What if a certain Paul Newman film were made into
a videogame? Would it look like this?
Ahh…Midway, publishers and developers for some of the best
arcade titles to date. You just have to absolutely love the minds behind
the most hardcore arcade football series on the planet - NFL Blitz of
course. Never has there been an arcade football title more fun, more
brutal, more…arcade! Sure, 989 Sports gave it a shot back in the day
for the PSOne with their mediocre NFL Extreme title. It's not that the
game was lame or lacked depth (ok, so maybe it was and did), it's a matter
of just not being able to throw down enough smackdown to dethrone the
Finally, a few years later Midway realizes that they are
the champs in the extreme sports genre and vuala! A new game is created…sort
of. And what do they choose? Hockey. OK, so hockey all ready boasts random
knuckle-busting fights (sigh… no ears ever get chewed off in hockey…unless…hmm)
and utter pandemonium (how come no one has realized that they are wearing
potentially dangerous weapons on their feet? Take those damn things off
and chuck em' at someone for crying out loud!). But this is all the more
reason as to why they chose hockey for their next no holds bar sports
Being the cousin of Blitz, legend and champion of the extreme sports genre,
NHL Hitz 20-02 has quite a task on its hand to uphold the family name.
So, how does stack up? Does it lay'eth the smack'eth down or get'eth the
smack'eth knocked out of it? Read on my friend! Read on…
"Hitz packs more punch than Kool-Aid ..."
I'll get down to the knitty gritty of the review by first
mentioning what the single most important thing that Midway arcade titles
are all about; how much punch they pack. Hitz packs more punch than Kool-Aid
(and that's quite a lot of punch), as it takes the brutality of Blitz
and multiplies it. Thanks to hockey's confined rink space, the action
in Hitz far exceeds that of its football relative. Players will be knocked
through the fan safety glass shields (which leaves a nice glass shattering
sound I might add), flip over goal boxes, get smashed into the walls
and other players, have their helmets smacked clean off (and almost their
heads with it) and all of that other good stuff that leaves that obnoxious
grin on our faces and has the friend next to us saying, "oh shut up.
That was just a lucky hit."
Hitz features several gameplay modes, including Exhibition,
Championship (a 30-game season), Franchise, and Multiplayer. For added
enjoyment and also being a tutorial, the game features several mini-games
aimed to teach you the ropes of the game (you know…how to properly crack
some skulls, how to low-bridge, how to start some fights…and there's
some stuff in there about how to shoot better and hold the puck as well).
For most of you, however, you will stick to the multiplayer aspects of
the game due to a lack of depth in the single player game modes. All
game modes, I might add, feature a total of 3 players on the ice (4 including
the goalie) at a time for more arcade sports action.
Championship mode was rather uninspiring and gets seemingly
dull a little before you get mid way (no pun intended) through the game.
Why? Well, because it's just one long set of exhibition games in order.
It has very few stats, repetitious player introductions and in-game commentary
and not enough attitude that a title of its stature should have. Basically,
as aforementioned, it's just a bunch of exhibition games in an order.
Franchise mode - to my delighted surprise - is much more
satisfying. Players are able to completely build up their team of pathetic
losers (you can either create players or choose a team) by earning attribute
points to boost player and team ratings as you win games to a team of
not-so-pathetic losers. Hooray! OK, scratch that one. You can go from
zero to hero in the game's Franchise mode.
Multiplayer is what this game is all about. With more fist, elbow, knee
and head-banging power than a country family reunion, Hitz 20-02 for Xbox
is THE game when it comes down the need to just utterly humiliate your
friends. Smash them through the glass borders, knock them into the other
players, throw them to the ground, and then back it up with some heavy
trash talking. It's the stuff that videogame sports violence is made of.
"...Hitz 20-02 for Xbox is THE game when it comes down the need to just utterly
humiliate your friends. "
FIGHT! Yes, the ever-so-common words we all used to hear
on our school playgrounds. And what did we do? Well some of us joined
in like idiots, while the other smarter half of us watched and waited
for teeth to fly like Chiclets. Welp, if you hear these words in Hitz
don't plan to be watching the fight because you're going to be right
in it. Throw off the gloves, take off the helmet and open that can of
whoop ass cause' you haven't been hit this hard in a sports game since
Super Punch Out on SNES. Well, maybe not that hard. But there's definitely
a good amount of fights in this game.
Rewards and extras are in great abundance throughout this
game too. Hitz boasts 7 mini-games, 14 fantasy teams and arenas (including
2 Midway dev teams), 15 fantasy heads (to go on created players. They
take the place of the standard helmet), and 53 heritage jersey's. These
are all bought within the game's Hockey Shop via reward points that are
given after you win a game or by answering trivia questions at the end
This game doesn't lack in the graphical department either
folks. Player models have been portrayed quite accurately and resemble
their real-life counterparts extremely well. It's easy to tell when someone
is trying to simply bump you off the puck or completely take you out
of the game. The best graphical eye candy that you'll find in this game
is within the reflections on the ice itself. Shadows and lens flare is
virtually perfect, and on the game's latter special hockey rinks (let's
take the Snowman ice pond hockey rink for example), you'll notice little
fish swimming beneath the ice. Talk about detail!
"...you haven't been hit this hard in a sports game since Super Punch Out on
Your surrounding environment is not without its flare either, as the game
features fully polygonal animated audiences. Standard motions such as clapping,
whistling, sitting up and standing down and throwing fists in the air can
be seen with ease. Sigh, no one throws any trash onto the ice, but there's
always hope for that in the sequel. Mmmm…
Like any sports game, Hitz is best played with a decent
surround sound system. But like every Midway Blitz title, the same announcer
is used in the game, which is Tim Kitzrow. And also like every Blitz
title, the commentary is just as repetitious. So a surround sound system
won't do you much good unless you turn off the commentary in the game
and just listen to the crisp sound of cracking skulls, shattering glass,
and screaming audiences. Granted, the commentary has some hilarious comments
here and there, such as "well I think it's fair to say that these guys
suck" or "the New Jersey Devils have finally scored a goal! Unfortunately
that won't do anything for them in this game." All of this just encourages
more friendly trash talking. Oh, and trash talking IS encouraged in this
The game's music is far greater than in previous Midway
extreme sports titles. In the option menu, you can choose which songs
to turn off or on. I only found myself turning off 2 or 3 out of many
and those were because they were just too slow for this game's level
of intense action. But, if you'd like, you can always pop the game CD
out, put in your own music CD collection, save it to the hard drive and
then play your own soundtracks.
NHL Hitz 20-02 by Midway is just downright enjoyable; more
so in multiplay game modes. With better player animations than many other
hockey games to date (and better graphics for that matter), Hitz stands
out on its own. Being the best and only extreme hockey title on the market
also makes this game a must-have. Hitz is a game that should not be overlooked
and definitely maintains the Midway extreme sports family legacy. Now
only if we can get Midway to make some baseball or basketball extreme
titles. Mmmm…I can imagine it now. Shaq REALLY pounding Kobe for not
passing the ball or Karl Malone cutting people's eyes with his rusty
elbows. Whew, let's not get too far ahead of ourselves.
Wants to make love to Hitz, but the game requires both hands on the controller...
NHL Hitz 20-02: The Scores
NHL Hitz is pure extreme sports gaming goodness. With
better graphical flare than many of today's simulation
and arcade sports titles, Hitz not only boasts more arcade
action but also dishes it on fun platters one after another.
Place the case on the shelf and leave the CD in the Xbox
because I think we have the extreme sports title of the
year right here.