooting, dunking or swatting the ball; dependent on whether you're on offense or defense.
Graphically, the game is a clear cut above the Wii version with a full HD makeover and while the Wii game looks pretty good on its own, the Xbox 360 version looks fantastic. The players and arenas really pop, with bright colors, excellent detail and a very clean presentation. Hardwood floors shine beautifully and the 2D, photo-realistic images of the players' faces are easily identifiable.
Getting into the game modes, the Classic Campaign takes gamers through a season of 36 games against teams that also include secret and unlockable teams. For the sake of spoilers, we’ll keep those specifics to ourselves and let players uncover them but there’s plenty. The game also features its own achievement system which also allows for unlocks such as special basketballs and players. For a bit more wacky play, there’s the Remix Tour which adds power-ups that temporarily enables players to move really fast, become extremely strong or even have a negative effect such as shrinking them down to size. My only problem with the power-ups is that more often than not, they show up in the middle of the court while one of the teams is checking the ball in, so by the time the ball is in play, the power-up has already been accidentally walked over and activated. The Tour includes a handful of other game types such as 21 which was by far my favorite. It’s the old 1 on 1 game of 21 and it’s a blast to play.
Outside of the graphical overhaul, the game's biggest hook is online multiplayer. Whether it's you versus a friend or a full-on four-player match (either way, it's 2 vs. 2 unless playing a game like '21' which is 1 on 1), the action is free to leave the living room. Playing against a few friends, the game was quite smooth without any lag or disconnection issues. It's not quite the same playing online unless you've got a mic to talk smack of course, though it's still more entertaining to play locally with a friend next to you. My biggest problem with online play however, is that I was unable to find a single player to challenge during my week-long review of the game. Trying to find a challenger during the day, afternoon and evening proved difficult which doesn't bode well for the longevity of the game; unless you do have friends who own it or visit you often.
Overall, NBA Jam for the Xbox 360 is still a fun little package that will be fun to pull out from time to time with friends for a little smack-talking, comedic dunk-fest fun.