Review by AlexYashin79

"A Rushed & Unpolished Game!!!"


I am happy to say that I didn't buy this game.

It's obvious this game has been sloppily put together. Compared to the NFL and NBA 2K ESPN themed games, it looks like Treyarch is second fiddle to Visual Concepts main NFL/NBA development teams.

There has been some hoopla thrown around by NHL 2K3 fans – that this game has only been in development for 7 months. Well, if that’s true, Treyarch shouldn’t have rushed this game to market just because Christmas is next month.

The excuse of saying this game only had xxx amount of time in development is BS. NFL 2K3 came out in August 2002, NFL 2K2 came out in November 2001. Like NHL 2K3, the latest football game had less than one year too and it had to newly implement all of the ESPN stuff brand new.

I have been spoiled with NFL 2K3. For any NFL or NBA 2K3 gamers out there, DO NOT expect NHL 2K3 to have the same high level graphical, audio, interface, or gameplay quality. NHL 2K3 is a notch or two below them. Remember the 7 month development time this game has been through only.

How many games do you know are top-notch after only a little more than half a years worth of programming divided among three platforms (PS2, Xbox, GameCube)?

Too bad NHL 2K3 wasn’t as good as I thought it would be. Looks like I’ll have to rent NHL 2003 and check out if it’s as bad as web site forums say it is.

Although NFL and NHL are two different sports, it's too bad that NFL has better graphics, presentation, and sound. NFL has great gameplay and NHL 2K3 so to be hit and miss with it. Sure some people will yell, ''It's all about gameplay''. Well, not quite. Having good sound, interface, and visuals help too. If gameplay was the only concern, nobody would bother making new graphics chips and we would all still be playing EA's NHL 94 or 95 on Genesis that ran on a 68000 cpu at about 8 mhz!

That's my two cents.

I'll stick to NFL 2K3. Maybe NHL 2K4 will be worth buying if they tidy up their present game. Hopefully, Visual Concepts will take full charge in developing a hockey game.

I suggest nobody buy this game outright WITHOUT first renting it.


Make note I played the game on the default Pro skill with the default sliders. I've never played any 2K hockeys and have kept hearing that it's a simulation hockey and you can't run and gun.


Taking my Isles, I have been using typical EA run and gun tactics and noticed I was getting off one timers just like EA hockey. Few have went in, but many of my goals are simply holding onto the puck and skating in circles deking the comp and picking corners. I actually scored my first goal in the first minute (or 1:30) I played this game.

As a recap, I won 3-0. Nothing huge, but the cpu seemed kind of easy. Fine. As some gamers recommended, pump up the difficulty.

I did. I went straight to Hall of Fame (the top skill level) and you know what? I won both games tonight 3-2, 2-0. I’ll admit, scoring is harder than EA’s hockey games, but the cpu isn’t exactly pumping up their goals anyways and I’m new to 2K hockey.

How were both goals scored against me??????? Well, both were cheesy.

1. While my Osgood was standing up with the puck (getting ready to pass it), the cpu stole it off him and scored (I was unaware that 2K hockey games allowed this, since EA hockey doesn’t let the opposition steal it off a goalie like that).

2. The puck was rolling towards my end. My goalie made a run for it (the puck was somewhere between the top of the circle and the blue line. My goalie touched it, but again the forechecking player stole it and scored before I could even react to goalie control being shifted to me when my goalie takes possession of the puck. Wow. That’s some cpu goalie AI there.

Speaking of goalie control, why does their passes always seem to be weak rollers on the ice. Doesn’t seem you can wrist it off the glass. And despite my wanting to pass to a player on the sideboards, many times he’ll just pass it straight up the ice in front of him. No thanks.

Anyways, Hall of Fame mode isn’t a smarter AI. Like EA’s hockey games on harder skill levels, the increased difficulty doesn’t come from better AI, but simply the programmers pumping up the computer’s turbo boost and aggressiveness in a cheating type of way. Since I was playing against the Leafs, there is no way guys like Travis Green and Jonus Hoglund can constantly outskate Yashin and Peca despite me doing turbo boost – and that’s when Green/Hoglund are stickhandling with the puck! Watching Green zoom around deking players like Denis Savard in 1984 is sad.

To beat Hall of Fame mode, just take a slower approach and pass a bit more. When you are in their end, the opposition cpu is similar to EA hockey – they will let you dipsy doodle around and stick handle like crazy letting you set up plays (something that rarely happens in real life at even strength play unless one side is dead tired and has resorted to turtleing up defensively because they are too tired to chase the puck carriers and it’s too risky to try a line change at that time).

Editing lines is a pain. Hard to navigate and confirmed from posts on forums that you can’t even double shift a players on the starting 4 lines. Sad.

