previews\ May 15, 2003 at 8:00 pm

NHL Rivals 2004 - XB - Preview

E3 2003 – First Look


The newest member of the Microsoft family, XSN Sports, is focused on carrying the tension of competition beyond the living room.  XSN’s sports games will immerse gamers in its competitive on-line leagues, making casual sports gaming a thing of the past.  One of the titles that will make good use of this landmark system is NHL Rivals 2004.


The main goal to keep things interesting in this year’s crops of games is a design in the game that keeps it competitive right after the package is opened for the first time.  Developer Brandon Stander explains, “The game can be played with the joystick and two buttons initially.  After a little bit of practice, you can move up to using all four buttons for more complex moves.”  It’s this progressive level of learning that Stander believes will keep the titles fresh and challenging.  Other additions to the controls include a simple pivot button, allowing defensive skaters to easily skate backwards, on the fly line changes, and a more realistic hockey fighting system.  “You can even pull the guy’s jersey over his head and punch him in the face” beams Stander.  What’s hockey without fisticuffs?


While Microsoft’s previous sports titles haven’t been known for their graphics, NHL Rivals looks to change that and has the best looking ice in this year’s crop of hockey games.  Player motion is very fluid and the game runs at an impressive framerate.  Throw in authentic sounds from each arena (the development team took sounds from every NHL Arena such as the Phoenix Coyotes howl) and impressive crowd reactions (volume goes up during playoffs or heated rivalries), and it’s hard to tell that this is Microsoft’s first hockey game. 


Without a doubt, the best part of the game will be its integration into the XSN system, a customizable on-line league that requires Xbox Live. 


NHL Rivals will be available this fall exclusively for the Xbox.


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