NBA 2K3The new NBA season is dawning upon us and to contemplate the arrival of the new season, NBA titles are being launched out onto store shelves. Itâ€™s time for a new season of NBA action, and NBA 2K3 heads to the court in the right direction. Last year, Sega Sports brought sports gaming to next generation consoles with a new look and attitude that was meant for the future of gaming. NBA 2K3 arrived last year a little bit late onto store shelves but the short delay wasnâ€™t enough to hold back the power horse. The game showed true leadership of a well built basketball game that had the strength to go into the long run. Last yearâ€™s NBA Inside Drive 2002 was enjoyable for awhile but the pretty graphics werenâ€™t enough to make a big enough statement. NBA Live 2002 was possibly the only true (and still is) competition that butts head together with 2K3 for rightful throne ship. Although NBA 2K2 was clearly the better of all basketball games last year, most people who thought Visual Concepts would sit back and relax were abruptly wrong. Visual Concepts took NBA 2K2, studied the noticeable problems, fixed them, and added a whole new dimension to the game of basketball. This years version offers online gameplay on Xbox Live, new player moves, ESPN presentation, and a re-vamped Franchise mode. Those expecting something less have been told by Visual Concepts that they can still perform when they have everything going. Itâ€™s time for a new season of NBA action, and NBA 2K3 heads to the court in the right direction. Features: â€¢ Play online with Xbox Live â€¢ ESPN Broadcast Presentation â€¢ A totally new re-vamped Franchise with more options than you can shake a stick at â€¢ Precision offense and hardnosed defense make you feel like youâ€™re playing with the big boys â€¢ The most realistic gameplay, players, and stadiums ever seen â€¢ Import players from NCAA Basketball 2K3 â€¢ 5.1 Dolby Digital Gameplay: When putting all basketball games together and taking a good, deep look at them, NBA 2K3 is the only title that goes for the realistic sim experience while other titles have gone more toward the arcade experience. While thereâ€™s no bad way to develop a game in a certain style, the other competition still offers a worthwhile time of enjoyment. Visual Concepts has taken a different approach as many can see. For the past years, â€˜VSâ€™ has been constantly improving their NBA title. As the years passed they have focused on the long term effect of the game rather than the short term meaning that since the amount of time and effort is so great in the gameplay mode (Franchise, in particular), this is a game that is worth picking up and playing all the time until a newer version is released. Now with Xbox Live shortly being released and â€˜Downloadable Contentâ€™ coming soon, thereâ€™s no excuse that hardcore gamers arenâ€™t going to find this specific feature useful. Quite possibly a very smart pickup, Sega picked up the ESPN license that Konami failed to keep. The result to this was an increase in game presentation which adds a great effect to the game. Along with ESPN came more presentable menus and screens brand with ESPN everywhere you go. Before each game, Commentators give a before game briefing of each team and who you should watch out for during the game. During halftime, there is a halftime breakdown and a â€˜Hot player at halfâ€™ feature. Also added are dazzling highlight reels and play by plays. The pick up of the ESPN license was certainly a smart move and with the game NBA 2K3 brings, it belongs here. If youâ€™ve played last yearâ€™s version of NBA action, you should feel right at home with the controls. Visual Concepts added a few tweaks to the control system such as pivot moves, better deke maneuvers, and the ability to pass/fake pass with the right thumbstick. Every other control is basically as simple as it will get in the game such as shots, crossover dribbles, picks, to passes. A noticeable difference gamers will notice while playing for the first time is the play of the game. The game flows at a continuous rate which will affect your thinking. This is not a game for you to stare down at your controller to see if youâ€™ve remembered the shot button correctly. If you do that, by the time you look up the opposition has already put up two points. This game requires quick thinking and play making but really, after a few games, you should be able to stick with the flow of the game. Itâ€™s much more harder to create the easy play that will put up a few points on the board. You have to work for the points because shots going in when a defender is all over your face isnâ€™t going to happen anymore. This is one of the issues Visual Concepts fixed from last years version. Youâ€™re going to have to get some space from the defender to get a decent shot off. The more room you have, the better your chances of sinking the shot in. NBA 2K3 offers a wide variety of game modes. For beginners, Practice mode is possibly the best place to go to get a quick view of the game. In practice mode, you can test your shooting skills by shooting some free throws or scrimmaging with another team. Street mode lets you play 2 on 2 up to 5 on 5 in a game of basketball. The only catch is that youâ€™re playing outside on the street. Street mode features unique real street parks such as â€˜Rucker Parkâ€™. This mode offers a more relaxing game than an actual game with the crowd and coaches on your back. This is rather one of the better areas for multiplayer gaming. Season and Playoff modes are just the same as any other you would find in another basketball game. NBA 2K3 offers the same features in other games for both modes such as fantasy drafts, playbook managing, statistics, training camp, team rotations, and rookie and free agent signings. The total package is right here. Itâ€™s only suggested to take on these modes for a sample taste of the game. Franchise mode is another storyâ€¦ Tournament mode is a lot similar to playoff mode but thereâ€™s only one differenceâ€¦the playoffs are the playoffs. Tournament mode lets you create your own single-elimination tournament with different combination of team. Ah, the Franchise mode. This is where the game really kicks off. The concept of this mode is quite simple but the actual mode is so intriguing, itâ€™ll have you busy for quite some time perfecting your own team. Overall, Visual Concepts made a valiant effort in constructing the Franchise mode but, there are some areas which they completely left alone. These areas will eventually have an effect sooner or later. There are some new features added to this years Franchise mode that really helps the overall gameplay of your Franchise experience. Added this year are team coaches where each coach has three categories: Teaching, defense, and offense which will be rated poor, average, and master. The more you improve your team, the better your coach is going to get.