The game only supports analog control. But I'm happy to say with just a few hours of analog controlling, it is good and responsive. D-pad no more.

Load times are a pain. All you get is a ''loading'' sign at the bottom that fills with yellow colour. Takes a while. Simming games take a while too. I simmed a season and it goes one by one slowly. Speaking of simmed games, some reason Saku Koivu keeps getting 50 goals and 90 point seasons!

The game has lots of bugs, including a game lock up/freeze that happens with 0.1 seconds left in the game.

And lastly, the players are not paid salaries in dollars, but “points”. The salaries are not representative (relative) to their real life counterparts anyways. For example, Forsberg is paid among the most at 1,100 points, but LeClair and Tkachuk (who is real life are paid a similar amount of dollars), are only paid 200 and 375 points. With that shaky system, you can build an all-star team with money points to spare.



1. Presentation/menu screens

Right off the bat; the menu screens seem choppy when flipping from page to page (black border along the bottom showing button functions). Most of the game’s splash/menu screens seem to have a washed out effect similar to the player photos (see below). Makes the game seem fuzzy looking.

Also, the player photos look poor - very blurry and washed out. Just as bad (if not worse than PS1 photos in NHL games)

Treyarch cut corners with team select screens. NFL has rotating helmets (NHL has a cardboard cut out), and for playoff trees, NHL 2K3 has cheesy black and white boxes. Also, Treyarch seemed to have thrown together the most cheesy “ESPN” splash logo during a replay. Whereas NFL 2K3 has the ESPN logo spin and “whoosh” onto the screen, NHL’s doesn’t do that.

Treyarch also didn’t bother tweaking the player names on the ice. During face-offs and especially skating upwards, the grey coloured player name is right on top of the polygon player – you can’t even see the name! Speaking of poorly placed or poorly coloured fonts, there are many instances in the game where the fonts are skinny and coloured a very light grey that is hard to see (for example, check out which players get assists during a goal)

NFL 2K3 beats NHL 2K3 hands down.

2. In-game, not menu screens and such

NHL 2K3 does better here. 60 fps is awesome to look at. Players look good and animate great, but cut scenes are choppy like EA games. The more I played the game, the more the “hunchbacked” players looked sillier and sillier. When watching a real game, players aren’t hunched that often. Mainly when a player is zooming down the ice, trying to deftly deke or duck away from a hit, or rounding behind the net do players crouch. On the other hand, during relaxed play and setting up plays, NHL players often stand almost straight up so they can see the ice better.

Reflections of players and roof lights are good.

The default camera angle to me is good, especially with the zoom in/out function. Much better than EA's camera angles.

Cut scenes remind me of EA's choppy filler. Although NHL 2K3 thankfully don’t have dopey fans dancing or waving at the camera, they are still not worth mentioning aside from it running choppy at maybe 25 fps. Definitely not 60 fps like the in-game play. The choppiness also goes for the overhead face-offs.



Let's start with the SFX. The puck hitting the boards sounds great, and the skates digging into the ice also sounds that all? The sound of sticks slapping against the ice doesn’t sound right. Simply watch and listen to a hockey game on TV and you’ll hear the difference. Way off.

I've never heard a hockey game have such pathetic weak ''thuds'' for pucks hitting goalie pads, slapshots, and pucks getting blocked by players. I turned up the Arena SFX to max and all I hear is a slightly louder ''thud''. Seems like no Treyarch developers have ever been to hockey game in person. I go to Leaf games. Whether watching a game on TV or sitting at Air Canada Centre, you CAN hear loud smacks of the puck hitting goalie pads, and the puck whacking against a player blocking a puck.

Where is the crowd cheering? Weak. Barely audible. Even worse, the crowd doesn’t sound as good as NFL 2K3 by a long shot.

Repetitive ESPN music. Unlike NFL 2K3 that had over 20 tunes to pick from including different long/short versions of SportsCenter themes, NHL 2K3 doesn't have a music selector and it loops the short version over and over again abruptly.

Play by play commentating isn't as bad as was on those Quicktime videos on But they are leagues away from describing a game smoothly. Reading off a script or what? It's too bad VC doesn't try to get NFL 2K3's Dan Stevens and Peter O'Keefe for more sports games. Those guys sound great and don't sound like they are reading off sheets of paper. I'd rate NHL 2K3's commentating as average at best.

I'm not a big stickler for goal horns. Aside from a handful of places, I don't know (or care) what horns are used, but one thing I noticed is that the goal tunes aren't there. I scored with Montreal and there aren't any small trademark snippets that they play. But confirmed from some posts on a sports web site, these music snippets are trademarked and not in the game.

Reviewer's Rating:   2.5 - Playable

Originally Posted: 12/05/02, Updated 12/05/02

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