Review by Conrad Kleval Lacan
"This game is very good, but not everyone will enjoy it."
First of all, if you are not a die hard hockey fan and just feel like playing an arcade-style hockey game, you might not enjoy NHL 2K3.
NHL 2K3 is made to be as similar to real hockey as possible. This means you will have to know a lot about actual on-ice strategies like left wing lock or the neutral zone trap, passive trap, aggressive trap, etc and other possibly complicated things like line-matching strategies.
This is not a game where you can actually just go out and stickhandle past all five opposing players with ease, turning the goalie inside out and scoring. This is not a game where you can have your players make superhuman moves and hitting hard enough to make the opposing player fly off spinning around. This is not a game where you can win 15 to 14 on 5 minute periods and repeatedly do the same move over and over again to beat the goalie. This is not a game where you can be shorthanded 3 against 5 and still dominate.
This is a game where you have to think and plan your every move. This is a game where you have to beat the opponent with intelligent plays and not giving them any chance to burn you. This is a game where you have to earn every goal and handle the home crowd booing at you like madmen if you are playing poorly.
Sounds good? It might. But there are a few quirks.
Let's get over some of them.
First of all, the graphics. The player models are very weak. The PlayStation 2 is capable of MUCH better. They do look very smooth though, and the arena graphics are unbelievable.
What next? Well, about the controls. You can not use the D-pad to play the game, you have to use the analog pad. Obviously, the analog pad is much better... you get to go in any direction you want on a full 360 scale and set your speed depending on far you push the stick. But a lot of people are not used to it at all and will never get used to it. If you're one of those people, expect a lot of frustration.
Created players. First of all, you have a 9-digit limit when you create players. This alone is not very good, but wait, there's more. You cannot use your created players in franchise mode (you can use them in season or exhibition modes, however).
The rosters are a bit out of date (for example, Alexandre Daigle is not in the game). This is not a big problem per se but if you want to have really accurate rosters heading in the franchise mode it might get frustrating.
Now, there are A LOT of sliders in the options. You can adjust all sorts of things, like the level of goaltender, the chance of the defense blocking the shots, the speed of the game, and a lot of other options. There are a lot of possibilities with this, and it is indeed a great thing because a lot of problems you have in the game can be fixed by adjusting the sliders.
The franchise mode is very in depth. It is a lot better than EA Sports' NHL 2003 in that department. The drafts, presentation, stat-tracking, player development, etc is much more realistic.
Now, overall, is it a good game? Yes, it is. But like I said earlier, it is not for everyone. People with limited hockey knowledge who just want to have some playing a hockey game will far prefer EA's NHL 2003, no question about it.
I give this game a 6/10 rating. Yes, it might appear to be low, but the reason for this is because the game fails to appeal to a general public. I would give it a 7, but some quirks force me to take one point away.
Personally, I am loving every second of it. A really nice feature is you can track where you shot the puck at the other team's net and see which shots went in. Very neat. Anyway, this game is very highly recommended to die hard hockey fans who want a real simulation.
If you really want to go far with comparisons, a good analogy would be to compare piloting an airplane in Star Fox 64 to flying an airplane in Microsoft Flight Simulator. Star Fox 64 has more appeal, is more easy to handle and you can just go around and shoot and have a good time with your pal. MFS is only really enjoyable if you are really into flying and want a good simulation.
This is the same thing with this game. It is a real simulation. For some people, like me, this is what makes this game absolutely awesome.
For others, this is what makes playing this game a real bore. If you are unsure whether you will like it, rent it and play a few games before. You never know.
Reviewer's Score: 6/10 | Originally Posted: 11/14/02, Updated 11/14/02
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