The other two great features added are the ability to import you class from NCAA Basketball 2K3. The game is scheduled to be released this winter and will feature online play. Finally, the most innovative addition to the franchise mode is the season and post-season awards. Some of the awards are Rookie of the year, League MVP, Playoff MVP, and Most Improved Player. There is, however, a certain area where it may get confusing. One of the main points on concern is Training camp where things seem to be much to rushed. While training your players, you can assign them to work on specific areas to improve there skills. However, when you assign them to work on something, they improve and you move on without notice on their improvement. This is probably the most disappointing concern problem which Visual Concepts should deal with. Overall, the Franchise mode is one of the best in any basketball game up to date. The amount of detail and features added into to this yearâ€™s mode is simply brilliant and adds deeply to the gameplay. The addition of the coaches is something that had been needed before and the coaches options and ability to increase and decrease skill is wonderful. For hardcore gamers, this is the most everyone should give a chance because it really does have it all. Isnâ€™t that what you want? The gameplay in NBA 2K3 is the stronghold that keeps this game alive. The additional bonus of Xbox Live is another feature that will keep gamers even more busy. There are plenty of modes that offer all different types of play. Street mode is simply fantastic and the outdoor effect is great. The new camera modes added in are stellar and will make you awe when you see them. There are some technical issues to make up for but itâ€™s nothing Visual Concepts canâ€™t handle for next year. Online: Xbox Live is set to launch midway through November and when that time comes, Sega is fully prepared to supply Xbox gamers will a fully supply of online sports titles to play online with. NBA 2K3 will be the only Xbox Live basketball title to feature head to head online action and the game will also feature downloadable content. I took NBA 2K3 for a little spin online and I tell you, itâ€™s simply amazing. The gameplay runs so smooth and completely playable. There were only a few times where the game would slow down, but itâ€™s seriously nothing to worry about. The online ranking system is a really great feature to see. This allows you to check out the top ranked players as well as their stats. If youâ€™re feeling up to it, you can send game invites and challenge other gamers in a standard match, or a ranked match. If you happen to win a ranked match, you online ranking in NBA 2K3 will rise up. Xbox Live is just getting started. The real test will start this November as thousands of gamers will become Live on Xbox. Will this effect the performance of NBA 2K3 online? Nothing is known at the moment, but we will see soon enough. Graphics: Thereâ€™s no question that this is the best looking basketball game out there. Itâ€™s serious competition to the visuals in the NBA Inside Drive series from Microsoft but everything in this game is looking fantastic. Player models look great and even better when there in motion or up close for the jam. The detail is unquestionable when it comes to NBA 2K3. Everything has been done to perfection, which makes a big impact. Stadiums are better than ever. Every arena has been officially done to real life and the effects and crowd are well done. The most intriguing part to the crowd is during the free throws to the opposing team. Before the player is about to shoot, the crowd starts waving sticks in the air in order to distract the shooter. Another new innovative feature to NBA 2K3, is a new highlight camera. After a big play is made and a basket is made or a big shot has been blocked, the replay camera comes on in special lighting and camera angles. The colors are pretty intense, but itâ€™s a feature that Iâ€™m really lovinâ€™. Player models and animations have been done to perfection. There are over 200 dunks and layups featured in the game. Player models are done in full detail right down to the shoes. Player animations are great. As the game goes on and players get tired, you can see sweat on players faces. As for player moves and dekes, thereâ€™s not much repetition, so you wonâ€™t be seeing a lot of the same stuff. One area of concern are the player models. Although they look great, the shape of the body can cause some downright wondering. During the player introductions, as the announcer called the name â€˜Kobe Bryantâ€™ I noticed his arms were huge in length and as he ran into the court, they became short in length. This isnâ€™t anything terribly wrong, but itâ€™s an area of concern. Sound: While thereâ€™s nothing wrong at all with the sound in NBA 2K3, it tends to be good and bad. Starting off with the bad, the ESPN commentators are downright awful. Donâ€™t get me wrong, they know how to call a good game, but they have no enthusiasm at all. They seem completely dead at times. On big time plays their voices will not increase in volume. They sound completely monotone which makes the game calling suffer. What is good, the rest of the sound in NBA 2K3, which is the crowd noise and the sounds on the court. The crowd can really get into the game at times, especially if you know how to get them rowdy. The noise on the court is what you would hear in a basketball game which is footsteps on the court, the bounce of the ball, to the communication of the players. In the end, the performance is a so/so effort that could really use some training before next season and the commentary should be the primary focus. Replay Value: This game will keep you busy until NBA 2K4 is released. Thatâ€™s how much there is to do in the game. The Franchise mode is the primary time consumer because thereâ€™s so much to do and so much to see. The edition of Xbox Live is the bonus feature where gamers can play anyone, anywhere. Test yourself and see if you can match up with the rest of the continent. Is there competition this year? You bet there is! NBA Live 2003 will pose the biggest threat to gameplay while NBA Inside Drive 2003 will pose the biggest threat to online gameplay. The real question is, what is it that youâ€™re looking for? Overall: You simply canâ€™t go wrong with NBA 2K3. Itâ€™s that good. Yes, there is a wide competition of NBA titles that Sega has to watch out for but Visual Concepts has put together an unbeatable title that really has included everything in it. Donâ€™t plan on getting Xbox Live? No problem, you spend hours playing everything else. Plan on getting Xbox Live? Lucky you, enjoy hours of competition online with gamers from all over. Which is the better title? You decide. Itâ€™s your lucky day today because you walked into your favorite game store and the manager offered you one of the following NBA Titles: NBA 2K3, NBA Live 2003, and NBA Inside Drive 2003. I told you what makes NBA 2K3 so good, what you going to choose? --Chris Banovic