E3 2003 –
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.