After a few games, you should finally be able to handle the puck in a less-embarrassing fashion. All of the trademark Blitz features are here -- a turbo button that when pressed will increase your speed; the famous spin move (to help avoid losing the puck); three-symbol code combinations, etc. Hitz also has some unique features not available in any other game: Fantasy Arenas (including a Resident Evil-inspired graveyard, a coliseum, the inside of an alien ship and many, many more); and Championship and Exhibition modes that reward the player with credits that can be used to purchase fantasy arenas, classic NHL jerseys, fantasy teams, new heads for the Franchise mode, etc. The variety is unprecedented. It puts Electronic Arts’ fantasy sports games -- including NBA Street -- to shame.
The controls are excellent. Passing from one player to the next is a breeze, so long as an opponent doesn’t get in the puck’s way. The control setup is very simple, allowing players of all skills to be able to jump right in and enjoy a game of NHL Hitz without practicing a lot first. On the offense and defense, X passes and selects a player; square shoots and stick checks; hitting triangle executes a deke - spin; and finally, circle guards the puck on the offense, and pressing it on the defense executes my favorite move -- the body check! L1 and R1 are your turbo buttons, while L2 causes the crowd to cheer (good for when you feel like you’re going to score) and R2 will make the crowd boo (good for when the other team scores). Don’t let Hitz’s simplicity fool you though: it’s going to take a lot more than a powerful slapshot and decent passing skills to score on Patrick Roy.
The visuals in NHL Hitz are just as impressive as the gameplay. The crowd will especially catch your eye, moving with great fluidity when they cheer, boo and hold up signs with codes written on them (that can be entered just before a game begins for unlimited turbo, big heads, show puck speed, etc.). The players themselves look terrific -- Steve Yzerman of the Detroit Red Wings is immediately recognizable, as are the rest of the NHL players.
NHL Hitz’s soundtrack suits the game’s style well. I admit that Limp Bizkit isn’t one of my favorite bands, but when the intro began and ’Rollin’ started playing, I really got into it. Staind’s ’Mudshovel’ rocks just as much as it did when it came out two years ago and the lyrics perfectly match the rivalry between the teams. I hope they include Matchbox Twenty’s ’Push’ in NHL Hitz 20-03...
Needless to say, everything about NHL Hitz is fun! To give you an example as to how fun, let me put it this way: ICO is sitting on my desk, and yet I avoided playing it to spend more time with Hitz. ICO, in case you didn’t know, is one of the best games of the year! As is Hitz, and deciding which to play is tough, but as usual, Midway’s classic won me over.
Whether you’re a fan of hockey or not, you absolutely must play NHL Hitz. The multiplayer mode (up yo six players with a multi-tap!) will keep you busy for many, many months to come, and when your friends aren’t around, the Championship, Franchise, Hockey Shop, Skills and Custom Player modes will make sleep look trivial, and every moment with Hitz the most exciting part of your day. Let’s hope a Game Boy Advance version isn’t too far away.