Awful Moments in Multiplayer Gaming: NBA Jam Extreme

nbajamextremeIt is ironic that the loading screens for NBA Jam Extreme actually say, “Extreme Loading” considering just how excessively long data retrieval can be in this unnecessary NBA Jam sequel. Acclaim’s motion captured, incomprehensible 3-D mess loads before the title screen, moving into the selection screen, loads the pre-game screen, and then loads the game itself, each letting the player know that yes, this is “Extreme Loading.”

Given EA’s announcement of a new NBA Jam, it is important to note the rocky history of the series, at least before Acclaim Sports birthed a yearly simulation franchise out of it.

Extreme was the first full 3-D entry in the series, ditching the digitized sprites of its predecessors. Replacing them were a series of shapes that scarcely resemble humans, let alone the 1996 NBA roster regardless of whether you were playing on the PlayStation, Saturn, PC, or in arcades. The tilted, off-angled camera view, which never actually stays still, makes the player appear gargantuan. Their size, undoubtedly necessary to make them stand out against an equally low resolution backdrop, makes the playing surface crowded despite the two-on-two gameplay.

Against the aggressive AI, winning in never assured, even on the easiest setting. The opposing team has the idea that this is war, and will do what they can to assure their all-powerful supremacy. It never helped that in the final minute, every shot they took was guaranteed to fall, and you were guaranteed to fail.

nbajamextreme2Against a human player, the crowded conditions means trying to make sense of the action on the court, or even grasping why you are able to run across the announcers table with no repercussions. Little “touches,” such as the ball literally turning into a brick on a missed shot, probably sounded like a modest attempt at something new, but only made it hard to decipher the on-court action. A choppy, wildly varying frame rate never helped either.

The greatest sin Extreme commits is dropping Midway announcer Tim “Is it the Shoes?” Kitzrow, replacing him with an apparently tired, lifeless Marv Albert, pre-sex scandal. It is too easy to rip on certain phrases knowing the controversy that would follow, but Albert’s mark on the NBA Jam series will forever be, “I smell smoke,” which replaced, “He’s heating up!” when a player makes two shots in a row. Keep in mind that making two shots in a row happens often in a game of NBA Jam (or if you’re the AI in NBA Jam Extreme), and this is the only line of dialogue recorded for that event.

If you smell something else, you’re not the only one.

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