E3 2003: NHL 2K4 Hands-on Impressions
For me, hockey games have always been one of those weird addictions, unlike basketball, football games or any other sports-sim. When I stopped at the NHL 2K4 kiosk at Sega's booth, I waited about a minute for my turn and then picked up the controller. I chose the New York Rangers (I was feeling pretty home sick at the time) and took on the Ottawa Senators. Each period lasted five minutes and the difficulty was set to the highest. In the first period I scored the first goal and from there on I continued my incredible defense to prevent the Senators from getting anywhere near my goalie. It was late into the 3rd period, I was feeling relieved (cocky, if you will), when out of nowhere the Senators scored. I still had about a minute to convert the tie into a win, but that didn't work. So the game went into overtime once, twice, three times, four times, five times, six times...finally I just gave up. I had to have spent at least 45 minutes at the kiosk, swearing, grunting, moaning and shaking my fist at the screen. There was even a crowd of on lookers behind me. NHL 2K4 hit me hard, but the pain was sensational.
NHL 2K4 played like no other hockey title the show had to offer. EA's NHL game paled in comparison. NHL 2K4 played incredibly well. Looked downright beautiful. And featured some of the best A.I. in a sports game to date. There wasn't a single hint of slowdown and the commentary was always right on the dot. Sega has made much better use of their ESPN license as the game's presentation is far more impressive than any other hockey title. NHL 2K4 is scheduled for a late 2003 release, and by the looks of things, it'll easily end up being the year's best hockey title.
5/18/2003 Arnold Katayev