NFL 2K3. When you first turn the game on you will notice that ESPN has taken over the Sega Sports Network. I am a veteran from the good ol' NFL 2K days, and all the games menus have been changed. Thanks to the new EPSN license, the old oval shaped menus are a thing of the past. It's nowhere near as being set up as typical Sega Sports, so you will feel as though you are playing a new series when accessing the menus. However, long-time NFL 2K fans should have no fear, as the gridiron game is back and better then it's ever been. Also, this year for the first time ever, Sega Sports has the official coaches of the NFL!
When I first played NFL 2K3, I was so frustrated. The game has changed since the Dreamcast versions. One of the main things that is frustrating is the amount of pressure needed to press on the buttons. I couldn't change players as quickly as I wanted to, it was getting me pretty mad. The very next day I went back to playing it, and I was in my second game of the day, and I found myself making all the plays and having no problem with the non-easy press format. Aside from that, the gameplay has been slowed down just a little bit, possibly making it more realistic. You can always go to the options menu and change the game speed if you don't like it. Now on to the good stuff. NFL 2K3 has many good things that will have you enjoying it. There are many moves to do while running with the ball. There is no longer a regular spin move. The B button this time does a stutter-step then spins off an opponent. You have to get used to it first though before you can realize how it actually works. The Y button is the hurdle. The hurdle has been a little modified, making the player jump slower, but easy to get used to. The X and A buttons are the only ones that are the same. A is turbo and can charge up the same way by holding it down. And the X button is the regular dive. Now on to the rest of the controls. There is no longer just one juke move, you can now juke left and juke right. The L and R trigger buttons are how to juke, but if you press them together you get another new move that let's you push through any defenders. Lastly, the black and white buttons are for stiff-arm right and stiff-arm left respecitively.
The gameplay may seem a little hard at first. And you, being an inquiring mind, may want to know why. Well, it's because the default setting is set on the Pro level. You may want to move it down to Rookie level for a few games. You should also put vibration to 'on' in the options menu, because by default it's turned off. Why? I don't know.
Like I said earlier, the game is pretty hard. The running game is not the same as it used to be; it is now much more difficult. Sure you have all the moves, and you can charge up your power, but a lot of the times the jukes, hurdles, etc, are ineffective. Your going to find yourself just tapping turbo, and seeing that the running back actually makes moves on his own. Now, I'm not saying that all the moves are useless to try, but I am saying that you can get away without using them. With that said, once you learn the moves, it opens up a whole to ball game. The passing game can also be tough. You have to mix it up, or the AI will catch you, and intercept it. All the games I have played against the CPU have been close games thanks to the revamped AI.
The amount of tackle animations you will see are simply amazing. You will hardly ever see the same two tackles in the same game. There are many situations that happen when out on the field. A player can get hit, but not tackled, making it easier for the next defender to make the tackle. Or a player can be coming at you after breaking a tackle, and you either can ran over or make the tackle, which adds some realism. You can also can get help from teammates when making tackles. It's not just "one" player that can make the tackle. If a receiver catches a ball, the ball can pop out of his hands way to easy if hit at the same time the ball reaches his hands. This happens a lot.
Die hard NFL 2K fans will feel at home once you pass through all the ESPN menus to get the gameplay.
In between plays, and while about to hike the ball, you get the occasional home fan yell out "come on D" or "Let's go Defense". That alone just makes you feel like your at a real game. And the chants are another part of the game; J-E-T-S JETS, JETS, JETS!
On to the play calling. The play calling is exactly like old school NFL 2K. You can see all the plays right on the screen. If you are playing against a human opponent, there is no VMU player calling obviously, but you can still hide your plays pretty easily. By holding down the A button, but before releasing it, you can move to any play and make it look like your picking a totally different one.
The pass interference penalties seem to be really off this year. I was on defense, and I never touched the guy, and they call me for pass interference. This happened more then once. But during other plays, I recognized that they really fixed and do call the ones that are penalties. And no "Challenge" play? C'mon Sega!
One minor gripe that takes some fun out of the game is you can't pump up the crowd while on defense. No more "Raise the Roof" or "Let's get Juiced". It's just not there. Lastly, you can't lateral it back anymore. Unless I am missing something, it has been taken out.
All the weather is real time, when you pause the game in replay mode, every raindrop will pause until the action starts. The stadiums are nicely done and look just like the real NFL stadiums. The player models are sharp, and talk about facial expressions, this game has them all. You can see each player react to the play on the field, all the way to their teeth.
During day games, clouds will get in the way of the sun, thus leaving
a huge shadow in the middle of the field. They move just like real
clouds, and in a little while, their gone.
The sidelines are nice to look at. They are pretty much as real as it gets. Aside from the coaches walking the sidelines, you can see security guards in yellow, and it says "Event Staff" on the back of their jackets.
This is the best looking NFL game to date, the combination of detail and life-like player models make this game killer. The players faces have all been redone, they look like real life players. All the NFL coaches look great. The helmets are my personal favorite. They are so real looking with that great shiny look when it's a night game. They even have the brand name written on the straps, and the NFL logo on the back, just like in the real NFL.
The play by play is so deep, you'll forget your playing a game. Dan and Peter have been the announcers year after year in the NFL 2K series, and I'm glad that are still here despite the ESPN licensing. They are non-stop, talking about the game. They even make fun of you if you call a play and it's unsuccessful. You will not find this type of commentary in any other videogame.
The amount of replay value in NFL 2K3 is unreal. Think about this for a minute.
Neither Sega nor Microsoft has said anything about "cutting off" an Xbox
Live game like EA Sports will do with there online titles. I mean you can
still play Dreamcast games online! You will be able to play this game
online for quite sometime giving you the option to play anybody in the
USA. But if you are seriously looking for a fun football game, this is
the game. The gameplay is very unique from other football games.
Two other reasons why the replay value of this game is so high
is because of the Franchise mode, and the Create a Player/Team. I've
never got into playing franchise modes, but this one is one where you
feel like your in control of a real NFL team. Create a Player/Team is
what I love doing. Creating life-long friends from high school (I'm in college), or people
you know and putting them on a team is extremely fun.
The last reason, well the mulitplayer! You will enjoy this one with 2 or
3 of your friends. Whether your playing for competition or
playing on the same team, its addictive gameplay will keep you
in the game.
If you want a game that is fun, and actually looks like a real life
NFL game, this is it.
I guess for me, taking a year of from the NFL 2K series to play Madden 2002, was a huge mistake on my part. As I have played the game more and more, I really see how NFL 2K3 stands out over the other football games.
If your looking for a game that redefines the football genre year after year, go with NFL 2K3. If you want a game that is the same every year, and offers nothing new, then go with Madden.