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Q4 2002



- Freestyle Control system

- Nice presentation

- All the teams are there



- Basketball fandom a pre-requisite



Review: NBA Live 2003 (Gamecube)

Review: NBA Live 2003 (XBox)

Review: NBA Inside Drive 2003 (XBox)



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NBA Live 2003

Score: 7.0 / 10


Last time I checked, Alonzo Mourning played for Charlotte, Chris Webber was rookie of the year and Vin Baker was but a wee lad. It's been a long time, obviously and so too for the venerable NBA Live series. Just how long can this go on? When will EA's basketball opus wear out its welcome? Judging by the sales, it seems as long as there is NBA, there will exist armchair sports junkies ready to play the next NBA Live.  


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This is basketball, pure and simple with all 29 teams available with the NBA Eastern/Western conference and the 1950's-90's All-Stars added for good measure. Play modes include Exhibition, 1 On 1, Multiplayer, Season, Franchise and Playoffs. Available in the latter three modes is a management mode which includes statistics galore and the freedom to trade/sign/release players from your roster or, interestingly enough, create and edit your own player.


This incarnation sees the introduction of the Freestyle Control system, which uses the right analogue stick of your controller (sorry, no Freestyle with keyboard) for some custom ball-handling. Want that crossover dribble? It's as simple as giving the stick a lateral tap. Behind the back? Get the ball in the right hand, then draw a "J" shape to bring it around to the left. Toss in a turbo button and the ability to chain 




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these moves together and you get some particularly explosive drives to the basket. With offensive heavyweights like Shaq, points are virtually guaranteed once in the key.

Also available are various offense/defense plays. These are called in-game, allowing you to define the precise arrangement of your team. Offensive strategies include Isolation, Post Up, Pick and Roll and 3-Point Play. With Defense lies the 


venerable Man-to-Man, Double Team or the more aggressive Full Court Press. Certain skilled players possess one of four attributes: the aforementioned Big Dunker, Tight D(efense), 3 point specialist and Shot Blocker: it's up to you to utilise whatever specialised players you possess to your advantage.


If you're not fond of the arcade style you can opt for the Simulation mode which emulates the real thing, right down to substituting fresh players to combat fatigue and injury. You can also adjust the frequency of Foul calls, turn off the Shot Clock or toggle certain rules like Backcourt Violation, Traveling and Goaltending.


Visually, it's nice, which is a relief since anything less would be utterly unforgivable. Trilinear filtering, 32-bit colour and all manner of graphical tosh create stadiums that are rich and vibrant, from the reflective hardwood surfaces to the tattoos on Shaq's ample biceps. Sound effects comprises of the usual crowd choruses and squeaks of pivoting rubber although the most common sound, that of the ball bouncing, is a curiously dull thud. There's a great deal of animation which runs quite smooth apart from a stilted look in the transitions between different stances (standing still and running for example). But I loved the point-scoring variety: 180 dunks, finger rolls, reverse layups...NBA 2003 really mixes it up for a realistic, organic feel. You'll need a beast of a machine to run this game, or risk the agony of playing with details levels turned down. However I assure you, the graphics remain perfectly serviceable in even the lowliest mode.  


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But what's in it for non-sports fans? Well, not much really. Certain sports translate well to the videogame arena, tennis for example. Sadly, basketball occupies the dull end of this scale. It's like ice hockey without the tense goalie duels, aggressive body checks or joy of constant motion. Gameplay eventually boils down to mashing the steal button on defense and driving like mad on the breakaway. Score some points, hand over the ball and watch the opposition do the same: it gets quite monotonous and struggles to replicate the soaring, athletic ballet of its subject matter. Not that it matters to sports nuts, for whom the towering superstars of basketball form the lasting attractions.


- Justin Liew

(January 13, 2003)


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