With the onset of the next NBA season, Sega has released its most recent edition in the NBA 2K series, “NBA 2K3.” This year’s edition continues the series’ excellence and adds new features for veteran players.

Paul Wong
Courtesy of Sega
T-Mac fakes the funk on a nasty dunk.

The graphics and presentation of the game will immediately impress. “2K3” continues to improve upon an already solid graphics engine and the players seem to look even more like their real-life counterparts. The animation is solid and fluid. A new enhancement to this year’s game is the ESPN license. The license adds a sense of realism to the game and an interesting approach to the menus. The opening video contains the “SportsCenter” logo and theme song. Throughout the game, all the menus feature a distinct ESPN feel that makes it feel as if the game is actually appearing on TV while playing. Before each game, a new screen pops up showing each team’s stats while the announcers describe either pros or cons for the teams in the match-up. Post-game features include an ESPN summary complete with final stats and player-of-the-game nods all narrated by an announcer.

The “2K” series takes a simulation approach in regards to the style of game play. This is not “NBA Jam,” or even “NBA Live” for that matter. At times, it will take the full 24 second shot clock to work around the defense for an open look. The control schemes from the previous games remain basically unchanged, but new additions include more variations to the crossovers and drop step moves. Ball movement and finding open shots is vital in order to score, and different defensive schemes are available to help stop the opposing team. This game fixes the constant goal ending calls and makes the cross over less effective: These improvements make the game more realistic and more fair.

“NBA 2K3” features an overhauled franchise mode that enables the player to be the coach, general manager and the players. This mode starts out in the office of the coach where you can access the rosters and game plans. In the general manager’s office you can put players on the trading block, sign free agents, and offer trades to other teams. Most importantly, it features the full 2002-2003 seasons and beyond. In the offseason, the draft occurs and free agents must be resigned. New to “2K3” is a feature to import the rosters from the upcoming “NCAA College Basketball 2K3” into the draft class.

Besides offering the normal modes of play such as Exhibition, Franchise and Season, “NBA 2K3” has a street ball mode that offers a fun diversion. With multiple courts and the option to play 3-3 it offers a different sort of game than the normal modes of play. A practice mode is available which lets users learn how to master the intricate details of the timing of shots and moves. A create-a-player mode also returns to this year’s version continuing with all the options of the previous mode to make players who represent realistic players of all shapes and sizes.

Sega Sports has managed to create a game that truly captures the feel of the sport while maintaining a fun game engine. It also manages to be a simulation fan’s dream with all of the options within the franchise mode. “NBA 2K3” stands above all other basketball titles and is the best basketball game on the market. It offers enough improvements over its predecessor to warrant a purchase from owners of the previous game, it is not simply a roster update, though it does have that as well. In spite of a few minor gripes, if basketball or sports games interest you, “NBA 2K3” is sure to please.

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