NBA Live 2003
There is no question about it that EA Sports is dominating the market when it comes to sports simulations. Their FIFA and NBA Live series have been virtually untouchable for a good number of years now. Sure, there have been some valiant attempts by SEGA and MS to overthrow the champions, and those were actually good attempts. But every sports sim fan knows that to play a good game of b ball or soccer (Football to us Europeans) on your PC, you gotta buy an EA Sports game. And by concepts I referring to the same old AI glitches, plays and moves. In NBA 2001 for example it was virtually impossible to dribble your way to the basket, or school a guy in a one on one situation (I talking about the hardest level of difficulty). The offense was based around a couple of moves that would do the trick as the controls were too confusing and complicated to be fully utilized in the game. This made the single player gameplay rather tedious and turned NBA basketball players into what looked like a bunch of drunken Frenchmen. Okay, drunken Frenchmen that had a number of flashy moves and monster dunks, but still lacking the basic fundamentals of the game. Not to mention that the AI sucked ass in fast breaks, and never wanted to take advantage of 3 on 1 situations. This made the game look, well, rather silly from a fan standpoint. Anyone who knows anything about basketball will tell you that a good “D” and the resulting easy transition baskets are the key to victory. That is unless of course you have Shaq on your roster. In that case, all your offensive tactics go out the window. Just get the ball to the big guy and let him hurt the rim.
There are several reasons why I pretty much lost interest in the NBA Live franchise after playing the previous two installments. Some reasons I have already mentioned in the preceding paragraph, one other reason has to do with the game not accurately portraying some of the star players of the league. Sure, all star players could rack up those stat numbers in the previous versions as well, but they would use some moves that are highly uncharacteristic to their style of play. For example, Shaq would score a lot, but he wouldn physically dominate the paint as much as he does in real life. In fact, his play style resembled that of Tim Duncan in the paint, and Kobe would score, but his moves would clearly resemble those of say, Kevin Garnett. (Ed. This made the game far less interesting and kinda lacking flare and flamboyance. Not to mention it lacked some very cool one on one basketball!
Luckily, most of these problems are all but gone in NBA Live 2003. After playing the game for several weeks now, I can guarantee to sports fans worldwide that this is the most fun basketball simulation on the market. It all starts with some cool beats from Snoop Dogg, and ends with the amazing sounds of an aching rim after a 350 pound monster like Shaq does his trademark one handed power jam under the basket. Kobe shakes and bakes, and uses his famous crossover dribble, and if you master the controls properly which are intuitive and easy to get into, you learn that there is a whole barrage of one on one moves just waiting to be explored. This time around, special attention was given to great one on one players like say, Tracy McGrady. If you wanna stop McGrady from scoring 50 on you every night, you just gotta double up, because he school a single defender like you wouldn believe. Naturally, this works the other way around as well, so Kobe, or AI . or whoever it is of these great players that on your roster will get just as many opportunities to score as the next superstar. The accent in NBA Live 2003 is on the fast breaks, high flying dunks and quick passing. But that is not to say that the half court offense doesn work just as well in the game. You need to pass the ball a couple of times and then get it to your power player. If he good enough, he can back the defender and do plenty of damage on the paint.
All right guys, we need a better game plan!
You sit your ass down!The computer AI is very solid. For one, the opposing team will run those fast breaks like they have Don Nelson with a bullwhip breathing down their necks, which makes the single player game all the more exciting. Computer will even double team properly and adjust the defense according to your key players, or in other words, those players will feel the heat on that particular night on the court. Good three point shooting point guards won wait for the shot clock to wind down if they can make a pass, and they most certainly pull up for the jumper if they left wide open. They finish the fast breaks themselves and generally be a lot more dangerous than they were in any of the previous versions. I was pleasantly surprised to see that Gary Payton virtual counterpart will tend to post up every once in a while in the game, even though he a PG. Gary Payton is famous for his post up moves in the NBA.
There are several things that frustrated me about the game AI. For one, it will favor the 2 2 game even when his several prior attempts to play a pick and roll resulted in turnovers and fast break points for my team. Furthermore, the AI still doesn know how to aggressively grab offensive rebounds and that goes for both my teammates and the other team players! In addition to this, it won help the defense as much as it should when one of my superstars like C Webb gets going on the paint. Backing down on defenders with your star centers and power forwards is an easy way to score baskets, and once you get a bit used to avoiding double teams, you be able to score a lot of points this way. Too many in fact.
Other minor problems I had with the game had to do with my inability to convert from the foul line. The AI is way too accurate from the line (we talking about the All Star level of difficulty), and it much harder now for players to shoot free throws, as you need to be a lot more accurate to make one. The little vertical and horizontal moving balls (the foul shot system is the same as in all the previous NBA Live games) need to be virtually dead on center if you want to get it in the hole. Now, this may sound like a minor glitch, but it cost me a couple of games.
Finally, I should say a thing or two about the sounds and visuals. NBA Live 2003 supports all the usual 3D bells and whistles, but more importantly, the animation of the player models is better than ever before. And there are more moves per player than ever before. And that not even mentioning the amazing looking dunks. I should also note that the frame rate was rock solid even when I maxed out all the details on my Athlon XP 2000+ and GeForce Ti 4600 rig.
The sounds are an integral element of the gameplay, as they do wonders in terms of creating the proper atmosphere of an NBA game. The clanking of the rims when you dunk, and the shouts of the coach when your team is getting back on defense help you get but a small taste of what it would be like to actually lace up and step on the hardwood yourself.
In a nutshell, NBA Live 2003 is what you call a complete game. It looks good and it plays great. A few AI drawbacks aside, this is hands down the best basketball simulation on the market. I wholeheartedly recommend it to all of you who experienced the joys and frustrations of the magical game of basketball even if only by watching the Sunday play off games on NBC.
click to learn how we rate gamesExcellent 90highs
The gameplay is more fun than ever before. The motion captured moves look spectacular. Awesome sound f/x and solid advances in the AI department;lows
The AI is still far from perfect, however. Hitting free throws can be a bit too difficult in NBA Live 2003, which may cost you a few games.