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NHL Hitz 20-02




1 - 4


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 reigning champ.

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 title.

"Hitz packs more punch than Kool-Aid ..."

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…


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.

"...Hitz 20-02 for Xbox is THE game when it comes down the need to just utterly humiliate your friends. "
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.

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 of games.

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!

" haven't been hit this hard in a sports game since Super Punch Out on SNES."

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 game.

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.

Dameon White
Wants to make love to Hitz, but the game requires both hands on the controller...

NHL Hitz 20-02: The Scores













The Final Word:  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.

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NHL Hitz 20-02 Screenshots

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