NCAA 2K3 is Best of Basketball World

For years, there have been two major players in the college basketball game market on Playstation/PS2: EA's "March Madness" series and 989's "Final Four" series.

However, both series had their flaws. "March Madness" had the great graphics and gameplay, but only selected teams. "Final Four" had almost every Division I team with accurate rosters, but the gameplay was weak and the graphics were horrendous.

Now, there's a third entry in the field, and Sega Sports' "NCAA 2K3" is already the top player.

This really isn't surprising, given that NCAA 2K3 is built on the NBA 2K series engine, and uses the same gameplay functions and graphics. Yes, "March Madness" is still a little better in this regard, but 2K3 is close, and might even be better when the AI is cranked up to a more difficult mode.

The only gameplay annoyances are that it seems to be too easy to steal the ball and when you drive to the hoop, to often your player pulls up for a short jumper rather than taking a lay-up.

As for depth of the game, 2K3 is unchallenged. While Final Four may still have more teams, 2K3's rosters are more accurate. A sampling of teams found that UConn and Arizona had exact matching rosters, while North Carolina was one player off. Even my alma mater, Towson, was close, missing two late signing freshmen while failing to eliminate two transfers.

And thanks to the game's detailed "create player" mode, you can fix these mistakes easily, before ever starting a season.

I haven't gotten through a full season in dynasty mode, but the schedules are accurate and the statistics from computer played games match the stats in user games fairly well.

ONLINE GAMEPLAY

This year's crop of college basketball games is the first to support online play, but it's still inconsistent.

Playing online with NCAA 2K3, I experienced an unusual number of dropoffs, or more accurately, failure to connect. There were some firewall issues that needed to be worked through, but the documentation was very weak on this. The same setup that worked with Madden 2003 and March Madness 2003 didn't work with NCAA 2K3.

Once I did get through and get a game started, the gameplay was identical to playing an opponent in the same room.

The other big problem was that there are usually very few people online, though that should change as more people buy the game.

OVERALL

NCAA 2K3 isn't a complete product by any means. The steals problem is frustrating and there's no smooth way to enter in player names (the game doesn't support USB keyboards). Still, it's definitely worth of an 8 out of 10.

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