For many years I have wondered what a college version of NBA 2k would be like. With the March Madness series, for the most part, dwindling in mediocrity on the PSX and last year on the PS2, most college ballers were anxiously awaiting this title. I was weary of this title, however, due to the blandness of Sega Sports' College Football.
The biggest concerns I had with CB2k3 were if the game could recreate the college atmosphere.
Presentation/Graphics : 80
First off, the player models don't look anywhere as good as the ones seen in NBA 2k. The uniforms are bland and the redundancy of the faces gets old after a while. I don't know how many player models there are, but I have like two or three guys on my team that look exactly the same. Also, there are some quirky fashion statements not seen often in real life, such as the heavy usage of the Horace Grant goggles and the Bo Outlaw visors.
The courts are not accurate. My college, Eastern Illinois, plays in Lantz Arena and it looks nothing like the real life version in the game. There were misplaced bleachers and the shape of the arena was all wrong. And from what I have seen, the bigger schools do not have completely accurate stadiums either.
The game boasts an ESPN presentation and aside from the stat layouts and the music, there isn't much of an ESPN feel to it.
Presentation/Audio : 75
The crowd sounds aren't as good as March Madness, but they still aren't bad. They do a lot of chants and hold up signs during free throws, but it's pretty much constant cheering. There isn't much booing and this was a problem with March Madness also. Although the crowd was very noisy, it usually kept loud regardless if the team was doing well or not. The play-by-play duo is not that great and not up to par with the other Sega Sports games. They were inaccurate and delayed at times.
Interface/Options : 85
The reason why this score is so high is because it is online compatible. It is tough to find a game, but when you do the lag isn't too bad. I have an Ethernet connection on campus, but I played a guy who did not have a good connection and there wasn't much of a lag at all.
The big downfall is the lack of A.I. sliders, which is something that is barbaric in my opinion. The Dynasty mode has a lot of sortable stats and a nice assortment of end-of-the-year awards, but the coolest thing is probably that recruiting starts during the season, instead of the traditional end-of-season format. I would like to see more sports game go to this format. There is a practice mode, which has the ability to play one-on-one up to five-on-five in the Gym Rat game mode.
Gameplay : 60
Due to the lack of A.I. sliders your hands are really tied behind your back in the gameplay department because you have to use the out-of-game sliders. And CB2k3 plays nothing like the award-winning NBA 2k game.
The first deficiency is the passing game. There is no icon-passing and thus the passing game is anemic. You really guess some times where your pass will go. A pass directed to a guy on the wing will sometimes go to a postman where a defender is waiting for the steal. You can direct your passes with the right analog stick, but there is no certainty in that action.
Although I was disappointed with the passing game, I liked the collision detection-in the passing game on defense. In most basketball games, you can mindlessly pass the ball around the perimeter like a pinball machine. This is not the case in CB2k3. If you try to throw a cross court pass, it will more than likely be picked off.
The passing game aside, the shooting can become enjoyable. After practicing in the Gym Rat game mode, outside shooting becomes much easier. The entire shot process is a timed adventure, and in that avenue it is like NBA Live. One game I was a perfect 15 for 15 from three-pointers. But as easy as the outside game is, the inside game is a pain in the ass. The simple three or four footers became sure-fire misses. The only way I scored inside was if I dunked it. On a side note about dunking, the CPU throws way too many alley-oops and since there are no sliders, you can't adjust this annoyance.
The overall AI in CB2k3 is shoddy. On offense, players will actually run their defender into the ball handler when there is dribble penetration and on defense, the CPU has no awareness of where other offensive players they are not guarding are. This defensive lapse is most apparent on zone defense, where you can sneak in for easy lay-ups by throwing lob passes over the defense. There is also the occasional force field when you are on offense, going up against a defender, but this has been a problem with the NBA 2k series in previous years. I almost expected that bug.
For whatever reason, the game does not have many fast breaks. As a result, the game does not have the high energy pace or feel of college basketball. The overall game pace is sluggish. The lack of an effective passing game really bogs things down.
Replay Value : 80
Although the gameplay needs to be improved upon, there is online play and a cool Legacy mode. You can choose to take the route of going from a small school and building your way up through various season goals. I would like this route, but the challenge is only on incentive, and not on an actual challenge. By time you finally make the big time, you'll have stacked teams with talented players, instead of crappy players on a mediocre team. The lack of sliders, really kills the replay value.
Overall : 77
Wow, this might be a first time anywhere, but I gave a 989 Sports game a better score than a Sega Sports game. I gave Final Four a better overall score than College Basketball 2k3 on the basis of game play. The game modes are nice, but if the game experience is not acceptable, the overall score will take a dip. I would recommend this game for NBA 2k fans who are desperately craving a college basketball game, but otherwise I would suggest trying out March Madness.