Game Name: NHL HItz 2002
Developer: Black Box Games
Publisher: Midway Games
Platforms: GameCube, Xbox and PlayStation 2
Release Date: November 14, 2001 (XBOX)
Well the weather here in Montreal is cold and very snowy. I figured that I might as well review a mandatory hockey game since I am from Canada and the temperature outside is frigid!!
I remember playing this game a lot with my brother when this came out. I had hours and hours of fun.
Let us see if this still holds up over 15 years later.
The game is a licensed game from the NHL and the NHLPA (National Hockey League Player's Association). This was at a time when EA did not have the exclusive rights to the NHL. Other studios were able to create sports games as well. Midway was also known for the NFL franchise NFL Blitz which is a similar game but for football.
Unlike the EA NHL franchise, this is less of simulator and more of a pick up arcade style game. You play 3 on 3 (plus a goalie).You can play all 30 teams that existed back then. Every team has a choice of 5 or 6 players from their roster. I always pick Montreal and the player choices for them are Brian Savage, Saku Koivu, Martin Rucinsky, Gino Odjick and Richard Zednik. After a period you can choose a different set of players. In game line changes do not exist.
There are a few game modes that you can choose. You have Exhibition (One off games). There is Franchise mode which is the season mode. However, the season mode is quite different from other hockey games. Instead of having the real life NHL schedule and have real standings, you play every team once and you need to beat them all, before you can win. Also in the manual it is stated that in this mode you are playing for the Midway Cup and not the Stanley Cup. The last option os Championship where you actually play for the Stanley Cup.
When playing you have a few options for rules but in general the rules are very relaxed. You can choose to keep fighting on or off. If you do have fights, you need to knock the other player unconscious. That is the only way to beat the game. A similar mechanic to Blades of Steel on the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES)
After a game is completed, you have a trivia question that you can answer to obtain credits. These credits can be used in the Hockey Shop.
In the Franchise mode, you can choose an existing team or start your own fantasy team. As you play, you add attributes to players. However, making your team very good will take a very long time. You cannot just buy your way to a championship.
Based on the number of attribute points that you have, you can also trade with other NHL teams. However, for a trade to be approved it takes quite a lot of points.
The one thing that is cool about this XBOX game was that you were able to play your own music in the game. Back on the original XBOX days, you were able to put music on your XBOX. You could listen to CD's or rip them to the Hard Drive. However,, there was one more bonus, if the developers allowed it, you were able to play your own music in the game. So, if I uploaded Pearl Jam, the music playing in the menu's could be Pearl Jam. I always found this feature cool. I am not sure if other consoles at the time were able to do this.
NHL Hitz 2002 - Sample Gameplay
I played for a few hours in the video above and I still have a lot of fun with this. I know that I did not go into every detail, of every mode, like the difficulty settings. Part of these reviews is to see how I see those games and how best they are played in my view. There are others that provide more in depth coverage, but I go with the experience.
The one thing that struck me playing are graphics. They still look awesome to this day. Yes, the players look goofy but I love the shiny / transparent smooth ice surface. I was also impressed with the custom arenas. An example of this is a Kid's Room. I remember finding this really cool back then and i still do today.
The game is perfect for those who do not want to play a long hockey game and just pick up something for 10 or 15 minutes and then shut off the system.
In all honesty, I think this is the last best arcade like hockey game on any system. Yes there were others that came after like the sequel NHL Hits 2003, however that one I was not as much of a fan. There was also 3 on 3 on the XBOX 360. That one came close but it was not quite the same. There was one last year or a few years ago called Old-Time Hockey. Although, I think its heart was in the right place, in the end it fell short on the player experience.
I would love for this to be remastered or picked up again by another studio. Everyone talks about the best looking sports game and realism, however, younger players for the most part, have not experienced arcade type sports games. They can be very fun.
I cannot recommend this game enough for hockey fans. I have been having EA fatigue now for a while. Yes, they make amazing sport simulators, but sometimes you would like something a little different. I really hope that the NHL does not resign with EA, just so that we can have a little more variety n our choice of sports games.
What did you think about it? Do you remember playing? Let me know below.