E3 2003 – First Look
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.
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.
Rivals will be available this fall exclusively for the Xbox.