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April 15, 2003
NBA 2K3 - Review
Release Date Distributor Developer Players Rating Difficulty
28/3/2003GamenationVisual Concepts1-8GMedium
Save Size Sound Format Vibration 60Hz Mode 50Hz Border Widescreen

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Getting some major air.
Basketball has always been a firm favourite with gamers. At its simplest the sport is a race to score as many points as possible. At it's deepest it's a strategic game that requires much skill, quick reflexes and a bit of luck. While EA Sports' NBA Live 2003 was an admirable attempt at replicating the sport it remains an arcade styled game rather then a simulation styled game as is the case with this title. Sega Sports NBA 2K3 is the first time Sega's sports title have been released in Australia, and the anticipation for this game has been quite high, not only from Sega fans, but also fans eager to see a basketball simulation. This version is actually the second game in the series after NBA 2K2 came out in America, but not PAL territories, around a year ago now.

Gameplay in NBA 2K3 is certainly on the simulation side of the ledger. As a simulation this game actually has the players missing the basket on numerous occasions, even when going for an open shot. As an estimate you probably only score on average every 50% of the time shooting, compared to about 80% for more arcade styled games. The actual game controls are as responsive as you would expect although passing the ball to specific players, especially on the throw in, could have been handled a little better then pressing one button to bring up the players, and then pressing another button to pass to the corresponding player. Also slightly annoying is the way in which players will often stop to catch a pass rather then running on with the ball. This occurs particulary with longer passes. Still, the gameplay is very solid overall. Dunks aren't as easy, or automatic in other games with much more emphasis on shooting from outside the key.

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Behind the back.
One of the coolest new features to this game is the ability to dive for the ball when loose by pressing the jump button. It may have little impact on the game, but it's certainly cool and adds some realism to the title. Bounce passes are also possible adding even more variety to the game, but assisting in keeping the realism. Yet another neat addition is to change the type of shot which you are about to perform. If you are going for a shot, say a lay-up and a defender moves in to block by pressing the shot button a second time your player will alter his shot to try and avoid the defence.

Problems with this game are pretty few and far between. This is a simulation, and a damn fine one, but for the casual gamer there may not be as much enjoyment as you would hope. NBA Live 2003 is a lot more fun for a quick game or a blast with friends. The biggest disappointment however is the removal of the online gameplay - hardly surprising given the non-appearance of broadband adapters in PAL territories, however it would have been nice to have the mode included in anticipation of the online adapter release around May in Europe, and soon thereafter in Australia.

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Check out the Bulls mascot.
Graphics are the most interesting aspect of this title. With the license from ESPN the game retains the look and atmosphere of the live coverage. The player models are also excellent and the animations are also top notch. It would be fair to say that the animation in that game, and the variety on offer, may even edge out EA Sports' title - quite a feat given their strength. Visual Concepts have included over 200 dunk and lay-up animations making this a very interesting game to play and watch.

Having said that there seems to be some weird vertical stretching of the image. It's almost as if the NTSC to PAL conversion has been stretched making the court look wider then longer. This is certainly something that either the inclusion of a 60Hz mode or some image manipulation should have fixed. It's not evident in these screens as these seem to be from an NTSC version of the game.

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About to slam it.
The sound in NBA 2K3 is certainly impressive. The crowds respond well to the action on court with the appropriate cheers and jeers. The music is also atmospheric and takes quite a few cues from the ESPN coverage on TV. The most impressive aspect of this title however is the commentary which puts almost every other sport title to shame. In fact, the only other game that gets close to this in terms of accuracy and variation is EA Sports' excellent Madden NFL 2003.

Visual Concepts really must be commended for the quality of this title. There has never been such a realistic simulation of basketball as a sport ever. There are a couple of niggles. Firstly, no matter how many times I play the game the dimensions of the court seem plain wrong. Perhaps it has something to do with the conversion to PAL, but it really should be remedied in next years certain update. The removal of online gameplay is also another major blow, but given the lack of setup here it is understandable. If you want a basketball simulation then there is no better option.

Review By: David Warner

GRAPHICSGreat player models and animations, but strange image stretching.
SOUNDSome great effectss, music and commentary which is unmatched.
GAMEPLAYVery much a simulation, but not quite as fun as NBA Live 2003.
VALUEA solid Franchise mode, but the lack of online gameplay disappoints.
OVERALLThose looking for a basketball simulation need look no further as Visual Concepts has created a terrific title. The strange image stretching, and lack of online gameplay disappoints. Well worth a look for basketball fans or those looking for something more realistic.

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