E3 2002NFL 2K3 impressions

We get a chance to check out the latest game in Sega's football series.

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Sega is showcasing a fully playable build of NFL 2K3, which is currently being developed for the GameCube, the PlayStation 2, and the Xbox. NFL 2K3 features a number of improvements upon previous versions of the game, but perhaps the most noticeable change is the addition of the ESPN license. All of the menus in NFL 2K3 are presented in the ESPN style that Konami used in its lineup of ESPN games. In addition, at the start of the game, you'll get an ESPN-like presentation with a split-screen that shows two of the key players in the game, as well as the commentators giving general background. In next year's version of the NFL 2K series, Sega hopes to increase the ESPN presence by using actual ESPN commentators and more ties to various ESPN shows, like SportsCenter.

Of course, there are other more significant changes. Character models and various player animations are better than those in last year's game. For example, you'll notice that blocking animation for chop blocks, clubs, and even animation for players falling to the ground look more realistic. The Xbox version of NFL 2K3 also has real-time reflections on top of the player helmets, and it uses bump mapping to give the field a slightly more realistic look.

Visual Concepts is still making improvements to defensive AI, particularly the secondary. The biggest adjustment to the AI will be the computer-controlled player's ability to switch from zone to man, depending on the situation. For example, if a receiver goes through the middle of the field and cuts up toward the safety, he will cover that receiver in his zone. If it looks like the quarterback has a good chance of completing a pass to that particular receiver, then the safety will leave his zone and continue to pursue that receiver.

While Sega didn't have this particular feature running in the various builds of the game, online play will be supported in the PlayStation 2 and the Xbox versions of NFL 2K3. Sega will have support for both narrowband and broadband in the PlayStation 2 version, while all the features of Xbox Live, like the real-time voice communication, will be supported in the Xbox version.

The franchise mode for NFL 2K3 has also been completely revamped, and it features many of the options found in the franchise mode for World Series Baseball on the Xbox. When you enter the franchise mode, the game will switch to a first-person view of a desk, where you can view various options. In addition to drafting players for your team, you'll be responsible for hiring scouts, general managers, and a coach.

We'll have more on NFL 2K3 before its release at the start of the season.

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