Well, if you haven't noticed, football is in the air (and if you haven't noticed, you apparently haven't been at our website, where we've been force-feeding everyone tons of football game reviews). Sega Sports always promises great things with its NFL 2K series, and the newest title in the lineup, NFL 2K3, is no exception.
With the engine upgraded and the players looking more realistic than ever, NFL 2K3 is easily the best looking game of the series. Of course, the game pales in comparison with EA Sports' MADDEN 2003. But then again, what doesn't? One of the best new features to the Sega Sports' games is the addition of the ESPN license. While it really doesn't seem like much up front, it actually provides for a very enjoyable experience with the Sportscenter music and ESPN menus.
The gameplay is where NFL 2K3 really shines. It plays just as tight as we have come to expect from the series. While it plays a bit faster than MADDEN, which is also expected, it isn't as fast as Sega Sports' college football title, NCAA FOOTBALL 2K3. The passing and running attacks have both been tweaked for the better, and defenders keep getting smarter every year.
One thing I've noticed in 2K3, unlike in the previous games, is that the defense catches on to your play calling. If you enjoy running the ball, don't do it too often, unless you enjoy losing yards. On the other side, if you throw a couple of times in a row, watch as the defense prepares for the pass play, and you yourself should be prepared for an interception.
Of course, with every new game comes the upgrades. Other than the typical graphical improvements and gameplay tweaks, Sega Sports got around to adding a franchise mode in this year's version of NFL 2K. With this year's edition, you can finally start a franchise with your favorite team, and take them through the coming years. You can watch players come and go, draft, trade and sign players; you can even go to training camp.
Sega Sports is known for good commentary in its sports games, and NFL 2K3 follows on the heels of its predecessor. The usual commentators for the series are back, and their seamless speech actually makes you believe they are behind you, watching the game over your shoulder.
NFL 2K3 does have Xbox Live capabilities, but as of the time I'm writing this review, we have yet to receive the beta software for Xbox Live. Thus, I really can't state our opinions on this feature in the game because it wasn't a playable feature. I'll be sure to do an update once we get a chance to play it online.
NFL 2K3 is the best game in the series so far. Sega Sports did just about everything they possibly could to make this a fun and enjoyable experience, and the addition of the ESPN license really helps the game feel more "real". Good job, Sega Sports.