NBA 2K2 was, without a doubt, the king of the hardwood last year. Not only is Sega looking to refine the game with NBA 2K3, but they are looking to totally retool it to take full advantage of the power of the other next-gen consoles. Sega promises a game to be remembered and after you finish reading this preview, you'll see why.
The most obvious difference in the game that sets it apart from the previous titles in the series is the graphical changes. The game will incorporate a graphical system that will be able to render sweat on both the players and the court in real time. Player's skin will become shiny and reflect light from the sweat realistically. The effect is incredible. Other cosmetic changes include fully animated benches and spectators. The environment comes off as a living, breathing arena that will give gamers a sense of realism that has been hard to illustrate in other sports games.
The graphics aren't the only characteristics of the game being changed. The gameplay was excellent in last year's edition, but it suffered from several obvious flaws. First, the AI made way too many shots. Players had to almost knock an opponent down to stop him from scoring, especially stars like Kobe and Iverson. In NBA 2K3, however, gamers will be able to not only select any of the three difficulty settings - Rookie, Pro, and All-Star - but they will also be able to take advantage of all new AI sliders. With these tools, you can adjust every aspect of the computer's game. If All-Star level isn't enough of a challenge then simply raise the AI's defense. This can add lot to the NBA 2K3 experience.
That change isn't the only one either. Remember making ridiculous passes to a player when their defender was right in the middle of the passing lane just to get it stolen? Now players will work around defenders to get their man the ball. Instead of lobbing a pass cross-court, players will swing the ball around to the open man. Countless new animations have been made to accommodate these changes and the team at Visual Concepts is hard at work making more and more changes every day.
The post game has been retooled as well. Players will fight for position on the inside and the collision detection is something that has never been seen before in any basketball game. If you watch the replay, you can see players' bodies actually touching with no spacing between them whatsoever. You will see small details like the use of elbows to create spacing between a man and his defender for a good look at the basket.
The presentation of the game is different as well. In addition to the usual Sega Sports team, Sega has cut a deal with ESPN to feature some of their personalities in the game. Reports from the sidelines and other broadcasting features are where the ESPN crew takes over. This addition to the already spectacular TV-style presentation the series is known for will make the experience even more worthwhile.
VC - Visual Concepts - didn't stop there. Replays have also been remodeled to add more spice to the game. Now, when a replay is shown, everything but the player controlling the ball is shaded with the player in full color. The effect it subtle but after watching it multiple times it really does add a bit of emotion to the sometimes dull replays found in most sports titles.
This game is shaping up perfectly and it hard to believe that it can get better. Knowing VC, though, this is only the tip of the iceberg as some more improvements and effects are sure to be added before the final version ships this October. If you're a hardcore hoops fan or the casual gamer looking for a good sports game, NBA 2K3 looks like it will deliver the best of both worlds.
7/2/2002 Anthony Perez