Sega's NFL 2K3 for the PlayStation 2 features a number of improvements on last year's game. The ESPN license has now been integrated into the series, providing the game with a TV-style presentation. The graphics have been significantly improved to the point that a large portion of the players can be recognized by their faces as opposed to the numbers on the back of their jerseys. Online play is already up and ready for the August 27 release of the PlayStation 2 network adapter, and, most importantly, the gameplay has been honed to near perfection.
Sega's NFL 2K3 for the PlayStation 2 features a number of improvements on last year's game.
There are several modes to choose from in NFL 2K3. You can jump right into a game by choosing the quick game option or the exhibition option (you can also play as dozens of classic teams in these modes). Likewise, you can create your own tournament with up to 16 teams, or immediately jump into a playoff situation. There's also a practice mode that will help you become familiar with the fundamentals of NFL 2K3's gameplay. You can practice special moves while running with the ball, practice plays in your team's playbook with no defense, or hold a full scrimmage with a randomly selected defense, which is helpful since it essentially replicates a game-time situation and gives you a chance to get a feel for your team's strengths and weaknesses. In the Sega Sports challenge mode, you play games on default rules and options settings and then receive a password that corresponds to the stats you put up in each game. You can then use that password on segasports.com to rank yourself against other players and their statistics.
Perhaps one of the more intriguing options is the situation mode, which lets you edit everything from the score and the amount of time left on the clock to the line of scrimmage. So, for example, you could set up a game so it starts in the fourth quarter with two minutes remaining, and your team has the ball but it's losing by six points. You can create just about any scenario with this feature, and it can present quite a challenge for even veteran players, but if you're looking for something with a little more depth, then you'll find it in NFL 2K3's season mode.
The season mode lets you take a team through a single season of football and the playoffs. Along the way, you can set and tweak your roster, release players, and engage in trades. You can view any injuries that occur over the course of the season and adjust your roster as necessary. The season mode also provides you with a number of coaching-related options. In the coach game plan, you can place an emphasis on particular types of plays, so you can have your defense focus on blitzing or have your offense lean toward running. In addition, you can edit your team's playbook by searching through other teams' formations and plays and selecting the ones you want to add. Of course, most teams already have a large number of plays to choose from, but there may be a few occasions when it seems like your team doesn't have a play that's suited to its particular strengths or a specific situation. The season mode can be quite fun for those who don't necessarily want to get involved in the deeper layers of the sport, but those who do enjoy those deeper layers will undoubtedly be impressed by NFL 2K3's franchise mode.
The online play in NFL 2K3 functions much like that of its Dreamcast predecessors.
Before you even dive into the franchise mode, there are a few customizable options to mess around with. You can decide whether or not to have a preseason, a trade deadline, or a fantasy draft, and you can also decide if the computer should handle drafting, re-signing, and other contractual dealings--though, part of what makes the franchise mode so entertaining is being able to handle such things yourself. In addition, you can create an entirely new league by moving teams into different divisions and importing players from NCAA 2K3. When you've set these parameters, you can then select your team and edit the coach's name and physical appearance.
From there, you're brought into an office area, which serves as your team's headquarters. This is where you can monitor upcoming games in the season, adjust your roster, look at injury reports, edit the playbook, and take care of other general coaching duties. If you select the front office option, you'll be sent to an entirely different office area where all the behind-the-scenes work is done. You can view the current status of individual player contracts and then choose to release players, renegotiate contracts, initiate trades, or put players on the trading block.
The PlayStation 2 version of NFL 2K3 seems to be on par with the Xbox version, though it doesn't appear to have the special effects that the Xbox version has.
Trades are a fairly straightforward affair in NFL 2K3, as you can select up to three players at once and offer them to another team. The other team will decline your offer if it doesn't think the trade is fair, but you can continually badger it by offering different players. The trading block option is separate from the main trade feature, but it's probably the more useful of the two. Essentially, you can put any player you want on the trading block, indicating to other teams that this particular player is up for grabs and that any team can make an offer for him over the course of the season. The trading block is useful if you have a high-salary player who sits on the bench, but usually, teams will make counteroffers, asking you for another player before going through with the trade. If you're not sure which positions you have needs in, the front office has a team needs option that basically tells you how many players you have at each position and how many you actually need. For example, the 49ers have five quarterbacks in NFL 2K3, but you only need four, so you can either release that extra quarterback or attempt to make a trade. Lastly, you can also keep track of a huge number of statistics, including team, individual, and rookie stats.
With its in-depth franchise mode, online play, excellent running and passing gameplay, and detailed graphics, NFL 2K3 is one of the best football games to date.
There's just as much to do during the off-season as there is during the season. You'll have to jump back into the office and make roster adjustments to compensate for players who might've retired, renegotiate expired contracts, sign free agents, evaluate trades, and release players. More importantly, you'll also have to prepare for the draft. NFL 2K3 gives you a brief look at rookies and their abilities before the start of the draft, but to get a better idea of their skills, you'll have to participate in the NFL combine. In this mode, you'll have access to a list of the rookies who will be in the upcoming NFL draft, as well as some of their basic physical statistics, such as their 40 time and jumping ability. To get more information on these players, you have to devote scouting hours to them. Since there are only a certain number of hours in each day of the combine, you can either sink three or so hours into a few players to get a detailed rundown of their abilities, or you can just use a single hour for several players to get a general idea of where they are. The reports you receive will specify what the rookies' strengths and weaknesses are and what skills they'll be able to improve. When the combine is finished, it's time for the draft, but before you jump into it, you can hold a mock draft to get a general idea of how teams will select certain players so you can adjust your strategy as necessary. At the draft, you'll get to see which players have already been selected and which players are currently available. In addition, you'll be provided with a list of the players you've scouted on a separate screen and a number of suggested picks on a PDA located on the desk in the draft center. Finally, you'll have to sign any players you've picked up in the draft, make final roster adjustments, and then start the next season. Needless to say, NFL 2K3's franchise mode is pretty deep, and it will undoubtedly keep you busy for hours on end.