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NHL 2003  
A new hockey season, a "new" NHL game from EA Sports.

JjmooheadYet another hockey season has come before us and that can only mean one thing: NHL 2003 by EA Sports. The time has come for this guy to forget all about university classes and my future and concentrate on completing one full 80 games season by the end of the month. Well, if my plans go as I want them to, I should have 80 games completed by this time next week. That not including bathroom breaks and the all-important ordering of the pizzas 3 times a day. I never said this was going to be cheap. I was sure to go ahead and pre order a copy of NHL 2003 like I do every year. Since the inaugural NHL by EA Sports over 10 years ago, I have saved my money every summer in order to be the first one to jump at the new version of the game. I'm sure if I went back and viewed my life I would see that I have spent a good chunk of my time playing hockey on a console. The weirdest part of that is that I have only played one actual game of hockey with equipment, hard pucks, and a referee. I guess, being from Canada, if you can't play the game, you buy the game.

There is nothing more exciting than opening a fresh newly packed PS2 game. Nothing brings me more excitement than when that game has the letters NHL on the front. This is why I can honestly say for the first time in my memory that I have been completely disappointed by EA Sports hockey progression. The game is basically NHL 2002 with a new picture on the box. Of course that picture being none other then Jeremy Iginla of the Calgary Flames. I know what you are thinking, Calgary still has a team? Unfortunately yes, but that is a completely different story that I don't really want to get into at this point. NHL 2003 by EA Sports, it breaks my heart to do this, but it's time to tear it apart.

Gameplay : 8.5

You can jump right into the action after you've put the game into your console. The Quick Play option is back, and once again allowing you and a friend to hit one button and start the game. The video to follow is very eye catching, but unless you haven't played NHL 2002, then you have pretty much seen it before; they have added a few new touches like film and fight highlights from supposed previous games played, although every game you play has these exact same "film clips" so the novelty wears off after the second game of the season. Speaking of Season, that mode is back once again, and once again it's a carbon copy of last year's setup. It's a franchise mode made for 10 seasons of intense end-to-end action. The off-season is exactly the same, the trading is the same, there are the same retirements, the same draft style, the same free agent signing style, the same...ok you get the point. For those who have never played the game, let me make this quick. You play games of 26, 52, or 80 games, trying to make the playoffs. After your run for the cup has ended in victory or otherwise, you get to make your first of 2 draft picks. These are needed as you can lose players to retirement and then you have to try and sign available free agents to try and make another run at the cup. Don't get me wrong, it's kind of fun to do, but not when you have done it so many times before in last year's installment.

Also back this year is Tournament Play. This time though, it has a new name, International Play. Don't let it fool you, because the name is the only new thing about it. It's still the exact same setup as previous year's. Allow me not to go into too much detail on this one. Does anyone watch the Olympic Hockey? If so, just think of that, if not, WHAT KIND OF HOCKEY FAN ARE YOU?...errr...I mean, if not you likely are not reading this anyway. The game play does have two new features that give me mixed reactions. First is the new puck physics. The pucks now bounce off the boards the way they should. The hard rubber disks bounce off player's sticks and get deflected more times than not this year. This is a great improvement because it brings the shot total down from ridiculously high levels and also allows for more rebounds in front of the crease. Add to that the wonderfully done revamp of the goaltenders and you can get some exciting hockey. The second new aspect is the use of the analog stick for the puck control. This feature allows you to hold the puck to the left or right of your body while trying to rush the net making for a more difficult defensive play and creating more exciting offensive plays. I am still not sure what I really think about this new feature. I've got it figured out for the most part, but still don't really know if I like it. I guess it is every man for himself.

My biggest disappointment of this year's title is the lack of Internet play. I was really looking forward to showing my talents over the net winning every fantasy league out there. Maybe next year?

Page 2: Graphics, Sound, Replay Value, and Overall Opinion


Scores
Gameplay
8.5
Graphics
8.5
Sound
9.0
Replay Value
9.5
Overall Score
9.0



Developer
EA Canada
Publisher
EA Sports
Origin
Canada
Genre
Sports
Players
1-4
Features
Multiplayer
Peripherals
Dual Shock 2
8MB Memory Card
Multitap
Release Date
North America
September 30th, 2002
Europe
October 18th, 2002
Sections



While there aren't big improvements over last year, NHL 2003 looks just great.

EA Canada added many extremely realistic animations.

A good dancer.
More screenshots of NHL 2003



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