Hands-onNHL 2K3

We check out a 70-percent-complete build of Sega's upcoming hockey game.

We had a chance to check out a roughly 70-percent-complete version of NHL 2K3 at today's Sega Sports Summit in New York. The game is being developed by Treyarch and produced by Visual Concepts for the GameCube, PlayStation 2, and Xbox, and it's aiming to make significant improvements on the last entry in the series, which appeared on the Dreamcast. The game is set to offer enhanced visuals and tweaked gameplay, and the Xbox version of the game will feature online play.

NHL 2K3 will feature quite a bit of new content and a number of gameplay enhancements. The ESPN license will be used in the player introductions, game highlights, replays, score windows, and other aspects of the game's presentation. A new franchise mode will let you create your own team and develop it into a successful organization by taking on a variety of team roles such as general manager, coach, scout, and player. Die-hard fans will be pleased to find that each player will now be rated in 50 different categories in order to better mimic their real-life counterparts. The game's control is also being refined to let players set and customize their team's lines on the fly. Additionally, goalies will be able to switch to any stance while defending without having to go to a transitional stance before changing. The AI is being tweaked to ensure that teammates feature better play execution during a game. For example, defensive teams may employ traps and zones, while faster teams will use a more wide-open style. During a game, it will also be possible to pin an opponent against the wall and steal the puck, and you'll now be able to shoot a loose puck, both of which should add a bit more realism to the game. Furthermore, the series' physics engine is being tweaked to make puck movement more realistic, and a number of improved international teams are being included in the game in the game to offer an additional challenge for players who have conquered the NHL.

Graphically, NHL 2K3 is being groomed to offer an improved visual experience with a host of new details. You'll find more than 30 arenas in the game, including a legends arena and an international ice rink. You'll also see dynamic lighting and reflections on the ice, different uniform fabrics (you'll have a choice of three jerseys for each team), decals, and even different ice textures. As far as the different versions are concerned, they all looked comparable despite their unfinished state. The only differences that stood out were slight variances in the quality of the reflections and lighting in each version. Beyond that, the game ran smoothly on all three consoles at 60 frames per second. In terms of the game's audio presentation, the commentary in the game is being worked on to offer better situational analysis and awareness.

We also had the chance to try the online component of Xbox version, which, while rough in places, worked well. As with NFL 2K3, the game will support the various Xbox Live features, such as quickplay, voice chat, and voice masking. At the moment, the robot voice is the only voice mask available.

NHL 2K3 is set to ship for all three consoles this November. Look for more on the game in the coming months.

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