NHL Hitz 20-03 is a hockey video game developed by Midway Sports Home Entertainment, Inc. The game was released on Xbox, PlayStation 2, Nintendo GameCube, and also on the Game Boy Advance. The Game Boy Advance version has the possibility of being linked with up to three other systems for four player link up play.
Thanks in large part to its fast-paced, 3-on-3 style of hockey that is rare in other NHL titles, Hitz 20-03 has experienced a steady increase in underground popularity over the years despite being over six years old.
Players have the option of playing three periods in one, two, or three minutes in length. To begin the game, a center, a winger, a defenceman, and a goalie are picked for each team. Prior to each period, substituting the players or simply leaving them in the game is an option.
There is an option for a mercy rule that will end the game as soon as the team reaches the limit of goal differential. As an example, if the mercy rule is set to five, as soon as you lead the game by four goals, you automatically win. It can also be set to one goal, similar to overtime. Another nuance to the game is the option to make players who lose fights leave the game.
The game is also meant to mainly be hard-hitting arcade-style game with wildly exaggerated player movements and actions. For example, you can routinely check people through the glass and into the stands, but won't stop play. Also, goalies can actually stick-handle the puck around, and take a shot on the other net, sometimes scoring.
Also, the rosters are shortened to mainly starters and fan favorites (such as Tie Domi and Bob Probert), with far fewer free agents.
There are also many mini-games to play.
The tournament is to complete goals in the game to get experience points, which are like stat points. When you win more, you get better equipment, like sticks for accuracy and power, goalie pads for better rebound control, and more. You create a team with the goal of joining the NHL. You start off picking the team, logo, etc. then create seven players. As you progress, beating teams will result in the teams getting harder, but at the same time your team will improve too. When you start winning games, three more players will eventually ask to join the team, and you can customize them. There are eight rounds with 5-6 teams in each one around the globe. In the last few rounds, you'll face NHL teams and players and will be awarded with the trophy if you emerge victorious. You are faced with a worldwide quest, taking on teams internationally in places such as Brooklyn, Maui, Monte Carlo, Stockholm, and Montego Bay.
Like most other NHL games, a season mode is available. If the player-controlled team qualifies for them, a full playoff schedule will begin. This time, however, there are more individual awards made by the creators. There are also end-of-season awards created by the makers of the game, such as trophies for the player who wins the most fights or delivered the most hits.
NHL Hitz 20-03's popularity has steadily increased despite being over seven years old. Due to its "pick up and play" controls and fluid graphics, many gamers and bars have formed private leagues years since the games release. Uniform league rules include a four goal mercy rule which allows for a more fast-paced and frantic gameplay. With its increasing popularity amongst hardcore gamers and casual gamers, the game has become increasingly difficult to obtain. Used copies of the game found on eBay are becoming increasingly difficult to find and have been steadily increasing in value, although you could get lucky and find it cheap in a used games bin and your local game store.
Chris Pronger is the cover athlete of NHL Hitz 20-03. The game includes a 'making-of' video showing the game programmers capturing Pronger's likeness and movements for the game.
In the opening clip, the song playing is called "Bombshell" by Powerman 5000. The soundtrack boasts an eclectic line-up of musicians, including Incubus, Drowning Pool, Rob Zombie, Moby, Hoobastank, and the Zambonis.