First, I’m very pleased EA Sports decided to continue the “Live” series on PC and release a 2003 version. If they hadn’t, the only basketball simulation on the PC market would have been the 2001 version of “Live” – not that the game wasn’t good, but it pales in comparison to this year’s release. Even though “Live” 2003 has its shortcomings, it’s far better than nothing at all.

The latest edition to the “Live” series offers some new features. The addition of the fast break makes the game a bit more realistic, provided you’re able to cover the break on defense adequately. I like the quick plays they incorporated, and the new FreeStyle control. The graphics are far better than the 2001 version. Some of the player animations are hilarious (especially during the play offs and the end of big games.) All the rosters are current, of course, and your favorite players all have their gear – Iverson’s arm sleeve, Kidd’s leg band, and even John Stockson’s short shorts! The great parts definitely outweigh the bad. Still, for what reason I know not, there is some of that “bad” thrown in.

Some of the complaints by other reviewers are fully justified. Naturally, the game has its shortcomings – so many, in fact, that their presence might ruin the game for some people. To begin, the game pace is indeed ridiculous. If you have the patients to play 12 minute quarters (which I never did – half of that is max for me) you’ll likely score over 200 points. Get accustomed to point guards rejecting shots (old school, indeed) into the fifth row, power forwards snatching six to seven steals per game, and anyone with a rating over 92 nailing 30-foot jumpers and throwing down tomahawks all over the place. The computer will fast break on every possession if you let it, while running a fast break yourself takes some experience to pull off. Also, the rap music is extremely annoying.

Here are some solutions to the above listed problems:

1 – I’ve heard there are some downloadable patches on the Internet to reduce player’s skill level, although I have no idea where this patch might be.

2 – If you want a realistic NBA score at the end of the game (somewhere between 80 to 110 points) I recommend playing quarters between 6 and 7 minutes. This also allows for realistic assist and rebound ratios, though the blocks and steals are still ridiculously high.

3 – If you want a realistic score, play realistically. Don’t give the ball to Kobe Bryant ever possession. Run set plays. It’s that simple. There are many to choose from, but the favorites seem to be the pick and roll, isolation (don’t overuse this, especially with the better players), 3-point shot, and post-up. By using these not only will you take some time off the clock but also improve your chances of scoring a basket in a realistic manner.

4 – If the computer continually fast breaks, turn off the “crash boards” option. This way only your forwards and center will go for the rebound, and your back court players will shuffle back on defense. You might loose some offensive rebounds to the other team, but the ratio always even out in the end. I guarantee that this will eliminate 90% of the fast breaks. The only time the computer will be able to execute one properly is on a steal or a block.

5) Shut off your speakers when navigating the menus. “NBA Live 2003” is certainly not a perfect game, but no one should expect one. When you get down to it, the game is very enjoyable to play. So let’s all overlook some its shortcomings and be thankful that we even got a 2003 release.