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Which Console Did You Buy/Receive Over The Holidays?

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Game Profile
GENRE: Sports
PLAYERS:   1-4
September 16, 2002
NHL Hitz 20-03

NHL Hitz 20-03

NHL Hitz 20-02

NHL Hitz 20-02

NHL Hitz 20-02

 Written by Jonathan Nicklas  on September 05, 2002

First Impressions: What's the deal with the hyphen?

It's inevitable that the latest installment in the NHL Hitz series will top its predecessor. At this time one year ago, NHL Hitz 20-02 was the new kid in town. Times have changed. Traditionally, arcade-based gameplay is sorely underrated. However, those who like their hockey fast-paced and hard-hitting need not look any further.

No longer with Black Box at its helm, Midway does take its tried-and-true gameplay to the rink, and at this point in time, it looks great. Graphically speaking, the game's character models are as awe-inspiring as ever, consisting of more impressive particle effects when on fire in addition to higher polygon counts. This time around, Midway has also gone great lengths to ensure realistic movements and other gameplay nuances to be on the lookout for. As usual, the fully polygonal crowd looks like a winner from a distance as it boos you off the rink. Also, attention to the little details such as skate marks help out the cause, while a fresh batch of new animations will up the ante in a category that last year's edition was lacking in. Lastly, watch out for weather effects and birds blocking your view at times.

Aurally, the game is now going to feature a two-man color commentary team to churn out now-classic phrases such as ?hit me baby one more time.? With the voice talent also comes harder hits and realistic sound effects such as shattering glass as the boards break. To add to the mix is licensed music, and keep on your hearing aid for some Rob Zombie tune and other music tracks that will be well worth the while.

Hitz's gameplay won't spare any expense. Of course, the gameplay is hot stuff as it already is and includes firing up. The gameplay fundamentals are 3-on-3 puck-eating action, coupled with two goalies on opposite sides. However, in comparison to last year's edition, this iteration will feature actual team styles to balance things out. Reportedly, the rink is smaller as well, and in collaboration with the solid collision detection, you won't be getting up much.

As usual, the season mode is the bread and butter of the game, and with those leaning toward realism, Hitz also offers in-depth statistic tracking, player trades, and playoff trees to knock you off your pedestal. Obviously, Midway is looking to give NHL 2003 a run for its money. Since it is coming complete with international teams and minor dribble such as player benches and coaches hollering at you, we won't be surprised if it does.

New gameplay modes for 20-03 include a refined franchise mode. This time around, you start off from the bottom of the barrel in the minors and make your way up the ladder to the top of the NHL. The championship mode also makes a return and it gets harder as the game progresses. Lastly, a tutorial mode featuring none other than the now-retired legend Scotty Bowman is among many other new gameplay options accessible in the long run. Like last year, take a shot at the skills competition.

Multiplayer modes have always been an integral part to Midway's fantasy sports lineup, and Hitz is no exception. The game will allow for four-player simultaneous action, and it will work here without a frame-rate loss. Also, much like its predecessor, the game will include hidden secrets to dwell upon, such as unlockable fantasy stadiums, teams and players.

Final Thoughts
Overall, last year's edition was superb, and given the natural progression of a quality sports series, we can expect great things to come. As a Canuck myself, we like our hockey rough indeed, which is something NHL 2003 doesn't always have. Hopefully, Hitz 20-03 will deliver the quality of last years fantasy hockey title, with a touch of extra flavor.

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