Review: NBA 2K3
by Chris Pankonin on October 8, 2002

Game Title: NBA 2K3

System: Microsoft Xbox

Genre: Sports – Basketball

Publisher: Sega Sports

Release Date: October 8, 2002

Basketball season is right around the corner, and with the new season comes the latest batch of NBA games for your enjoyment. Among the returnees for the new season is Sega Sports’ NBA 2K3, and it is definitely a contender for basketball game of the year, even this early into the season.

Gameplay

NBA 2K3 packs just about everything you could ask for into a basketball game on one convenient disk. You want street ball? As a competitor to Sega would say, its in the game! You wan’t fast-paced arcade style ball, its there. If you’re a sim freak who loves to get down with slower, more realistic gameplay, 2K3 has that for you to play as well.

The franchise mode has been re-modeled since last season and puts you at the helm to customize just about everything. The second you select “Franchise” from the Game Modes menu, you will instantly be greeted with dozens of options to choose from. Whether you want your franchise to have 14 games or 82, with 3 minute, 5 minute or 12 minute quarters you can do all that, but that’s only scratching the surface.

Franchise mode includes the option to hire/fire coaches and scouts that can help scout the upcoming players up for the next draft. 2K3 will also allow importation of players from its upcoming College Basketball franchise that is due out in December. You can put players on the trading block and listen to offers from other teams as well as do some trading block scouting yourself. If you’re looking for an in-depth franchise mode, you’ve now found it with 2K3.

Now that I’ve rambled on about the modes, you probably want to know how the game plays itself, and the answer to that is simply, Hell Yeah! The new player models now allow for the game to play more smoothly than its predecessors. New features include the ability to change your mind in mid-air. Going up for the dunk and see Shaq coming at you from the side? Simply press the A-button and bam, quick pass to the closest man who can put it right in for the points. The controls are fairly simple and easy to pick up. If you’ve ever played a basketball game on the Xbox, regardless of who created the game, then you’ve played controls identical to that of 2K3’s.

Playing in simulation mode against competent AI (above Rookie) can prove to be very frustrating. No longer will you shoot 80-90% from the field, but more realistically you’ll be very lucky to hit half of your shots. To be fair, the AI also has difficulty shooting from the field. It adds must needed challenge for thrill seekers looking for competition and to be ready to bring their A-game when Xbox Live launches next month, but more on that later. All-in-all the gameplay in 2K3 is quite possibly the best ever in a basketball game, regardless of system or genre.

Graphics

NBA 2K3 has a whole new look this season, and it really makes the game that much more fun to play. Now with the ESPN license, you get the bottom line, Sportscenter, as well as all of the other graphics and chyrons that ESPN made famous. The player models have been updated and appear larger and more lifelike than previous versions. The power of the Xbox really shows this off as the entire presentation is leaps and bounds above any basketball game you’ve ever seen. The graphics are so realistic you can now see sweat on the players. Instant replays are a thing of beauty, as there are many different forms of replays that show off the game’s true beauty.

Xbox Live is going to even allow player updates as well as roster updates, which means if Kobe decides to shave his head and start wearing a pink headband, you can download the update off of Sega’s site and Kobe will now be showing off his new duds. It is very hard to find any faults with the graphics itself, as even the crowd avoids the “cardboard cutout” plague that haunts most sports games.

The only complaint is not with the graphics, but with the default camera angle, which becomes very jerky at times, especially with change of possession. The easy remedy to this is simply to change the camera angle to something that runs smoother. The camera angle really doesn’t detract too much from the superiority of the graphics and presentation.

Sound

Probably the weakest area 2K3 has, but due to the high standard of this game, it’s really not a knock on the sound itself, which is very passable. The sounds of ESPN music fill the in-game menus as well as the post-game reports, which is a new feature that is very cool as an announcer reads off the stats and the top player after every game. The commentary is nothing to write home about, and if you’ve played previous games you’ve probably heard them and several clichés before. The in-game PA announcer sounds great as he announces who scores every basket, although that is nothing revolutionary as it is done in just about every game released nowadays. Overall the sound is good, but nothing to write home about.

Fun Factor

If you are even the most casual fan of basketball, you can’t help but enjoy NBA 2K3. Playing with friends and eventually online can lead to hours of action, plus the depth off the franchise mode can keep you playing all the way through the winter months. Even EA loyalists might want to give this a try as it is definitely a step-up from an already superior basketball game last season. NBA 2K3 is definitely a game you have to check out!

Ratings

Gameplay — 8.5

Graphics — 9.0

Sound — 7.0

Fun Factor — 9.0



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