NCAA Basketball 2K3

NCAA Basketball 2K3

Written by John Yan on 3/22/2003 for PS2  
More On: NCAA Basketball 2K3
It’s time for March Madness and what better way to celebrate the nirvana of the college basketball season than to fill out those brackets. Well besides that you can also participate in the season yourself with Sega’s NCAA College Basketball 2K3 for the Playstation 2. With the help of ESPN, NCAA 2K3 offers a solid representation of college basketball with the ESPN flair for presentation.

Right from the start you’ll see the ESPN influence with menus and transitions that mimic the style of the Sportscenter. As far as sports game menus goes, NCAA 2K3 has some of the best-looking menus around. As an avid watcher of Sportscenter, I thought the look and feel was incredibly well done and Visual Concepts does a great job in copying the ESPN style.

A good number of different types of game modes are available to you. Besides the standard season and tournament affair there’s also a gym rat mode where you can play 1 on 1 to 5 on 5 in an empty gym up to a certain score that you can set. There are two different legacy modes depending on how you want to play. You can either take any team and try to create another UCLA dynasty or you can take a limited number of openings at low profile schools at the beginning. After achieving various goals you’ll have the opportunity to take other coaching jobs at higher profile schools. I rather enjoy this mode as it gives you something to work for instead of having all teams opened to you at once. You’ll play harder because really who wants to spend their career coaching a school like South East Missouri State.

NCAA 2K3’s gameplay is a mix bag of good and annoying. Unlike the NBA, teamwork’s still a major factor in the college game. Ball movement and trying to get an open shot is critical. The Ricky Davis style of gameplay will most likely result in a loss.

The speed at which the game is played is a little slower than what you might be used to if you play EA’s basketball game. You can adjust the speed to make it a little faster than I actually preferred the faster speed but still not as fast as EA’s, which is a good thing. Free throw shooting features the moveable arrows with your analog sticks and pressing the R1 key to shoot the ball. You have to line up both arrows to point to the basket by maneuvering the analog sticks simultaneously. It definitely takes more skill than the double click cross of EA’s game.

You can call some set plays and you’ll need them to get that look on the basketball. Picks and screens play an important part of this game with NCAA 2K3 providing good player movements and positions to enable this to happen. Visual Concept has done a good job in modeling an offensive scheme with the players constantly in motion trying to get open.
The game doesn’t feature enough fouls though and you’ll end up with a lot of your starters staying in the game. Unlike the NBA, the bench plays an important role in college basketball but with the lack of fouls the bench does almost become a non-factor.

The transition game does need a little work as fast breaks seem to always get broken up with the defense getting back to the basket way too fast. During periods when I knew I should have a good 3 on 2 or 3 on 1 fast break I would find the CPU getting back into position too easily. As it is now, you probably won’t get to execute many fast break opportunities successfully.

Along those lines, driving to the basket is rather tough. Any little bump will usually stop the player dead in his tracks. In a way this is a positive as it prevents the arcade-ish like scoring of dunks and lay-ups that plagues EA’s games. This alone keeps the scoring to a respectable level.

The defense in NCAA 2K3 is one of the more challenging and realistic defense in a college basketball game. You’ll see players switching to cover the weak side or an unguarded player. The CPU will switch up defenses and fighting past the full court press takes some patience and skill, as you won’t be able to use the turbo and cross over button to drive past the defenders. Also passes will be batted down or stolen if you’re not careful and carelessly pass the rock around.

Speaking of passes, NCAA 2K3 lacks icon passing, which I really used a lot in other basketball games. Using the right analog stick to pass just doesn’t really cut it as you don’t have that specific control of which player you want the ball to try to go to. As it is, the passing is adequate but the game really should’ve included icon passing in the package.(EDIT) A reader was kind enough to point out that there is icon passing by switching the control scheme. This made it a lot easier for me to pass the ball around giving me greater control. Thanks to zrrgin for pointing that fact out to me.

Graphically, the game is a mixed bag. While it’s not the most detailed basketball game out there, NCAA 2K3’s graphics are above average. The player models are ok and do offer a nice contrast with different heights and weights of different players.

The arenas are where this game really shines as Visual Concepts has gone to great lengths to mimic the actual look of the floor. You’ll recognize a lot of the more televised arenas but some do have some minor errors. Nevertheless the court reproduction is top notch.
For those times where you want to hear a player’s name instead of a number and position, NCAA 2K3 allows you to generate random names. Since this is a college game, Visual Concepts wasn’t allowed to use the real players’ names and having the game automatically generate random ones for those who don’t want to enter in each name is a great feature. You’ll hear the player’s names in announcements and plays thus giving the game a more lifelike feel. Here’s hoping that more college sports games includes this option for those who aren’t picky and don’t mind having their favorite college player being called by a different moniker.

Commentary is also pretty good with the commentators calling the action on the screen pretty well. Like most games, it can become a little repetitive but Visual Concept’s commentary scheme is one of the better ones I have experienced. The announcers have good reactions and don’t feature any monotone commentary to make it sound like they are bored with the action. It’s not Dick Vitale screaming into the microphone but then again that can be a good thing.

Like most Sega Sports games, this one does feature network play via the Playstation 2 network adaptor. Unfortunately, I haven’t picked up an adaptor yet so I couldn’t tell you how well it plays over the Internet. But if it’s like any network game, your mileage will vary depending on the connection and bandwidth available at the time you play.

NCAA Basketball 2K3 is a solid effort. It offers a very deep legacy mode and good graphics. The gameplay has a lot more positives than negative and will give you a distinct style over an NBA game. Sega and Visual Concepts has done a good job with their version of a college basketball game with EA having to work a lot to catch up to VC’s effort. A good pickup for you college basketball fans who want to experience March Madness on your Playstation 2.
It's a good college basketball game for the Playstation 2 and definitely a lot better than the one from EA. Legacy mode is where the fun is really at with the ability to start out at a small school and work your way up.

Rating: 8.5 Very Good

* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company.

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I've been reviewing products since 1997 and started out at Gaming Nexus. After writing for a few different sites that went under, it's nice to bring back a site that's not dependent on revenue and just wants to deliver news and reviews of products.

I'm  married, and enjoy first person shooters, sports games, and real time strategy games.

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