reviews\ Oct 28, 2002 at 7:00 pm

Sega Sports(tm) NBA 2K3 - XB - Review

Finding a good basketball simulation the last few years has been harder than controlling Latrell Sprewell’s punch-first-ask-questions-later anger.  Most games played like a lawless streetball game, press the crossover button, blow by your defender, and tear down the rim with a backboard-shattering dunk.  Fast breaks happened with more frequency than an NBA player arrested for a DUI, and the passing button shed tears after game after game of neglect.  Star players ended up with an absurd 60-plus points, one assist, and a gazillion steals.  My hope for a playable NBA game with an emphasis on the team shattered faster than Grant Hill’s fragile ankle.  Thank the basketball gods for Sega and their release of NBA 2K3 for the Xbox. 


NBA 2K3 plays like an authentic NBA game.  Teams shoot around the 40% Field goal percentage range, dunks are down, and finding the open man is essential.  And I for one, am quite pleased. 


Sega continues their impressive streak of great sports titles with excellent graphics, attention to detail, and their union with ESPN for great presentation. 


It’s important to note that gamers with no patience should avoid this game, or get burned every time they try and bust down the lane for an easy score.  NBA 2K3 is a 100% simulation that utilizes every aspect of the NBA to create an authentic recreation of the sport where 5-footers need not apply.  Even if you can barely jump over a phone book, you can still feel like a basketball giant while playing NBA 2K3.  Forcing shots leads to bricks, and offenses really need to be set up to have any chance to score.  It’s not uncommon to commit a shot clock violation or throw up a prayer thanks to realistic defense. 


Enjoying the gameplay of NBA 2K3 is a matter of preference.  If you like razzle-dazzle dribbling moves and automatic scores in the paint, NBA Live 2003 will better suit your fancy.  NBA 2K3 concentrates on the fine art of basketball and can be a bit frustrating at times.  Contested shots simply will not fall, and even layups aren’t a given.  If working the ball in and out, waiting for the double team, and passing to the open outside shooter are your idea of basketball, then NBA 2K3 is a dream come true.  Defense isn’t decided by swatted shots and mashing the steal button until it appears in your hands, but by sticking to your man like glue and not letting him penetrate.  It’s a system that takes a while to get used to, but in the end will reward players with defensive stops by way of solid D. 


Offensive and defensive plays can be triggered with the flip of a joystick.  Using the D-pad, coaches can call post plays, pick and rolls, and many other plays on the fly.  If you find yourself getting burned by shoddy man-to-man defense, change your defense to a 2-3 zone and watch the offense get confused.  Players can even set up an isolation offense and keep your point guard on the wing, then call a post up play to work a two man game for either a one-on-one situation in the paint, or kick it out for an open jumper after a double team.  It’s a very technical aspect of the game that requires just as much coaching skills as ball handling skills. 


The franchise mode is one of the deepest out there.  Taking a team to the championship game is more than just playing good basketball.  From the front desk, players can organize workouts, trade and sign players, or change coaches.  Don’t like your team getting burned on offensive rebounds?  Sacrifice fast breaks and tell your team to crash the boards.  You can even set players as primary or secondary options for some much needed offense.  The stats category is loaded with League Leaders, rookie reports, and All-Star votes.  It all makes for an incredibly involving series of seasons for the serious GM, but can also be set to automatic for casual managers. 


Sega has always dazzled with the graphics of their sports games, and NBA 2K3 continues the excellence.  Each player does have a striking resemblance to their professional counterparts, from headbands to hairstyles.  The courts are probably the best looking I’ve ever seen, and NBA 2K3 does a great job of portraying the size of each arena.  On the court, players do move a bit slow, and the motion captured animations sometime occur when you don’t want them to.  After the whistle players have excellent animations, occasionally wiping the bottom of their shoes or stretching weary limbs.  Little things like players’ heads following the ball, animations of players fighting through screens, and post basket celebrations (Darius Miles and Quentin Richardson even do the double fist to the headband thing) add NBA 2K3 is the best looking basketball game and offers an excellent visual representation of a real NBA game.  Sega has hyped up making players sweat as the game progresses, but in reality they begin to look a little more like wax figurines. 


The audio of NBA 2K3 is exceptional.  The crowd roars with home team baskets, have custom chants, and even count down the shot clock as it is winding down.  The commentary is pretty solid, but does occasionally repeat itself.  The soundtrack is pretty basic, and nothing to write home about, but the crowd and on-court sounds make up for it. 


NBA 2K3 is rated E for everyone.



Gameplay: 9

This is the most authentic basketball game out there.  With the exception of the rough passing game, the controls are fantastic.


Graphics: 8.5

The courts and the crowd are very impressive.  The players do look a little like action figures rather than NBA players though. 


Sound: 8.4

The commentary is either hit or miss.  At times, it will be spot on, but can get old.


Difficulty: Hard

This game isn’t simply about running towards the basket and throwing it down.  NBA 2K3 is definitely 100% sim, and it shows.


Concept: 9

Sega has made a game that will alienate some casual gamers who aren’t knowledgeable about basketball, but basketball purists will love it.


Multiplayer: 8.5

NBA 2K3 supports Xbox Live, so you can play your friend from across the country.  Those who don’t have Xbox Live will enjoy playing with or against their friends.


Overall: 8.9

A very solid basketball game for fans or true-school hoops. 


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