previews\ May 13, 2003 at 8:00 pm

NHL 2004 - XB - Preview

E3 2003 – First Look


The team at EA Canada added some new members to their team of video puckheads in Black Box, developers of other hockey titles such as NHL Hitz, and the marriage seems to have paid off. 


One of the major changes to the 2004 edition is in the controls.  Turbo is now on the right trigger (Xbox) or shoulder buttons and passing is divided between two buttons, one for a flat pass, and one for a saucer pass.  These two changes, in addition to directional passing (as opposed to teammate specific passing), gives skaters more control over their passing game.  Passers can lead targets or pass off the boards for more complex plays and a natural feel.  Defense also gets a change in controls with their direction specific checking.  Last year’s version let the computer determine which opponent the player would check, but in the 2004 version the player can dictate the direction of a bone-crushing check.  Checks can also be powered-up as indicated by the defenseman’s icon changing color.  Hold down the check button and send Sakic to Intensive Care, but don’t miss, or he’ll be open for a breakaway. 


Other additions to this year’s version are great improvements over last year, both in graphics and gameplay.  Players are now scaled on the ice, meaning huge defensemen are going to be much bigger than the smaller and quicker wings.  39 International teams have been added to the game so the Americans can finally take on the powerhouse Scandinavians.  As the intensity of the game heats up, so does the propensity for fighting.  But instead of a fight breaking out randomly, players can control starting a fight with the simple press of a button or opt not to scrap and keep the action going.  The Playstation 2 version also includes on-line features such as live chat and on-line tournaments. 


NHL 2004 is set for release with the start of the NHL season. 




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