previews\ Jul 12, 2003 at 8:00 pm

NHL Hitz: Pro - XB - Preview 2

Four seconds after the puck hit the ice to start the first period, it is bending the twine over the shoulder of the Boston Bruins’ goalie and leading to a celebration of the Toronto Maple Leafs’ players.


That they are attired in the green Toronto St. Pats throwback jerseys may ease the pain somewhat, but nothing was going to slow down the onslaught in a 7-0 bashing handed out over the Internet.


Midway Sports, in an effort to upgrade what has already been standard-bearing titles, has revamped its NHL Hitz program, adding new features – including online play – and has emerged from the dark recesses of the developers’ locker rooms with NHL Hitz Pro. The title is scheduled to release in the fall on the PlayStation2, Xbox and GameCube.


The only salvageable thing in that lesson that Toronto handed was that, at least, a Boston player won the fistfight that broke out in the wake of a particularly hard check.


The online feature is just part of the new features that have been added to the Hitz Pro title.  

Other features include five-on-five gameplay featuring every licensed team logo and each 22-player roster in the NHL, authentic NHL arenas and crowd reactions, offensive and defensive formations, a player-fatigue system, legitimate stick-handling, an upgraded franchise mode, improved goalkeeper animations and logic and behavior, retooled hockey school, enhanced draft, DVD content, new motion-capture animations, and an improved game AI. 

Tim Kitzrow and Harry Tienowitz provide the game commentary and it is very well done. Not only do they seem to be more in tune with the action, but even the generic comments about game trends are in tune with the action.


Gameplayers can also set the speed of the game and period duration. And for those who relish a little more authenticity in the game, no longer will your offensive player be limited to only a pass option when in control of the puck behind the other team’s net. Midway has added the wrap-around shot. Players can pick up the puck and skate around the side and try to tuck it in between the netminder and the post. And doing that is as easy as hitting the shoot button on the controller.


If the over-the-top Midway style is not to your tastes, then you can change the game flow to reflect NHL brand of hockey. Referees will not look the other way when a player is slashed, or there is a two-line pass, or offsides. If your player gets crushed, or sent through the glass, helmet flying in completely different direction than your body (hopefully without the player’s head inside it), then expect that whistle. “Two minutes for roughing!”


The game will also let players take over the camera on replays and you can zoom in, zoom out or rotate the camera 360 degrees to get the prime angle for seeing that delightful moment in NHL console history.


Graphically, this game is still impressive. The stick-handling revisions are very nice, and player movement is fluid. While the keeper animations have been improved, some have a tendency to sprawl a little too quickly - in anticipation to rather than in response to a shot. That leaves the entire upper portion of the net open and usually results in a flashing light and a celebration.


In addition to the NHL game, Hitz Pro will also feature a pond (with kids) game and street roller hockey.


The real joy of NHL Blitz Pro is the online tournament feature. This is easy to set up and easier to play. But the new features, coupled with some of Midway’s trademark gaming style, have rendered a program that is a great deal of fun to play. Midway went out to create a game that was in line with what players said they wanted in terms of realism, and in response has developed a hockey game that will likely be a bigger hit than its previous well-received incarnations.

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