It’s a strange experience reviewing each edition of an EA Sports title. Everyone knows what to expect: an identical game to the last one with a few extra tweaks here and there, better graphics to make the most of the latest machines and some new music to remind you this really is a new version.
Since the people most likely to notice the tiny gameplay adjustments, tactical novelties and greater realistic touches are the Americans and Canadians who follow the sport like we follow football (and buy each incarnation like we buy our FIFAs), my job is even more awkward. I won’t even go through the old motions of telling you if it’s worth buying if you already have NHL 2002. The answer is the same as it always was: not really.
Having said that, there is still no doubt that the NHL series is classy. I don’t know how closely it resembles playing the sport, but as a game it’s a ton of fun. Maybe I’ve gotten a bit better, but the whole thing seems a bit easier to use and delivers more fluid matches, instead of the messy back-and-forth speeded-up Pong games of earlier titles. You still need lightning reflexes to put up a challenge in the harder difficulty levels, especially if, like me, you’re prone to panicking when the puck starts flying. As ever, when the option is included, you can spend an inordinate amount of time creating a player that looks a bit like you and possesses the skills of an ice hockey legend. One extra nice touch is that the game recognises certain common first names, so the commentators might actually use your name when you get the puck.
Same Time Next Year
For some reason hockey games never come with the extra modes you get in most sports. I don’t expect some equivalent of an NBA slam-dunking event or a one-on-one match, but maybe a training mode where you could figure out what all the tactics do would have been nice.
The online mode has now become an integral part of the game, rather than being just another option, but as with nearly all sport sims, the real enjoyment is to be found kicking and shouting at a friend by your side.
Download NHL 2003
- PC compatible
- Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP