reviews\ Oct 22, 2002 at 8:00 pm

NBA Live 2003 - PS2 - Review

Lace up those sneakers and grab your favorite jersey, sports fans, because EA Sports has brought us a basketball game fit for kings of the court.  NBA Live 2003 not only introduces a super sweet freestyle control but the ability to play the game online . . . oh the game is definitely on, b-ball gamers.


First off, the playing modes are plentiful: Play Now, Exhibition Game, Season, Franchise, Playoffs and One-on-One.  Play Now is a quick game while Exhibition Game adds a more customizable game.  Season takes gamers through a full NBA season using their favorite teams while Playoffs takes you straight to the most exciting part of the season.  The Franchise mode offers ten seasons complete with NBA drafts, salary caps and control of your team as a General Manager--it’s not as in-depth as the one seen in Sega Sports NBA 2K3 but it’s still a great mode.  And One-on-One takes the game to an urban, beach or gym setting.


The controls were thoughtfully kept simple and easy to memorize for one specific reason: to allow gamers to focus on the new EA Sports Freestyle Control function.  Now with the right analog stick your player fluidly executes crossovers, triple threats or defensive moves anyway you see fit.  While playing defense, moving the right analog stick up makes your player throw his arms up to block a shot or cover your opponent’s line of sight.  While playing offense, you can lean to the side while you dribble to block off an opponent trying to swat the ball away from you.  Either way you do it, this is, by far, the most awesome feature.


Your opponents and your computer-controlled teammates are a lot smarter this time around as well.  Not only do your team players intelligently play a good defense, but they also craftily cut to the basket positioning themselves for a chance to slam one in.  Meanwhile the opponents play a more aggressive game, responding to your moves with quick step-back moves or physically leaning into you.  And the frame rate makes for a faster paced game so you always have to be focused on the game.


The multiplayer option offers some serious challenges for up to eight players using the Multitap for a four-on-four game or a co-op game--the choice is left entirely up to you.  Still the highlight of this multiplayer function is the online features.  Using the Network Adaptor, players can easily connect through Broadband or Dial-up and set up their own account complete with a private password.  Once you’re all signed up you’ll find yourself in server lobby where you’ll find a whole list of players you can chat with and challenge the several users. 


Live 2003 has been given a small face-lift and that’s saying a lot since the last game was visually decent enough.  The player models are gorgeously sharper with much emphasis placed on detailed movements and physical features.  Neck muscles tense up, biceps flex realistically, uniforms creases change with the body movement . . . my only complaint is that the faces aren’t rendered quite as convincing or--in some cases--not quite normal, but you can still just as easily pick out your favorites pros.


And sadly the sound is a bit of a let down for a game as impressive as this.  The problem is with the play-by-play commentary that lags behind when calling plays or following the game in general, this is too bad really considering the fact that there are some talented commentators featured here.  The arena sounds are filled with enthusiastically cheering fans and but sadly no real player introductions.  Tracks by Busta Rhymes and Snoop Dogg and a few other hip-hop artists make up the game’s soundtrack.


Playing hoops has never been this enjoyable and NBA Live 2003 is a PS2 sports gamers’ dream come true.  Not only does it manage to do just about everything right--there are just a few flaws that can just as easily be ignored--but with hundreds of gamers already online, you won’t be able to put this one down.  See you online, sports fans.  


#Reviewer's Scoring Details


Gameplay: 9.2
True to the NBA rulings, the game plays exactly the way a sports fan would see it on television but you can just as easily customize it to your liking.  Still this realistic presentation follows throughout the game no matter how much you alter the game.  Every move implemented in a televised game is seen here. 


And thanks to the EA Sports Freestyle Control feature, your game is improved with extra moves utilizing the right analog stick.  Gamers will sure to be impressed with the smoothness and ease of employing crossover dribbles, drop steps, spin moves and shoulder fakes. Using a combination of buttons or the left analog stick you perform some really interesting moves such as cradle moves and various other offensive moves.


Graphics: 8.9
This is also one good-looking game with an eye on the details.  The arenas look fantastic and the audience in attendance looks a lot more sharper and less flat looking.  You’ll find cheerleaders and the team mascot on the sidelines jumping up and down as fans stand up and wave their props to distract players during free throws.  The light above are reflected on the glossy hardwood floor or on the heads of those players with shaved heads.


And speaking of the players, the player models are not bad but there is something seriously wrong with some of the faces or heads of certain star players.  For starters, some of the heads are somewhat misshapen and some of the faces are horrendous.  Still, the bodies are done right and watching them during the many slam dunk animation sequences are deliciously gratifying to see. 


Sound: 8.0
Not quite a disappointment but close to it because a game that plays well and looks even better could sure have used a more in-depth play-by-play commentary and game analysis.  With a line up of great sports commentators like Al Murdoch, Don Poier and Robert Elliott, the plays could have been more on the spot.  Still, the best commentary comes from none other than Marv Albert and that’s during the Freestyle Control tutorial.


The sound effects are okay and you’ll find sneakers squeaking on the hardwood floor and the bouncing of the ball done somewhat averagely. There’s also a lack of auditory spice such as the PA system announcer or player introductions.  Well, at least the soundtrack features some pretty decent hip-hop by Snoop Dogg, Busta Rhymes and Just Blaze.


Difficulty: Medium
With four difficulty settings (Rookie, Starter, All-Star and Superstar), the game is really challenging with out being frustrating enough that it will have you yanking your hair out.  The opponents play an aggressive game, occasionally they even push you aside and they play the defense rather well.


Concept: 9.0
Aside from making good use of the right analog stick, the Freestyle Control function will have gamers inventing their own style of playing the game.  There are just more defensive and offensive moves and game extras such as making intentional fouls.  B-ball fans will love the fact that gamers can select classic jersey for all of their favorite teams.  And, of course, there’s the online thing.


Multiplayer: 8.9
With a very inclusive multiplayer mode, this is the kind of game you should share with a group of friends.  With the Multitap you can play the game with up to eight players at a time in an exhibition mode or out in the street in a two-on-two game.  Playing a co-op game against the computer-controlled opponents is always a blast as well.


Yet the multiplayer mode that will have your friends talking is the online playing mode (if you don’t already have the PS2 Network Adaptor, what are you waiting for?).  Not only does it play with little to no problems at all--I played online using dial-up and experienced no problems--the lobby is filled with enthusiastic gamers ready to play a two player Exhibition match.  You can also chat with players using a Quick Message box to issue challenges or just boast.


Overall: 8.8
NBA Live 2003 is at the top of its game and fans of the sport will love all the features this game has to offer as well as the chance to play against players from all over the country online.  You definitely can’t go wrong with this game.


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