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.  


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.