NBA 2K3 impressions

Visual Concepts shows off an updated build of the latest installment in its basketball franchise.

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Visual Concepts recently stopped by to show off new builds of NBA 2K3 for the GameCube, PlayStation 2, and Xbox. The game was roughly 60-70 percent complete and actually featured a variety of impressive improvements on the graphics and gameplay of previous games in the series.

Graphically, some pretty slick additions have been made since we last saw the game at E3 2002. The Visual Concepts NBA team has responded to feedback from fans and has completely redesigned the heads on many player models. The new heads are extremely impressive, featuring such fine detail as blemishes and facial hair of different thicknesses. However, our favorite aspect of the new heads was best displayed by Ben Wallace's hair. By using a variety of techniques on the polygonal hair, the team has been able to create what is quite possibly the most realistic afro we've ever seen in a game. In addition, players will become increasingly shiny (to mimic the look of sweat) through the use of specular highlights, an effect that is enhanced by the series' new lighting system. The movement of the net is now rendered on the fly using physics calculations, which allows for dynamic movement that looks much more realistic. Player animation is also blended with the use of inverse kinematics, which provides an overall smoother flow to movement in the game. You'll now be able to see weather effects implemented in the outdoor street games and much more detail in and around the courts. In terms of the individual consoles, the game looks roughly the same across the board. Almost all the effects seen in the Xbox game will find their way to the GameCube and PlayStation 2 versions. However, the Xbox version will be the only version to include replays that feature pixel-shader special effects during the replays.

In terms of gameplay, NBA 2K3 makes a few changes to the series' formula. The one-on-one game has been improved to allow for a wider variety of options. You'll be able to use a jab step while dribbling or remaining stationary, pass fakes, and taunts to throw off defenders. We were most impressed with the high degree of control available when shooting, especially the ability to adjust your shot. If you see an opponent coming over to block a layup, you can press the shot button again to adjust your shot, effectively decreasing the possibility of the shot being rejected. However, your chances of making an adjusted shot depend on several factors, including the position of defenders, so if you make an adjusted shot for the purposes of just showing off, then you'll be much less likely to make it.

NBA 2K3 is slated to ship this October. Look for more on the game in the coming months.

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