Living in Belgium I don’t get very much in contact with sports like icehockey. We’re a soccer country. So it’s a good thing that every year EA supplies us with a new settlement of the NHL franchise.
I remember playing NHL for the very first time on a Super Nintendo (yes the 16 bit machine) and hating it because I didn’t understand anything about the rules, it was only after an intense session of “training” mode that I had fully grasped the game and couldn’t stop playing it.
In NHL2K3 there is no training mode, but who cares?
The standard rules of play disable all kinds of fauls and penalties, making it easier for icehockey illiterates to get the basics of the game.
The game lets you choose from all the major North American hockey clubs and the bigger international teams. You can play career modes and work your team to championship or play a single game. All this with up to 4 players.
The cool thing about a game like NHL is that once you really get to know the controls you open a whole new level of gameplay. Add to that graphical quality that we’re used to from EA. Voila, the perfect cocktail for a battle of skills!
The standard camera setting (“action”) is nice, but a bit clumsy to play. Setting it to “Overhead” gives you a SNES like look to the game. This allows for really fast action.
If you’ve ever played a sports game by EA you know that their engines and gameplay keep getting better with every new version they release. Although I haven’t played any “real” NHL games for years I was pleasantly surprised with a really cool new feature: game breaker.
You get a game breaker when you perform enough manual deke’s (a deke is a fake move to get past your opponents) or when you break trough the defense line of the opposing team and skate toward the goalie in a 1 on 1 situation. When this happens the game enters a game breaker mode.
During this short period the camera zooms in on your player and the goalie, and you hear a rythmic heartbeat while everything goes into slow motion. What do you know? Scoring ala matrix style!
If you miss (which will happen often enough) there’s a chance the game commentators make fun of you. The comments are really well done. Sometimes the commentators even make fun of eachother. Especially Bob get’s dissed a lot as far as I can tell
The game has so many realistic details that I couldn’t sum them all up, but I particularly like the in-game sounds. The rink sounds are recorded from real life games and are very well done.
I have to add that the NHL series is a great multiplayer experience. The fun of slamming into your friends players and scoring in the last seconds is just unsurpassable. This should definitly be on your list of partygames if you ask me