Replay Value: 8.9
Developer: Blackbox Games
The 3rd party most notable for their extreme interpretations of videogames such as Mortal Kombat and NBA Jam, is continuing to do what they do best: make more extreme titles. Practically synonymous with the word extreme (Tony Hawk of course being the exception), Midway has brought us the amazing NFL Blitz, NBA Jam, Mortal Kombat, San Francisco Rush, Crusin' series and all of its counterparts, Hydro Thunder, Ready 2 Rumble, and now NHL Hitz 2002! We all have a fascination with escaping reality, and granted that is what videogames are for, but it seems that extreme sports titles have become more popular than ever. For those who've played -and enjoyed- EA's NHL Rock the Rink will absolutely feast on NHL Hitz 2002. The concept is of course already self-explanatory, so here goes the full review.
Honestly, I was not expecting great visuals from NHL Hitz 2002; decent, yes. Great, no. But in turn that's what I got. NHL Hitz 2002 features some extremely good athletic detail, with some very fluid player motions. Every skater in the rink looks and moves absolutely smoothly, and in many cases realistically as well. The players are composed of high numbers of polygons and it shows. The bodies on every athlete look excellent, as they really look as if they have padding underneath the jerseys. Additional detail, such as facial detail, is a noticeable trait as well. The frame rate is a very important aspect in any sports game, and NHL titles are no exception. Hitz' frame rate is 100% consistent. Since there are only 8 (two goalies and six forwards) in the rink, the frame rate never boggles and always manages to keep the action tidy of any slide-shows. The backgrounds are composed of very minimal extras. Altogether one arena consists of about 100 spectators, which isn't really saying much, but after all this is an arcade game. Additionally, the arenas are fully polygonal, which means you won't be seeing any sprite based spectators, but don't expect anything spectacular, though. Overall, tight visual presentation with some great eye-candy effects to boot.
The premise of Hitz is extremely simple. It's a 4-on-4 hockey title that has 3 forwards and a goalie per team. For those who've played previous extreme sports titles by Midway, you know exactly what to expect from the gameplay. There are no rules, just brutal cross checking hell! NHL Hitz is a blast from the start. It opens with an FMV sequence showing some amazing NHL highlight reels, while Limp Bizkit's "Rollin'" accompanies the video. Instantly, you are greeted with an adrenaline rush and the gameplay does live up to keep it alive. The biggest difference between NHL Rock the Rink and Hitz 2002 is that Rock the Rink starts you off with fantasy teams, but Hitz doesn't really have any. Hit for hit, you'd think you were playing NHL Rock the Rink 2, I sure felt like I was. Blackbox has developed a wonderful PS2 title. There are a variety of modes and options, so it's unlikely that gamers will feel claustrophobic in terms of variation. Fortunately, Blackbox has included multi-player support for up to 6 players. So if you've got a multitap, go ahead and use it with NHL Hitz 2002! Chances are you will love Hitz 2002; it's a fantastic game that will provide hours of countless fun. After having witnessed the horror that was NBA Hoopz, I was skeptical of whether or not Midway would be able to redeem itself. Thankfully, they did.
While the commentary isn't much, I still found it to be pretty good for a game that doesn't quite need it. The same commentator that Midway has been using for NFL Blitz and NBA Jam is used in NHL Hitz, and he sounds every bit as energetic as he did in his previous titles. The commentary is quite varied but don't expect thousands of different phrases or color commentary, play-by-play is as much as you get. The bone crunching sound effects are all there, as well as the arena noises for the home and away teams. There isn't much in this category, but Blackbox did a good job with it nonetheless.
NHL Hitz 2002 controls like a dream. Much like NFL Blitz, Hitz' controls are purely arcade and take absolutely no time to get a hold of. What I love most about hockey games these days is their analog control. EA's newest NHL games had it, Sony's last Faceoff (PSX) title had it, Rock the Rink had it, and now Hitz has it too. Maneuvering the athletes takes absolutely little skill, with the rotation of the analog you will make the puck handler spin and fake out the opponent. The face buttons and the shoulder buttons all have use; whether its turbo or a defensive puck trick, every button is key to achieving better performance on the ice. Tight controls, nobody should worry about getting used to it.
If NHL 2002's simulation gameplay doesn't appeal to you, and you're looking for a more bone crunching, heavy on action, fun as hell hockey experience, NHL Hitz is the game you must have in your library. It's great as a single-player game, and amazing as a party title. Invite 5 friends, get 6 PS/PS2 controllers and play for hours. The progressive types will be pleased to find a season mode, in addition to an exhibition mode. Visual wise, Hitz is a solid looking hockey game with some polygon heavy player detail. This is surely a game that arcade junkies will be playing months from now. I know I will.