NBA Jam Hands-On

Acclaim revives the three-on-three arcade basketball classic, and it's looking good.

One of Acclaim's biggest new titles on display at the Electronic Entertainment Expo is NBA Jam, a reinvented version of the classic arcade basketball game. NBA Jam clearly is what it is--fans of the classic game, like us, would immediately recognize this new version as a successor to the original. It has a similarly exaggerated look about it, with some incredibly over-the-top dunks, and the whole game moves very fast. The original NBA Jam became extremely popular back in the day because it distilled the sport of basketball down to its very essence by focusing on dramatic scoring and lots of showmanship, and just the fun of the sport. The new game is only 50 percent complete right now, but it's already got some of the gameplay down, and it very much seems to be headed in the right direction.

All the classic gameplay elements are here. Players who score enough times in rapid succession will be "on fire" and will become faster and even more proficient than before. You can try to fake out the other player and set up some monster alley-oop dunks. On the defense, a quick boost of turbo can help your player catch up to the opponent with the ball, and you can smack him down and take it back to his side of the court. The action is already fast and smooth in the Xbox version, while the PS2 version that was on display still looked like it needed a boost in frame rate. A GameCube version is also in the works, but it wasn't shown.

A fully 3D crowd responds realistically to the action, giving the game a pretty dynamic feel. Commentator Tim Kitzrow, the original voice of NBA Jam, is also back, providing lots of energetic play-by-play. The player-switching controls seem to need some work, as we occasionally had trouble selecting the player we wanted to control directly--but this is the sort of thing that will likely be ironed out in due time. We hope NBA Jam, once finished, will also feature numerous crazy hidden characters and other secrets much like the arcade original did. The original NBA Jam was a definitive action sports game, and though we were admittedly a bit apprehensive at the thought of seeing the title revisited in 3D, we were definitely pleased with the direction this new game is taking and with how far the developers have come with a game that's only halfway done. Stay tuned for more on NBA Jam soon.

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