Review by FalloutX

"A football game for the masses."

I've been a fan of the NFL2k series since the very first installment on Dreamcast. I own NFL2K, 2K1 and 2K2 on Dreamcast and 2K2 and now 2K3 on PS2. When I originally purchased NFL2K2 on Dreamcast, I found it to be a less than substantial improvement over it's 2K1 counterpart. That was when I saw it was also on PS2. I contemplated. Should I buy 2K2 when I already own it? I saw some videos, read some reviews, and went with it. The leap from Dreamcast 2K2 to PS2 2K2 was mindblowing. The presentation, graphics and everything seemed to completely change my perspective. It was a tremendous game, just like the last two installments, and it being on the new system -- which allowed for the massive visual and other improvements -- totally rejuvenated the series.

So this year, when I caught some reviews and clips from NFL2K3, I was all over it. With my employee discount at Best Buy, I scored my copy and played it as soon as I got home from work. The first thing that I liked, and I'd assume the first thing anyone would like, would have to be the ESPN license. The new presentation, while not exactly earth-shattering, actually makes NFL2K3 an even better game. Presentation has a lot to do with the replay value and enjoyment one can have with a game. Thanks to ESPN, Sega scores big.

Further along those lines, all of the great ESPN tunes are in there, the menus look great, and even the graphics have taken a big boost overall. I'll cover the features of the game in a second, but firstly, the most important aspect of this game is... how are you gonna feel about it the moment you start your first game?

If you can put this game down, willingly, once you experience your first game, you're stronger than I am. As soon as you choose your teams, you're whisked away to a loading screen that isn't just that, but it's an ESPN-style preview for the upcoming game! After a breakdown of each teams strengths and weaknesses, you're whisked away to the field where you receive the customary matchup screen. Then is where you start to get some of the new presentation improvements. Namely, the split screen. This one compares two key players in the upcoming game, or just the coaches, and we get a nice breakdown by our Color Commentator Peter O'Keefe. Dan Stevens is again on Play-by-Play, so nothing new there.

The ESPN license is put to good use throughout the game, yet it's done not just to get their money's worth, but it's also done in the style you'd expect from an ESPN football broadcast. Superb, to say the least. With this new license, along with other elements including split-screen replays, a multitude of expected angles, and just a great delivery, you won't be disappointed with how NFL2K3 looks and feels on your PS2.

Of course, aside from presentation, there's the overall gaming elements to consider.

GRAPHICS: If you've ever played NFL2K2 on PS2, you know what to expect. 2K3 has taken these graphics, made 'em a little sharper and smoother. Nicer on the eyes. A solid improvement, nothing drastic. Then again, nothing drastic was needed. 10/10

SOUND: The commentary, as it always is, is still awesome this year. With the addition of halftime and post-game breakdowns, it even further adds the ESPN broadcast element to your games. On the field, the in-stadium announcer is same as always, the smashes, hits, grunts and groans are all there, the trash-talking, injury reports, and even the ESPN chime for the sportsticker is there. The sound remains strong and gives this game another big bonus. 9/10

GAMEPLAY/CONTROL: The game controls like all the other versions, with a few slight modifications. Nothing that will ruin your game playing experience. Still solid, so nothing better or worse about it in 2K3. As for gameplay, this is where NFL2K3 truely shines. The animations, not only on the bodies but also the faces give big boosts to the overall experience. The hits, the blocks, the catches.. all of them have been tweaked, slightly improved, or downright overhauled to make for a fantastic looking football game. The AI has also been improved, especially in the O-Line. You'll find that blitzing from the edge of the line may not be possible, as the defender on that end may neglect the linebacker just to focus on you. It's terrific and, hell... just plain great. 10/10.

REPLAY VALUE: The key element of any sports game, albeit football game. If you don't want to sit there and play through another game, another season, another franchise mode.. Well, you just don't like the game. Fortunately, NFL2K3 has nothing to worry about when it comes to replay value. From your first game in, you'll definitely be up to start a new season, test your skills in the franchise mode, or even give the Sega Challenge a go, where you can accomplish goals and get passwords to use on a Sega website to compare yourself to other players. And, of course, the online feature is enabled and should definitely work great with your Broadband Adapter. 10/10

OVERALL: I've never liked the Madden series. Not to say you won't, I just haven't. That's why I play this series. If you have your doubts, rent both and see what really appeals to your tastes. If you've already been a big fan of the 2K series, like me, then this game is NOT one you should pass up on. If you're a football fan, this is the game for you. 10/10

Reviewer's Rating:   5.0 - Flawless

Originally Posted: 08/25/02, Updated 08/25/02

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