Over the last decade EA Sports has had dominance over the competition in the hockey department. The last few years of the NHL series have been a disappointment with each year’s version mimicking the previous years game. Last year Sega Sports had introduced the NBA 2k and the NFL 2k series to the Playstation 2 and thinking this year could be the year Sega Sports launched NHL 2k3 for the Playstation 2 as well. How does it compare to NHL 2003?
One of the most disappointing aspects of NHL 2k3 is the graphical department, which seems to be trailing EA’s NHL series. Player faces are done somewhat accurately and the goalie models are average. One area in which NHL 2k3 really stands out in the graphical department is the replay’s, which are represented perfectly. The net cam look beautiful and sometimes when a goal is scored the player who scored the goal is highlighted like on TV and the replay proceeds from there.
NHL 2k3 has the best presentation seen on any sports game so far. The intros are really done well.
The commentating is not very impressive and gets very repetitive. Sometimes the commentators will not be able to keep up with the play but provide a good pre-game analysis. Since Sega Sports has the ESPN license no attempt was made to incorporate ESPN National Hockey night commentators into the game to add a largest feeling of authenticity. The rink announcers do a bang up job though. The game does though feature the National Hockey Night theme music at the menu screens.
NHL 2k3 contains all the game modes a basic hockey game should exhibition, season, tournament, franchise, and a new Sega Sports challenge mode in which player compete to set new records in different statistical departments. The franchise mode is perhaps the most in depth franchise mode presented by any hockey game to date. As the general manager of your team your job is to sign players and negotiate contracts. Not only that but you also have control of the minor league system in your franchise mode to call up players to replace injured players. Each team has there own special schedule that is the exact same as the 2002-2003 season. One of the best things about NHL 2k3 is the physics the game presents. Deflections are very viewable and occur based on the physics of the play. You are given the ability to deflect the puck off of the opposing teams defensemen and into the net.
One of the most impressive aspects of NHL 2k3 is the amount of customizable options available. There are over at least fifty categories that can be changed to influence the gameplay and presentation. Some categories include puck friction, goalie skill and shot blocking. The game can be played on five difficulty settings, which include amateur, rookie, pro, all-star and hall of Famer. Another impressive aspect is the amount of realism incorporated into this year NHL 2k game. The game speed is very similar to that of real hockey and all the goalie movements are the most realistic seen in any hockey game out right now. Sadly enough though NHL 2k3 is not a perfect game. The amount of shot blocks in a game is questionable as this occurs to frequently even when the level is set to zero. NHL 2k3’s multiplayer game is impressive as well. NHL 2k3 supports up to eight players and the multiplayer games are addictive as well as fun. Sadly enough the Playstation 2 version does not support online play.
The controls are almost identical to that of NHL 2003 on the Playstation 2. One set back is the lack of a deke button on the easier modes. The only deke button that is evident occurs when the difficulty setting is placed on all-star or Hall of Famer. The biggest flaw in NHL 2k3 lies in the control structure. There is no d-pad support whatsoever. The entire game runs on analog support, which may feel uncomfortable for some players.
With a great multiplayer game and an in-depth franchise mode NHL 2k3 is a game that will be played forever by hardcore hockey fans. The variety of options should also present a new challenge and change up different scenarios to add more challenge for the more experienced players. Sadly though there is no online play.
The Final Word
While NHL 2k3 is not perfect its still the most realistic and best hockey game you’ll find on the market anywhere. I highly recommend this game to anyone who has a slight feeling for hockey games or even just sports games in general. EA Sports has some serious competition and hopefully NHL 2004 and NHL 2k4 will produce even much better hockey games.