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Sega Sports NHL 2K3 (GC) Review

Background Info

GC Screens (5)

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What else can be said about NHL 2K3 that hasn't already been said? Well, actually not much. In this day and age multi-platform games tend to be carbon copies of each other with the occasional small exception. What this means for NHL 2K3 on the Gamecube is the same quality hockey title on the PS2 and Xbox albeit without the online component.

Presentation/Graphics : 90
The graphics in NHL 2K3 are fantastic. The player models are clear from the default camera though you may have difficulty reading the numbers off their backs at times. From the drop of the puck you're treated to a variety of animations and silky smooth play. Animations such as goalies going spread eagle for saves or puckhandlers diving to the ice have enough frames to give a touch of realism. The game accentuates realism so you won't see any over-the-top animations like other hockey titles. Collision detection is very good, and you have the option of turning on collisions with the referee. It's great to play sports titles where the officiating crew takes on an integral part of the game.

Presentation/Audio : 85
One area where NHL 2K3 excels is the color commentary and play-by-play. The PS2 version offered bland audio, but the sound in the Gamecube version always pleases. The play-by-play is always on top of the action and stays relatively fresh. If there is one complaint it's that the color commentary isn't as fresh or timely. Aside from the booth calls, the game delivers quality audio. The crowd gets into the action as necessary and the sounds on the ice are realistic. And with other Sega Sports titles, you can fully customize the audio package to accentuate the sounds of choice.

Interface/Options : 85
The options in NHL 2K3 are numerous and mirror the PS2 version. Unfortunately both versions lack the online component of their Xbox counterpart. But what you do get are single game, season, playoff, and franchise modes. The franchise mode is obviously the most in-depth portion of the game as you can make roster moves over many seasons with the salary cap always looming over your head. Unfortunately, roster edits don't carry over to the franchise mode. This is unfortunate as the game has some pretty strong goalies which require editing. Changes to goalie strength are only available in single and season modes. It's getting customary to see expansive sliders in Sega Sports games and NHL 2K3 on the Gamecube is no exception. Rules and gameplay aspects can be adjusted including things like passing speed and accuracy, hitting strength, pass interceptions, and more. Some gameplay features like puck freezing are found only in this title. The devotion to creating a realistic game is commended. However, not all gameplay aspects are mentioned in the manual. Also, while the game requires only 2 blocks on the memory card, you'll need plenty more space to save your franchise or roster edits.

Gameplay : 90
For a detailed review of the gameplay head over to the PS2 review. The gameplay elements are identical which means both the positive and negative aspects of the game were retained in the Gamecube version. Those positives include the most realistic hockey seen yet on a console. While the game plays well out of the box, careful tuning of the sliders leads to a hockey experience just short of strapping on the skates and getting the toes numb. Players will pin each other against the boards or grab the puck out of mid-air. The best aspect of the game is the constant emphasis on interceptions and defense. NHL 2K3 isn't a game where you constantly streaks up and down the ice on mad dashes to the net. Such tactics are unrewarded. Instead you have to set up shots on offense through careful passing and looking for opportunities where the goalie's vision is obstructed. The few negatives in the other versions are still here. First is player awareness. Often players won't converge on a free puck. This leads to turnovers on both sides of the puck. The second issue is goalie stregnth. You can modify goalie performance by adjusting each goalies' attributes. This leads to more goals being scored by both teams but this can only be used in single game and season modes. If you don't reduce the abilities of the goalies expect unbelievable acrobatic moves and shockingly low goals against averages.

Replay Value : 90
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The Gamecube isn't exactly setting the sports gaming world ablaze. Sega is expected to stop developing sports titles for the Cube which is a shame as that console is a distant third when it comes to sports gaming and owners of the Gamecube need some quality titles. But if you pick up NHL 2K3 and appreciate a game that makes a serious attempt at being a true simulation, then you'll be happy. Arcade hockey has its place and is certainly fun, but there's something about a good simulation that keeps you interested over time.

Overall : 90
The worst thing about NHL 2K3 is fortunately something that can be mitigated. Goalie strength is unbelievable in NHL 2K3, but with judicious adjustments to sliders and player attributes you can bump up the goal scoring. Once you do you have the best hockey game on the market. It's the most realistic playing hockey title to date and a fun one at that.

By: James Smith 2/14/03

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