NBA 2K3's frustrating gameplay results in a basketball game that is far from perfect.

User Rating: 6.2 | NBA 2K3 XBOX
The 2K3 edition of Sega Sports' NBA 2K series seems like an upgrade from previous games in the series: it has flashier graphics and presentation, and adds some new moves. However, after playing it a while and getting used to the gameplay, you'll wish the game could have been better, and may be in fact, a step down from 2K2. Anyone who's spent time with the previous NBA 2K games on the Dreamcast will feel right at home. The default XBOX controls map exactly to the default Dreamcast controls, so you'll have your crossover/steal button in the same place, your Y button for selecting a specific player to pass to or control, and your triggers for backing down in the post and turbo. However, the XBOX controller has more buttons than the Dreamcast controller, and some new moves have been added. By clicking on the left analog stick, you can call for a teammate to set a screen for you. Clicking on the right analog stick fakes a pass. Black will put you in pivot mode, and white is used to call plays. However, the neatest new move is the ability to pass with the right analog stick by simply moving it in the direction of the teammate you want to pass to. All the required elements you expect in a basketball game are there. The different modes of play include quick game, practice, season, playoffs, and street ball, in which you can play in some well known streetball courts. There are settings for rules, camera angles, and replay. The presentation has been revamped, with ESPN overlays and a Sportscenter themed intro video. The areas are nicely detailed, with cheerleaders and mascots adorning the sidelines. However, while most of the players look somewhat like their real-world counterparts, you get the feeling that they are still indistinguisable from one another. Also, the player animations could use some work, as it seems all players share the same animations, regardless of ability. There are no player-specific remarks uttered by the broadcasters, and your team's star player doesn't receive any special treatment in the game presentation. If there's one part of the presentation that could use some more work, it's the play by play, as for the most part, it's dull and unexciting, and easily the worst part of NBA 2K3. With the limited phrases, the commentary gets dull real quick. Worse, often, the commentators will contradict themselves. On one possession, the commentators will claim that a player is good long range shooter, but on the next trip down to the basket, will say that "that's just not his game" when you attempt a similar shot. Gameplay wise, the game tries to be more deliberate than EA's NBA Live series, but here is where serious gameplay issues will suck the fun out of this game and make you wonder if the developers intended on taking the fun out of a basketball videogame. Fast breaks are infrequent and are often hampered by the fact that the passing animations take so long. Each of your teammates will stop to pass with two hands, allowing the opposing defense time to get back and eliminating any man advantage you may have had. What's so annoying is that on a fast break, your players will actually STOP running to wait to catch passes. So much of the game is played in the half court, where you will post up your big men, run screens for your slashing guards, and try to find the open shooter off a double team. Against the computer, don't expect to bomb three pointers the entire game, as jumpers are hard to hit, since you'll usually be well defended, and you'll have to time them correctly. Your crossover dribble and spin move are only really useful for good ball handlers, as they are almost useless when done with average players, usually causing you to lose the ball. Losing your defender in a one on one situation is also nearly impossible, as your player will refuse to dribble around a defender no matter what you do, and even in situations where it's clear you have a clear path to the basket with a defender slightly in the way, the game will still prevent you from taking it to the hoop. Pump fakes work as often as they should, so you won't be exploiting them too much. Unrealistic and outrageous dunks are nowhere to be found, and one strange phenomenon is the frequency of missed dunks. I've missed more dunks than usual after executing a drop step and getting to the basket. Once, Tim Duncan missed a dunk, got the offensive board, and promptly missed a second dunk. Also puzzling is the shot selection your controlled players will take on close shots. Too frequently, they'll take a two foot jumper, even when they're lightly defended, instead of a layup or a dunk. (This frustrating effect was also present in the PC version of NBA Live 2001). And just as often, they'll miss the shot, which gets really aggravating. And also, no basketball game AI has ever punished you for leaving someone wide open in the paint, and NBA 2K3 doesn't alleviate that. You'll scratch your head sometimes on why the computer likes to move the ball around the three point line with a guy wide open in the paint. NBA 2K3 is far from perfect, and even though it is a change of pace for someone from the NBA Live camp, you can't help but wish that it was better.