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NHL Hitz 2002

Score: 80%
ESRB: Everyone
Publisher: Midway
Developer: Black Box Games
Media: GCD/1
Players: 1 - 4
Genre: Sports

Graphics & Sound:

Even though this is a port of the PS2 version, that didn't keep Midway from adding a little bit of spit and polish. In addition to the already wonderful PS2 eye candy like breakable glass and a fully rendered audience, the GameCube version shines with cleaner textures and player reflections on the ice. It's unfortunate that a few of the details are lost (like reflective helmets) when the game switches into the top-down view during gameplay. I did notice a few instances of slowdown - but it's so insignificant, it's really not worth mentioning.

I wish all sports games (although I use the word sport rather loosely here) had this great of a soundtrack. Songs by bands such as Limp Bizkit, Fuel, and Korn play during the intro, skill challenges, and periods and do an excellent job of pumping you up. There's just something about listening to Limp Bizkit's Rollin' and watching hockey footage that really gets the blood flowing. I would have liked it if the music played during the game though. Yeah - they don't play music during real hockey games; but then again, the players don't catch fire or shoot flaming pucks either. In game, however, you will be serenaded by some really fun commentary. At times it gets repetitive, but what are you going to do?


Gameplay:

NHL Hitz is to hockey as NBA Jam is to basketball.

With that simple SAT question I have just explained the entire point of Hitz. You select your team and can play in an Exhibition, Championship, or Franchise game. This is not a game for hockey purists. Instead, this is hockey for the people like me; the ones who enjoy watching games, but haven't a clue about the rules. Everything, down to face-offs is no holds barred, anything goes. Why fight your opponent for the puck in a face-off when you can just poke him in the eyes and grab it? Checking a player through the glass is also encouraged.

Did I mention the fights? During matches players, in true hockey fashion, will sometimes pick fights with another player. Then the game switches over to a side-view, winner takes all fistfight. The winner gets to continue the game while the loser is out for the rest of the game. Not only is this a fun addition, it's a great way to knock out your opponent's star players. After a player scores 3 goals, he catches on fire - which not only includes a nice fire effect around the player, but a stat boost as well. There is also a way to have your entire team catch on fire, but I'm still a bit unsure as to how you do it. As you win games and answer hockey trivia, you can gain points to spend at the hockey store in order to unlock uniforms, arenas, and other fun goodies.


Difficulty:

In addition to the previously mentioned modes, Hitz also includes a skill challenge mode which not only is a lot of fun, but also a great tutorial on the how-to's of the game.

Unfortunately, Hitz does get knocked down a peg or two in the difficulty department. Hitz isn't that hard, it's just cheap. Not only does the game ramp up the difficulty over the course of a season, it also ramps it up as the game progresses. Of course, this is common in sports games, but when I'm winning 7-0 in the last period and then lose 8-7, I feel cheated. This makes the single player games feel repetitive - but that doesn't stop multi-player games from being fun.


Game Mechanics:

Hitz does have a nice control set up that even novices will have down after at least two periods. However, mastering the game will take time, so plan to spend some time in the Skillz mode.

Sure, Hitz isn't the deepest game around - but hey, it's fun. Whether you are a hockey uber-fan, or just like to check the hell out of people, there's something in Hitz that will appeal to you.


-Starscream, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ricky Tucker

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