There's very little, if anything, to really complain about in NFL 2K3.
Whether you're a hard-core football fan or a casual follower of the sport, you'll find that NFL 2K3 delivers nearly every aspect of professional football flawlessly. The game offers several different modes to choose from, including a revamped franchise mode and the Sega Sports challenge, which allows you to have your stats ranked against those of other players from across the country. Aside from a few very minor gripes, the gameplay is also incredibly balanced, and the introduction of the ESPN license gives the game a better overall presentation and feel.
There are several modes to choose from in NFL 2K3. You can jump right into a game by choosing the quick game option or the exhibition option (you can also play as dozens of classic teams in these modes). Likewise, you can create your own tournament with up to 16 teams, or immediately jump into a playoff situation. There's also a practice mode that will help you become familiar with the fundamentals of NFL 2K3's gameplay. You can practice special moves while running with the ball, practice plays in your team's playbook with no defense, or hold a full scrimmage with a randomly selected defense, which is helpful since it essentially replicates a game-time situation and gives you a chance to get a feel for your team's strengths and weaknesses. In the Sega Sports challenge mode, you play games on default rules and options settings and then receive a password that corresponds to the stats you put up in each game. You can then use that password on segasports.com to rank yourself against other players and their statistics. It's not quite a full substitute for the Xbox Live feature, which currently doesn't work, but it does draw on the same sense of competition.
Perhaps one of the more intriguing options is the situation mode, which lets you edit everything from the score and the amount of time left on the clock to the line of scrimmage. So, for example, you could set up a game so it starts in the fourth quarter with two minutes remaining, and your team has the ball but it's losing by six points. You can create just about any scenario with this feature, and it can present quite a challenge for even veteran players, but if you're looking for something with a little more depth, then you'll find it in NFL 2K3's season mode.
The season mode lets you take a team through a single season of football and the playoffs. Along the way, you can set and tweak your roster, release players, and engage in trades. You can view any injuries that occur over the course of the season and adjust your roster as necessary. The season mode also provides you with a number of coaching-related options. In the coach game plan, you can place an emphasis on particular types of plays, so you can have your defense focus on blitzing or have your offense lean toward running. In addition, you can edit your team's playbook by searching through other teams' formations and plays and selecting the ones you want to add. Of course, most teams already have a large number of plays to choose from, but there may be a few occasions when it seems like your team doesn't have a play that's suited to its particular strengths or a specific situation. The season mode can be quite fun for those who don't necessarily want to get involved in the deeper layers of the sport, but those who do enjoy those deeper layers will undoubtedly be impressed by NFL 2K3's franchise mode.
Before you even dive into the franchise mode, there are a few customizable options to mess around with. You can decide whether or not to have a preseason, a trade deadline, or a fantasy draft, and you can also decide if the computer should handle drafting, re-signing, and other contractual dealings--though, part of what makes the franchise mode so entertaining is being able to handle such things yourself. In addition, you can create an entirely new league by moving teams into different divisions and importing players from NCAA 2K3. When you've set these parameters, you can then select your team and edit the coach's name and physical appearance.