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  Wednesday, 23 October, 2002, 12:06 GMT 13:06 UK
Let's play: NHL 2003

Being a game developer at EA Sports must be hard work sometimes.

Despite producing some fine sporting simulations, they have the unenviable task of updating their top titles year in year out.

Although the graphical tweaks are now routine, updating the gameplay is much more difficult.

  NHL 2003
Format: PlayStation 2
Price: 39.99
Publisher: EA Sports
Genre: Ice hockey
Also available: Xbox, GameCube (Oct 25), PC (Oct 25)

NHL is one such game that has been given another new lease of life.

Apart from adding the latest teams and players, EA have not made any major changes to the excellent mix of fast-paced action and realistic control system.

The visuals have been improved - slightly - the AI is much better and the control system even more realistic.

Load times have also been cut - but most impressive are the fantastic controls. EA have managed to make NHL 2003 one of the most responsive and realistic sports games to play.

NHL 2003
If it's action you want, you won't go far wrong.

Skating, passing and shooting - you name it - it's all superb.

There's a few new features too - including improved shot-blocking and a new system that makes goal scoring much more exciting.

Fancy moves are now possible and, once you've performed enough of them, a meter fills up and a new mode called Gamebreaker switches on.

With this, the camera closes in on you, the action slows down to Matrix-like play and you get to move faster than anyone else around you.

While this adds a new dimension to the game, it doesn't really work as the camera angle goes too far in to see what is going on around you.

EA Sports have created NHL 2003 with a more arcade feel, preferring fast skating and shooting rather than the realism of lots of passing.

  Verdict
Graphics: 91%
Playability: 90%
Sound: 75%
Realism: 87%
Overall: 90%

The TV-style presentation is superb and the arenas where you play hockey gleam with crisp ice and nicely animated crowds.

Although the fighting sequences don't do the game any favours graphically, in all other areas the player models look fantastic with perfect textures and excellent animation.

True purists may prefer to look elsewhere for their hockey action, but those seeking a fast-paced, action-packed game are in for a real treat.


Let's Play..
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