NHL 2003 has been on store shelves for a few days now, some people may have this game, others may not, and some may be thinking about it. I have been a fan of the NHL Series since the first incarnation in 92. I still love playing those first three(92,93,94) they are often more fun to play then their most recent sequels. This year we see many updates to the game, some you may not notice at first, but they make the game much better, Infact I think this is the best hockey game I have ever played..It is the best hockey game I have ever played.. I love it. I first pick this game up thursday afternoon, played it and wasn't quite sure what to think, it looks like 2002, but plays differently, It was harder, more refined, and more precise, after spending many hour with the game, it grew on me, A Lot. My favortie additon is the newly customizable dekes, You can do this with the right analog stick and pressing it to shoot. I have been playing hockey for over 18 years now, and one thing I havent seen In a game is the ability to actually deke the goalie. This feature was first implemented last year by pressing the trianle button and going left or right with the d pad, but you couldnt really deke the goalie, it was more useful in open ice situations. It has now been revamped and works much better then last year, there is still room for improvement however, which I look forward to next year. be warned though, you will not master this in a game or two, you need to pratice, once you do get good at it, you will see there is nothing like pulling the puck across the creese and right in the top shelf as the goalie trys to stop it, very cool. Speaking of the goalies, wow, what a change. The react more lifelike then ever before, all new animations, desperation saves, the goalies are just a lot better then they were before and they look better to. The AI is now much more difficult. No more easy goals, no more walking through the whole team, and I am not talking about playing on easy. if you play the game on difficult you may find the game very challenging, at least I know I have. while playing a game with colorado versus the Wings I won 1-0 with a Deke by joe sakic with minutes to go in the third, I replayed the game and lost 2-1 the second game with shanahan dekeing Roy on a breakaway early in the Third. I have found it very hard to get more then 2/3 goals, maybe its how I play, but this year seems so much tighter then last year. You won't go walking around everyone with your dekes either, the computers D will steal and intercept the puck creating rushes the other way, and watching the computer walk in and deke your goalie to a goal just adds insult to injury. I love the gameplay in this game, its continues to grow to the hockey game I want to play. The only adjustment needed was the game speed, which I slide up to the second to the highest level. The fighting in the game is horrible. Its not the button masher it was last year, it is much slower, it really doesn't add anything and I find myself waiting to get back into the game. Soemthing that is cool now is that the computer won't fight you until you throw th first punch, so don't go lookign for a roughing penalty while the comp gets a fighting, its not going to happen. Another new addition is the Gamebreaker feature. Its a nice little addition, if it is to arcadey, turn it off. You gain points by perfroming dekes, and when you finally use it the game speed slows down a little allowing you more time to perform a deke or so on, it adds a little, but more likely then not I found myself not using it, if I did it was once or twice a game. The breakaway cam is in the game again and that can be turned of as well, I think it just gets anoying with some of the camera angles you get stuck with. The camera is another thing, you have action, which is real close, ice and classic, which basically look the same, I wish there was more of a gap between action and classic, the ice view is just to close to the classic view. I play with the action view because I like to be able to see where I am dekeing an so forth. The one spot where this game really falls short is in its extras(modes and so forth) The only modes of play are exhibiton, international, franchise, and playoffs. Why can't EA give the NHL series the same kind of attention the Madden series gets when it comes to extras. I know sega will be coming out with NHl 2K3 this year and it will probably have a full franchise mode and all other extras like all their games, I hope this competition motivates EA to add some modes, competition hasn't hurt the madden series. Where is the Shootout and Practice modes, no Mini camp? no preseason? no scouting rookies? 10 year max franchise, Madden has a 30 year max, whats up with that? Where are the classic teams? There are a few classic jerseys, but shouldn't they all be included, the Quebecc Away is in there, but not a sign of a North Stars jersey, I dunno why this is, maybe it has to do with liscensing, but EA needs to step up and give the same detail to the NHL series as its Madden series. The play by play is good, the color guy can get anoying, they can both be turned off for on ice sounds. You get mono, stereo, pro logic, or DTS sound, some decent EA tracks songs, Creat a player, Creat a teams, trades, player cards, Goal dances and all that stuff we have seen for years. In the end, the gameplay was the major rehaul this year. i love it, Much better then last year, the comp is comptetive at its highest setting and it is a fun game to play. No online is a bummer for those who are all about it, I am not a big fan, more of a head to head/person to person player, i like to look the enemy in the eye, not have him pause the game to try and get me to turn off my system so his ranking can go up.... scores out of 10 graphics 9/10 nice animations, nothing to noticable over last year, still looks good. Gameplay 9.5/10 the best version I have played so far. you need to spend some time with it, once you learn the dekes its a lotta fun even with the low scores.. Sound 8/10 Commentary is good, color guy is anoying, in game sounds are good, shots ring off the posts nicely. Nice EA tracks songs. Extras 5/10 Exhibtion/Franchise/Playoff/International modes No mini camp, practice, or shootout modes. Some classic team jerseys missing, not getting the attention the madden series gets. presentation 7/10 not as good as madden or NCAA for that matter, but it gets the job done. Lasting Appeal 9/10 If you live and die hockey you may be playing this one until your fingers get blisters. Overall 9/10 Would be a lot lower if I didnt love the gameplay so much for lack of extras and modes. let me know what everyone thinks about this game and the reveiw.