Ok, I’m a bit late with my review, but don’t hold it against me. I’ll let you know why it took me so long to write something about this game in just a second.
A while ago I checked out NHL Hitz 20-03 from Midway and as you can read in that review I was very much surprised of the fun factor of that game, and that’s exactly where the problem lays with NHL 2003.
You can’t complain that NHL 2003 would lack too many features as you can play a full season, have franchise mode and the Cards system. You can also create your own team with even creating new jerseys, facial expressions, speed and shooting percentages. You can mix any known NHL players together or create your own.
The graphics are up to the usual EA standards with nice bulky players and detailed textures and almost no slowdown. Also the amount of statistics available is again good enough to almost fill an encyclopedia it seems.
But let’s go back to where the problem is for NHL 2003 compared to NHL Hitz 20-03.
NHL 2003 doesn’t have many improvements over 2002 and just gives you some tweaked AI and tightened control, so for owners of 2002 there isn’t much reason to go get 2003.
For people that have to choose between Hitz 20-03 and NHL 2003, the chance in choosing the latter (escpecially for Europeans who are less into hockey) is small.
NHL has you play with a full team of five players while Hitz does it with only 3on3. One might say NHL comes closer to the real thing, but you’ll notice pretty quick when playing that 3on3 is perfect for fast-paced playing while NHL definitely has problems in giving you a good overview of the field and scoring is more a matter of luck than real skill.
Ok, the amount of possible moves in NHL 2003 is bigger than in Hitz, but does that make it a better game ? I think not.
In fact, it’s harder in NHL to get back a puck, or to bash into one of your opponents. You really have to get close to your counterpart to be able to do any aggressive defense moves so most of the time you’ll be running after the puck, trying to pick it up when your opponent has done a bad pass or tried to shoot at the goalie.
Also the puck seems to be glued to the stick (much like in the older FIFA games) and when you instigate a gamebreaker, it’s very hard to be able to control your player as the camera will be positioned too low.
So overall, I have to say that NHL 2003 is a much more complex game than NHL Hitz 20-03 which should be a positive point, but with EA it means that the overall gameplay and fun factor goes down. Technically a great game, but in the end I didn’t feel like playing it much compared to Hitz 20-03.