reviews\ Dec 26, 2002 at 7:00 pm

Sega Sports(tm) NHL

About two months ago, I received tickets to go to a hockey game. I was ecstatic; since this was the first time my friends and I got to go see a Dallas Stars game inside their new stadium. Of course they totally creamed the other team; they scored two goals within a few minutes of the first period! After the game was over, I was wondering when a real hockey game was going to be released for the GameCube. There was only one hockey game that was released last year for it: NHL Hitz 20-02. This year Sega decided to unleash its hockey game to the public: NHL 2K3, but does this game make a smooth transition to the GameCube?

There are six different gameplay modes in NHL 2K3: Quick Game, Exhibition, Season, Playoffs, Tournament, and Franchise Mode. Quick Game is where players can play against any two NHL teams. Exhibition mode allows people to start a game using all NHL, All-Star, and International hockey teams. Playing though seasons mode allow you to take a NHL team throughout an entire season and see if you can get into the playoffs and win the Stanley Cup. Playoff mode will allow players go straight into the playoffs, to see if you can win the Stanley Cup. In tournament mode, players can set up a king of the hill type game to see who is the best of the best!

Franchise mode is the real meat and potatoes of the game. In this mode players will be able to tweak, micromanage, and do anything else to their hearts content to any team. Players will be able to scout for key players, draft them, manage the salary cap, and than make sure that you have enough players for every single position. Once the season starts, gamers will need to pick up free agents, fire the poor performing players, and do all the normal things any coach does. It will give players a real sense of accomplishment as they take a lower ranking team and make them into a powerhouse.

One thing that Sega Sports has been putting in all of their game is the Sega Sports Challenges. Players will be able to choose a team, and see if how their fair in the game. Once it is over, they will be given a password. Take that password and goto and input the password in the correct field. The gamers will be able to see how they rank against other people in the world. This is always a neat little addition, since there is no online play.

NHL 2K3 is rated E for Everyone for violence. It will take up to 2 blocks on your memory card.

Gameplay: 9.1
This is Sega's first hockey game for the Nintendo GameCube, and it plays like a dream! Everything from the players skating down the rink, passing, and getting into fights, feels really natural. The AI is something to content with in this game. For the first time, I actually got the feeling that another human player was playing against me, while playing with the computer. The AI always seems to know what is going on in the rink at any given time, and take the approximate measures to counter you. When a puck is loose or flies in the air, the AI will actually chase it down or catch it and put it back into play. Sega Sports deserves a round of applause for this lifelike AI they have implemented into this game.

The controls of the game will take a few minutes to get used to, since the control changes with the team that has the puck. Once mastered, gamers can choose another setting that might prove more useful to the more advance players. The fights are handled extremely well, they are not as in depth as a fighting game, but Sega did a great job of handling them.

There are many different offensive and defensive strategies players can use during the course of the game. It is always cumbersome when you are in the middle of a game, than have to stop to pick out a new strategy, with this game you can do it on the fly. Sega made it extremely easy to switch between strategies by pressing the direction pad and the right trigger. These are great shortcuts that never interfere with the gameplay in any way.

Graphics: 8.9
Each of the player models have a very high polygonal count, and is textured extremely well. All of the players look extremely lifelike when they are skating on the ice and when there is a close up shot of them. The animations for each of the players are also something that is very nicely done. None of the players give you the feeling like they are cardboard cutouts on the ice. Another thing that is nice is every time a player skates in the ice, there will be tracks left on the ice.

One of the more puzzling things about this game is the reflection on the ice. Sometimes the players, goal posts, and other things will be reflected off the ice, but the player's shadows are extremely lacking. The shadows look like something people would expect out of the last generation of consoles.

There are few jaggies here and there, but it will never be so obvious while playing the game. One thing that I am happy to say is that this game offers no slow down. I hate it when I play a sports game and I come across slowdown. Slowdown can kill any game, but it really kills sports games, since there is always constant action going on.

Sound: 9.0
Having the EPSN presentation in the game really gives the sound department a huge boost. I love that the game gives you the option to play in surround sound; it really gives you the feeling that you are in the middle of a hockey stadium. If you have a surround sound system, you owe it to yourselves to hear this game for you will be blown away!

The play-by-play is always exactly what is going on. I really hate playing a sports game, and the commentary is either dull or off a little bit. In NHL 2K3 players will not be faced with either of these problems. The commentator's voices are never dull and they keep up with what is going on thought out the entire game.

The crowd sounds are good, but they are not very varied. It seems like they use the same voices in each stadium, which cheapens the experience a little bit. This never becomes an issue with the game, but it would be nice if there was a little more variety to them.

The one that that does get annoying with the sound is that it gets repetitive. During the course of one game, I heard the same phrase spoken at least 10 times. This just gets boring to hear how great the goalie is when he blocks a shot; there should be a least more phrases instead of one or two.

Difficulty: Medium
This game has a difficulty adjuster; so new players can have a fair challenge, as well as the more experienced players. The learning curve for this game is not very steep, so the novice players will be playing like champions in no time!

Concept: 8.8
As everyone knows, this year Sega Sports obtained the EPSN presentation to all of their sports games. This makes the game seem more like it is from a television broadcast, than previous games. Another thing that Sega Sports usually put in each of their sports games is the Sega Sports Challenge. It is nice to see how you rank against other people in the country.

Multiplayer: 9.0
Visual Concepts did a great job for multiplayer when playing with your friends, there is hardly any noticeable slow down. What can be better than playing a really good hockey game with your friends?

Overall: 9.0
If you are looking for a great hockey game for the GameCube than look no further than NHL 2K3. This game has a few minor faults, but it is jammed packed with ton of things that will keep players coming back for more for a long time. This will be the best $50.00 you can spend on a hockey game for the Nintendo GameCube!


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