NHL Hitz 20-03 - XB - Review
You have got to love the overly extreme nature of Midway’s sports line up that includes the interesting NFL Blitz 20-03 and the stellar MLB Slugfest 20-03. In the same intense fashion, the great game of professional ice hockey gets a fiery shot in the arm in NHL Hitz 20-03 . . . and hockey fans, you’ll never look at the game the same way after this.
The game is made up of five playable options: Exhibition, Franchise, Season, Mini Games and Tourney. Exhibition takes gamers through a quick match while Season mode presents an entire NHL season with up to fourteen or eighty-two games. Mini Games offers six challenging and fun games such as Three In A Row (which is basically just tic-tac-toe) and a Shooting Gallery game to name a few). Tourney allows players to create and play a tournament that’s essentially a set of fantasy tournament matches to win the Midway Cup.
Yet it’s the Franchise mode that is the game’s most treasured playing mode and it is here that you can create your own team (with the freedom to change their faces and even the size of their height and weight) and take them through a world tour. As they compete in matches while trying to meet bonus objectives such as getting into a fight, the team moves along the globe. If your team does well, you can win an invitation to join the NHL and erect your own stadium in the hometown of your choice. How perfect is that?
The controls in this game are just the smoothest you’ll find and there are no slowdowns whatsoever during a match. Gamers can just as easily perform a number of moves such as dekes, passes, body checks and blocks. You can just as easily get into fights (of course the winner of the fight and a player on the other team get ejected out of the rink for thirty seconds). Gamers should make sure they spend some time in Hockey School to learn the basic moves from Coach Scotty Bowman.
What separates this game from other hockey simulators is the fact that a player or the entire team can burst into an electrical charge of flames, thus making them stronger, faster and more accurate when shooting at the goal. There are also all the treats that seen in other Blitz and Hitz games such as fantasy stadiums (there is a graveyard and jungle stadiums to name a few), various player heads (dinosaur or rat heads included) and different player skins such as the cowboy models. In all there are about 122 cheats and extras and they’re all worth unlocking.
Another treat is the multiplayer option that can have up to four players at a time playing a head-to-head game (two-on-two) or as part of a team. Mostly all of the modes are available for multiplayer use, which makes this one hell of a party game. And, on the plus side, playing through the Mini Games is just so much fun against a friend.
This is also a gorgeous looking game with crisp textures and one of the best player face scans seen so far. You’ll instantly recognize star players such as Chris Pronger of the St. Louis Blues and there is no doubt that gamers will appreciate the realistic movements of each player even when they’re sizzling with lightning or smoking all over. The backgrounds--many of them really bizarre--are amusingly well detailed down to the smooth ice and disco ball hanging above.
And if the great graphics weren’t enough, the game’s sound is also top-notch. You’ll find a great assortment of hard-hitting tunes from Incubus to Drowning Pool and they’re all really good to hear during player intros. Still, the sound of the skates across the ice and the slamming of hockey sticks couldn’t get any better than that. To add to this, there is even a perfect two-man commentator team that is the cherry on top of an already sweetened cake.
Fast, fluid and deliciously furious, NHL Hitz 20-03 is hands-down a great alternative to the more serious hockey simulators out there. The Xbox visual enhancements and solid gameplay make this a great addition to any Xbox sports fan’s library--so what are you waiting for hotshot?
#Reviewer's Scoring Details
Like most of the Midway sports titles available now, NHL Hitz 20-03 borrows it’s controls from arcade games rather than the more rigid controls of realistic hockey simulators. Moving across the ice and slamming against other players is just a lot more satisfying when the controls are more loose and easy to execute.
You can also just as easily make use of the On-Fire meter that rewards those defensive players with extra speed and agility on the ice. You will know when your player or team can use this special ability when the commentators bring it up by saying so-and-so is “ready to go on fire.”
The graphics are truly spectacular and you’ll see it right away in the player models that move so authentically even when they’re being knocked over the guard rail. It’s the little things that are rarely appreciated but gamers will surely love the fine details in the way players shave the ice when they make abrupt stops or the manner in which the glass barrier shatters into tiny pieces when a player is slammed into it.
Stadium backgrounds are also nicely detailed especially when it comes to the crowds of spectators (you’ll notice that they’re rendered to perfection and they stand up and cheer while wearing their favorite team’s jersey). While the regular stadiums look great, the more bizarre ones are just the ultimate eye-candy.
The sound quality is also among the best and much of it is due to the detailed effects during the game and the hot soundtrack. In the sound effects department, the skates against ice and the crackling sound of the On-Fire mode being used is as good as the sounds of the players on your team patting each another on the back for playing a great game.
As for the soundtrack, there is quite a collection of tunes from artists such as Rob Zombie, Powerman 5000 and Moby. The tunes work well in the game and you can imagine how cool it is to be introduced by the wonderful two-man commentator team while a psychedelic Moby tune is playing in the background.
The three difficulty settings--Rookie, Pro and All-Star--provide enough challenges but seldom is the difficulty level too high to be overly frustrating. At times, though, the computer-controlled opponents can easily and unfairly turn the tables on you during the match but this isn’t always the case.
NHL Hitz 20-03 is more an arcade-oriented game with plenty of spills, thrills and surprises that make this franchise such a blast to play. Aside from the bigheaded player options, there are just too many other extras that sports and hockey fans will appreciate. And aside from a more comprehensive Franchise mode, there are little bonuses such as the after-game trivia questions that are sure to make any gamers’ day.
This is what multiplayer action is made of and this game has enough to do for up to four players. Practically any playing mode is available to play as a multiplayer game of four including the Mini Games mode. Gamers will have a lot of fun, though, picking teams and playing through Season mode as a team or as a rival.
NHL Hitz 20-03 is one of the most exciting and satisfying hockey titles that doesn’t take itself seriously and you’ll love it for that. With over a hundred goodies to unlock, a franchise mode to die for and plenty of raw action, sports fans will not be disappointed in the very least.