NHL Hitz 2002
Review of NHL Hitz 2002
NHL Hitz 2002 wasn’t necessarily a game that I was looking forward to with real anticipation. While I like sports titles and hockey games as well as the next videogamer, there are just so many AAA titles being released at present (ICO, SH2, GT3, etc.) that I really didn’t wish to get pulled away to do this review.
Hitz takes a bit of time to load up initially, going through the sanctioned NHL screens, various logo’s, etc. Luckily once the initial BS is through, the game loads up nice and fast and constantly streams off of the disc.
There are three main gameplay categories in Hitz. Exhibition games where you can select your favorite team (or use one that you custom created) and square off with any other NHL team. The reward here is receiving credits for each victory that can then be used in the hockey shop to buy all sorts of cool stuff (more on this later).
The Franchise Mode is designed to be played with custom teams that gamers create from scratch. Here you will face a combination of 50 teams from both the NHL and fantasy teams in an effort to win the Midway cup. This mode grants winners attribute points that can be applied to the players on the teams that have been created.
Finally there is the Championship Mode that has players facing off against other teams in the NHL for the coveted Stanley Cup. In additional to bragging rights, credits are also awarded for victory’s…which again, can be used in the Hockey Store (more on that real soon!!).
The gameplay in Hitz is of the high octane, ultra adrenalin pumping variety. Right from the start you can tell this is not a sim game. Only 3 players grace each team in addition to a goalie. Also the fact that referees are completely absent should be an obvious tip off…anything goes.
Control of the players is extremely tight and right on the money. The onscreen characters respond perfectly to your button presses and gamers will have to make the necessary allowances for inertia as you try to redirect a skater that is traveling in one direction at high velocity.
All of the standard moves are present; passing, intercepting passes, scoring, dekes and puck guarding. The single best shot though is the 1-timer. This occurs when you pass the puck to a teammate that is closing on the net. If the button presses are timed just right from the pass to the other player taking the shot your chances of getting a goal are highly increased. Being that this is an arcade game, there is also the turbo button and the ability to control the crowds booing or cheering. Oh, body checks…especially illegal ones, are highly encouraged here. Nothing more satisfying than denying a goal and then having the goalie flatten the player as they try to skate away. Get in a particularly nasty shot and you will find yourself in a fight. The fighting engine is extremely simple but well executed. Duke it out with the loser heading off the ice for the remainder of the game. Get into enough fights and you can really start to dismantle the other team.
Being that Hitz is an arcade style game, other things happen that you will not see in a real hockey game. If a player on your team scores 2 goals they will start to smoke, score another goal and a bolt of lightning shoots down, ala Raden in Mortal Kombat, and you catch on fire. Not only does it look extremely awesome watching you player skate around like the Human Torch but it also affects his gameplay, kicking it up a few notches. If you can manage to score three unanswered goals via the 1-timer shot, your whole team ignites and they become virtually unstoppable.
I found the action to be nice and fast, the control sweetly responsive and the gameplay thoroughly enjoyable. Getting together with a group of friends really makes things interesting and adds a whole new element to the gameplay. The only thing that is really sparse is the stat tracking…it is almost non-existent. Forget about tracking you players and teams throughout a season. All you get at the end of each game is a re-cap showing the shots taken, goals scored, 1-timers, fights, time of possession and the number of hits…that’s it. Guess that what to expect from an arcade title.
Once you compile enough credit points you should visit the Hockey Shop (finally). Here gamers can apply their credits to purchase stuff like Jerseys, different characters (aliens, various animals, etc.) and some wicked ass stadiums. Hockey rinks are placed on the moon, in ancient coliseums, circus tents and all sorts of other interesting locations.
The create-a-team is pretty comprehensive and offers a lot of flexibility in making up your players. There were over 40 different faces with adjustments for mouth, nose, ears, head size, body size and height, etc. Players can really put together a rather bizarre cast of characters here.
Graphically the game really benefits from the omission of the extra players. The character models are of a rather high poly count and look mighty impressive with nice texturing and ultra smooth animation. What really sets things apart though is the fact that the crowd is completely 3-D modeled and animated and will do all sorts of things like heckling the players, to throwing hats and other objects onto the rink.
Particle effects, reflections and general lighting are all also top notch. Little bits of slushy ice spew from the skates after a hard break. Glass panels shattering, ice that looks nice and smooth and shiny, but degrades as the game progresses. Pucks that glow red and ignite during particularly frantic shooting moments in the game. What I am trying to say is that the game looks REALLY nice.
About the only drawbacks that I noticed are that the stadiums are rather small…I guess the reason is because of the 3-D crowd and the fact that the players reflections on the ice appear to stop at their knees. There is full shadowing implemented though in addition to the reflection on the ice. These are really just nitpicky things though.
The sound and music portion of the game also rocks. Players can set up a jukebox in the beginning to play their favorite genre of tunes and the signed artists like Limp Bizkit and Korn kick ass.
The sound effects are equally compelling and include what you would expect in a hockey game; crowd noises, buzzers, hard-hitting checks, etc. I even found the announcer to be interesting and often humorous at times, generally staying on top of the action and following game closely.
OUR PLEDGE: We promise that we have fully played 'NHL Hitz 2002' before writing this review. The scores given above are our honest opinion and were not influenced in any way by the manufacturer or distributor of the game.
This review was written by Tom Rooney © Absolute PlayStation
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