NCAA 2K3 College Basketball Review (PS2)
With EA’s March Madness being the only playable college basketball game on the market for the past few years (excluding 989’s Final Four which is still below average) Sega Sports finally decided to make the leap. So what does Sega College Basketball 2k3 offer?? How about 300+ teams, 50+ individual arenas, season mode, legacy mode, and gym rat mode. The question is, “Is Sega’s first effort enough to overtake March Madness?”
The arenas and courts are totally identical to their real life counterparts. Arizona’s McKale Center and Syracuse’s Carrier Dome are some of the many well done and accurate arena’s in this game. There are a few mistakes though. Maryland and Pittsburgh’s new arenas aren’t featured in the game (even though the game says they are) and North Carolina’s court artwork is incorrect. Still, I am constantly impressed at the lengths that Sega Sports goes to being accurate. One of my alma mater’s rivals was Morris Brown (called Atlanta College in this game because of licensing issues) so I have been to their arena a few times and their arena is damn near perfect. Now I’m not talking about Duke here. This is Morris Brown and no one would complain if their gym wasn’t accurate but VC still made sure that it looked like the real life version. This has always been an area where VC has excelled and it doesn’t change here.
GIVE US A PLAYER EDITOR! Nothing angers me more about VC then the fact that we cant change the appearance of the players and this game makes it clear why a player editor is needed. CB2k3 does a sloppy job with the specific appearances of many star players. Luke Walton and Nick Collison are bald (in real life, they have hair) and Channing Frye of Arizona and Chris Thomas are white (in real life, they are black). I wont even get in to details how many complexions and hairstyles are wrong in this game (just look at North Carolina’s whole team). If VC is not going to include a player editor that edits appearances, they should do a better job with the accuracy of the players. Create a player does help correct some of these problems but it doesn’t change the fact that Sega’s games need a player appearance editor.
This is where CB2k3 shines. The audio in this game is the best that I have ever heard in a basketball video game. When the home team makes a big play or goes on a run, the crowd goes into a frenzy. The crowd sounds are really loud and well done. The band, the cheers, and the crowd chants also add to the environment and make this the best sound of any sports game I’ve played this year.
VC does another solid job with the commentary. While there are statements that become repetitive after playing the game for a while, the announcers do a good job of relaying the action that is taking place on the court and giving facts about the teams that are playing. VC has always done a good job with commentary in their games and CB2k3 isn’t any different.
Gameplay in CB2K3 is a mixed bag. To have an appreciation of this game you have to understand the college game. College basketball is predicated on ball movement, zone defenses and motion offenses. While the NBA features isolations, one on one moves, and man to man defense. So if you think that you are just going to take a star player, make a few crossover moves and dominate the game, you are sadly mistaken. It takes ball movement, working the ball around the perimeter, and outside shooting to win in CB2k3.
In interviews I have seen, the developers of CB2K3 stated that this game was using the NBA2k3 engine. After seeing CB2k3 in action I have to say that either the game is using a stripped down version of the NBA 2k3 engine or a beefed up version of the NBA2k2 engine. I’m leaning toward thinking it’s the 2k2 engine and here is why. There is no pivot mode in CB2k3(pivot mode is in NBA 2k3) and this does take away some of the offensive options. The goaltending bug that was featured in NBA 2k2 can be found (to a lesser extent) in CB2k3. Also, the crossover moves found in 2k3 can’t be found in CB2k3. While those missing features don’t hurt the game significantly, I hate to feel that I have been lied to and it seems that VC used an upgraded NBA2k2 engine for this game.
Another major problem I have with this game is the lack of fouls. This is a problem that I have with most basketball games (with the exception of the Live series). In most of the Sega basketball games that I have played, fouls rarely occur on reach-ins and mostly occur on drives to the basket. When I play, I try to make the game as realistic as possible so fouls are set to ALL. Still, there are several times in the game where I will penetrate, collide with an opposing player and not get a foul called. I average 9 fouls called between both teams and that is way too little. The lack of fouls takes away a realistic component of basketball. The need to have a team with depth. Saturday, Kansas lost to Oregon mainly because their star Nick Collison got into foul trouble. In CB2k3, players don’t get into foul trouble and with continuous use of timeouts you wont ever have to substitute your players. Each player does have a foul rating and it can be assumed that lowering it for each player would cause more fouls but VC has made that one of the attributes that cannot be changed (like the overall rating and jersey numbers)
Sliders are not featured in this game. Even though it hasn’t happened yet, I have a feeling that as the months go by and I get more time to play this game, I will be able to beat the All American level (the highest level) easily. Also, there are plenty of players who are too good for All Conference but not good enough for All American and who need sliders. The exclusion of sliders can seriously affect the longevity of a game and should be mandatory for most sports games in my opinion.
Another major oversight seems to be the late game decision making of the AI. I have had a few instances where my team was up by 4 or 5 with 40 seconds or less in a game and the CPU does not intentionally foul me. This is something that could have been found if VC beta tested this game a little more thoroughly.
Enough with the negative comments lets move on to what this game does well. Player movement is constant and resembles real life college basketball. One problem I had with NBA 2k3 was the lack of player movement away from the ball (which could be argued that its realistic since real NBA player don’t move that much anyway). CB2k3 has constant player movement and it seems that on offense, players are constantly looking for an open shot. This is needed because most of the teams in this game play zone and you need your offense to constantly look for open shots within the zone. This game also features team specific playbooks. Kentucky runs a different offense then Maryland does and it’s good to see a game that recognizes this. CB2k3 also does a great job getting the ball to the star players. Players like Chris Duhon and Carmelo Anthony will see their share of shots.
On the defensive side, CB2k3 has the best representation of defensive basketball that I have ever seen. The AI does a great job of switching zone defenses when they aren’t working. Sometimes the AI will switch to a full court press after a made basket. The full court press in this game is one of the most difficult defenses I have ever played against. On the All American level, you can’t simply dribble through the press. You have to pass the ball to the middle of the press to break it. I have waited for years for a game to do this correctly and I have finally found one.
The Legacy mode is one of the major selling points of this game. You have a choice to play an open or career legacy. In the open legacy you can take control of one team and use that team throughout the Legacy. In career legacy mode, you take control of a team as a young coach and you must reach certain goals in order to avoid being fired and to get other job offers. Recruiting is extremely fun as you can scout recruits, visit recruits, and watch or play high school All American games. This is the most complete version of college basketball franchise mode you could find.
This is the best college basketball game I have ever played and I have played them all. From Coach K to March Madness to Final Four, I have never played a college basketball game that was this enjoyable and realistic. Still there are still a few big problems with this game. I am willing to cut Sega and VC a little slack as this is their first attempt at a college basketball game. Still the expectations will be higher for next year’s game. All and all a great job for a first effort.