NBA 2K3 (Xbox)
While there is often a debate about which football game is better: Madden or the NFL series from Sega, there really hasn’t been a debate about the best basketball game for three years running. Sega Sports’ NBA2K3 is their first multiplatform basketball game which really was given a good amount of development time (the 2K2 series was a quickly rushed to market game on the GameCube) and the series shows no intention of giving up the championship crown.
The game sure does look good on all three platforms – the intro video is all ESPN SportsCenter. Sega has really done well with this license (Konami, the previous suitor of the ESPN license, should be taking notes). Allen Iverson is still the cover boy of this year's game – it’s not that often you see a repeat cover man but hey, if the game is good the first time around, don’t break it.
Menus on the platforms are virtually identical : Quick Game (duh), different game modes including season, playoffs, tournament, practice and franchise. The Xbox version has a ‘play live’ mode while the PS2 version has a “network” mode. Sadly of course, there is no online play allowed in the Gamecube version.
The gameplay itself isn’t much different from last year’s model – which is a good thing if you’re familiar with NBA. If you are coming from a different game such as Inside Drive or NBA Shootout, you may find a quick learning curve to get out of the way, but nothing insurmountable.
As far as the gameplay goes – this game plays hard – even at the supposedly easy slider levels. Sega has included sliders for gameplay which do have an effect on the game (sliders include: 3pt shot %, close shot %, AI Close shot tendency, twenty-nine total sliders).
You definitely need to plot a strategy to win games. There are twenty five offensive and ten defensive plays you can call from the coaching screen, however you can only have four offensive and four defensive plays that can be called during gameplay. Strategy really comes into play before the first jump ball. If you’re playing the Celtics, you may need to play some of your guys in tight coverage to avoid allowing Pierce to open up for the three. Conversely, if you’re the Celtics, perhaps your best bet is running a screen to get Pierce open for the three.
Of course, if you don’t want to get that anal retentive, you can have the computer manage your substitutions and timeouts and coaching strategies if you like. The computer is not that bad – I do have to caution you – the computer does go through your timeouts pretty quickly. Most games I have played when I’ve manually called timeout I find I’m down to one or two – which isn’t a good thing when there’s under a minute left and you’re down by six.
As I mentioned earlier, the AI is tough and the coache's scouting reports gives you everything you need to know about the players – who’s hot and not for example. This is definitely one of those games that while you can just jump in and play for fun, you’re missing out on the whole experience if you do not go through all of the different options and possibilities in the game.
My biggest gripes with the gameplay deal with two issues – both dealing with inbounding of the ball. First, the pass inbounds seems to always go to the moron all the way down the court who just happens to miss the ball or a defender grabs it first. Yes, you can select the player you’re passing the ball to on the inbounds and I highly recommend you do this because the auto passing sometimes is not very smart.
The other issue I’ve seen is the inbound pass to the guy who is out of bounds. It is very frustrating when the AI determines he should pass the ball to a guy who is on the line. What’s even more frustrating is that there isn’t much you can do about it. Fortunately this issue works both ways – the computer and online opponents have had this same issue, so it’s not just a ‘me thing’.
I’ve made some crazy shots and I’ve missed some guaranteed dunks too – all part of the game. The gameplay seems reasonable enough and it is a very pleasant experience. Even when I was losing, I felt that my decisions were the reasons and not some biased AI – and that means a lot to me.
One of the things I’m really looking forward to is Sega’s upcoming NCAA College Basketball game because you’ll be able to import your college players into the NBA game—just like you can with NCAA Football and NFL. This has a lot of potential if implemented well and I can’t wait.
The sound in the game is very good – if you’ve never played the NBA series. If you have, you’ll remember a lot of the witty sayings from last year’s model. Quite disappointing, but one cannot expect re-recording of play by play every year. To the game’s credit, the play by play does cover the action pretty well. The crowd seems into the game as well.
As far as control goes, there’s still nothing better than the PS2 pad. That being said, the Xbox pad is very intuitive and you won’t have any numb thumb problems from that controller. As always, the GameCube controller just doesn’t have that sports gaming feel to it – but if that’s all you have, you’ll definitely make due.
Numerous issues seem to have come up with NBA2K3 on the GameCube. Various message board posts have indicated a game lock up, however I did not encounter any problems during my game time with NBA2K3.
Although single player is a lot of fun, especially the franchise mode – online is where it’s at for me. There is nothing like playing another human – and when all your friends are miles and miles away, the only place you can go is online to challenge them.
By far, the best online experience for this game is over Xbox Live. Although you can use a keyboard to chat before the game with the PS2 version, there is nothing (and I mean NOTHING) like the amount of trash talking that goes on over Xbox Live. I also seem to encounter less disconnects over Xbox Live than I do over the PS2 online version. Then again, Xbox Live is currently in beta with what one would assume are more ‘hardcore gamers’ who probably realize there is a disconnect etiquette. Either way, on the PS2 or the Xbox, you’ll have a great online experience. There was very little lag over a broadband connection on both platforms. There were also plenty of people to play against (another plus is that you can find your friends easily over Xbox Live vs. the PS2 game).
Graphics are excellent. Watching the sweat come off Paul Pierce’s headband is a little too real for me personally, but it’s there. You can absolutely tell which person you are controlling if you know the team pretty well. It is a very realistic representation.
Although we’ve only had the game for a few weeks, one can only imagine how long the replay value is with this game – there’s just so much to do – from the draft, to the salary cap, to hiring your own coach as a GM to sucking it up for a season and hoping to win next year’s draft lottery, it’s all here. Thankfully Sega didn’t skimp on the manual – over 50 pages of help are available not to mention the on screen information. You’ll definitely need this info because some of these screens can be overwhelming at times. The information is presented clearly, but there’s just so much of it—however, I’m glad it’s there.
The GameCube version of the game only uses up to 50 blocks, which is a testament to Sega as most sports games seem to take an absurd number of blocks. A PS2 season will take up to ¼ of the memory card, so be sure you have ample space available. Of course, there are no worries with the Xbox hard drive.
There is no doubt in my mind that if you want a decent all around basketball game this year, NBA2K3 is your choice for every platform. If you have multiple platforms and can wait until the launch of Xbox Live, then I would definitely go for the game on that system. No matter what, you’ll be happy with NBA2K3 – it’s highly recommended.
Easily the best video game for the console, Sega gets nothing but net all the way around.
Rating: 9.2 Excellent
* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company for review.
I am male, married, 31 years old and love videogames ever since my parents bought me an Atari 2600 on December 24, 1979.
My resume for video gaming includes writing for PC Gamer (Contributing Editor, 2000), Operation Sports, Sharky Extreme,and the now defunct Rival Works, in addition to ghost writing for various publications. In addition from 2000 to September 2002 I was Editor In Chief for an online publication that ceased to exist because of the powers that be.
Right now I am playing Medal of Honor Spearhead, Splinter Cell, NHL2K3, Madden and NBA2K3. I love sports games and first person shooters with a pinch of strategy games.
I have two wonderful kids and live in the Northeast. I am a Patriots, Revolution and Orioles fan. View Profile