NCAA Football 2K3 Review (PS2)
This is a great time to be a sports gamer. This is the first time in a long time where you can look at almost any sport and see two or three titles from different companies for each. Last year, Sega decided to take on college football for the first time with NCAA2k2 and it sucked. Critics hated it. Gamers hated it and when you compared it to EA’s NCAA Football 2002, the game looked even worst. Still, I’m going to cut Sega some slack. They have only been working on the NCAA2k series for the past two years, while EA has been working on their series for 8 years, so there game isn’t going to be as polished as EA’s.
So what was wrong with NCAA2k2? The game was based off the engine of NFL2k1 and played like it. The same flaws that were in NFL 2k1 were in NCAA 2k2 and that rubbed a lot of people the wrong way. It made me feel like I was playing a game that was a year behind all the others when it came to gameplay. So what does Sega do this year? They base NCAA2k3 off of NFL2k2’s game engine. The worst part is that the left in many of the flaws that were in NCAA2k1 and NFL2k2. Even with the flaws is this a good game? Lets see.
The stadiums are well done just like in most Sega Sports games. They are accurate for the most part and get some differences correct about certain stadiums that EA’s game doesn’t. For example, Maryland and Nebraska’s stadiums look more like their real life counterparts in 2k3 then in EA’s game. However, there are still a few stadiums that the game does not get completely correct (ex. The Orange Bowl) but Visual Concepts did a great job w/ the accuracy and look of the stadiums.
I have a problem with the player models but that is a personal issue. I have always hated the player models of all of the Sega football games until they made changes to the design in NFL2k3. Since this game appears to be designed from the NFL 2k2 engine, the player models look have the pre NFL2k3 look. The players stand very upright and their shoulder pads and shoulders end at a sharp point instead of rounding off. Still if you liked Sega’s player models in the past you will like them now. Player faces aren’t an issue in this game because each player is given a random face due to NCAA rules.
There is one word to describe the sound in NCAA2k3. Solid. It’s not spectacular but it’s not poor either. Most of the major teams like Notre Dame and Michigan have their fight songs but they are missing a few from Division 1 schools like South Carolina. The in game sounds and player chatter are done very well. Still, EA’s offering creates the college atmosphere better. Small things like the band playing after you get a first down or the visiting team’s band playing when they score are missing in 2k3.
The play-by-play commentary is decent but for some reason it pales in comparison to the commentary in NCAA 2003 or in NFL 2k3. Still that’s not a bad thing because the commentary in those games was some of the best I have ever heard. Two generic announcers are used and they do a good job. The play-by-play man and the color commentator make intelligent comments at appropriate times. Its like I said earlier. Solid not spectacular.
Now we move on to what really matters. Gameplay. As much as I want to like the gameplay in 2k3, I cant. The game just feels like NFL 2k2 with college teams and stadiums. The running game has improved greatly form NCAA2k1. You can run successfully inside and outside of the tackles and there are a wide variety of running plays to choose from. The option is done well and I like the animation that is used for the option. One problem that I have with the running game is the speed of the game. NFL2k2 played at a fast speed and so does NCAA2k3. The problem is its too fast. Cuts are made without momentum making it difficult on offense to avoid running into your own men and on defense making it difficult to make tackles. I suggest that when playing this game, you change the game speed slider to slow, as this is the most realistic speed setting the game has. Another issue is that too many tackles are broke by running backs. I have played games where at the end of the first quarter, my running back had 10 broken tackles. That is extremely high and the lack of a slider makes it impossible to change.
The passing game is pretty poor. In the college game, I understand that QBs aren’t as accurate as in the pros and I wont get upset if I over or under throw a few passes a game but bad throws happen way too much in this game. I’m playing w/ Miami against Boston College and I have a solid QB in Ken Dorsey. Most of the time I expect to be able to complete passes if I have the time to get the throw off, my feet are set, and if my WR is open. Still I can have all the time in the world and set my feet and very frequently I will overthrow my WR by 5 yards. I have tried this with some of the best QBs in the game such as Byron Leftwich and Rex Grossman and the overthrows still occur.
Another issue with the passing game is dropped passes. Now this was a problem in NCAA2k1 and in NFL 2k2 and it is still a problem in this game. I have no problems with dropped passes being in the game especially in a college football game because usually the skills of WR in the college game are much less than in the pro game. My issue is that they occur too much no matter who you are using. Charles Rogers shouldn’t drop the ball as much as the 3rd string receiver at Utah State but in this game it feels like he does. NFL 2k3 corrected this issue by including a catching slider in the game. Are there any sliders in NCAA2k3? No! Why? Because its NFL 2k2 with college uniforms.
My final issue with the passing game is the fact that WRs will sometimes dive in the opposite direction of where the ball is thrown. This forces you to take control of the WR every time in order to complete a pass. Issues like this frustrate me because I know Sega could have picked up on this before they released the game if they beta tested.
The defensive side of the ball is good though. I have always enjoyed playing defense on Sega’s football game and I really enjoy it on NCAA2k3. The playbook offers multiple schemes and plays and many of the tackling animations are well done. There are collision detection issues with a few of the tackles but many of them look good. The only problem I found with defense in this game is a problem I saw in NFL 2k2 also. DBs jump in the opposite direction of the pass sometimes when attempting to block or intercept a pass. This is inexcusable and has been a problem that Sega has been aware of for 2 years now and has not fixed this for its college football game.
Franchise has all of the features that you would expect from a college football game. Recruiting, redshirting, and scheduling are all included in the game. You can play up to 30 seasons and you can choose any Division 1 school. The only problem is the franchise mode is not as complete as in EA’s game and it becomes kind of boring. The recruiting aspect is not as deep as EA’s, there is not a custom scheduling option, and there are no junior college players. One positive and something that should be added to EA’s is the spring practice feature. In spring practice, you schedule the type of activities your team will practice and your team will improve in the areas that you designate. It’s a good concept and addition to this title.
If NCAA2k3 was the only college football game out I would suggest that people buy it. The problem is that EA’s NCAA Football 2003 is a MUCH better game then NCAA2k3. EA’s game makes 2k3 pale in comparison. What Sega needs to do is design this game at the same time its creating its new NFL game. They should use their newest game engine and add the college football atmosphere and AI. Until they do this, the NCAA series will always feel like it’s a year behind.