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Ice hockey, though not a huge sport in the UK, is massive Stateside and in mainland Europe. Some developers have taken it upon themselves to at least give us Brits a video game version. Few have surpassed Electronic Arts' efforts in this department, but Midway's NHL Hitz series remains its closest rival, and new for the 2003 winter season is NHL Hitz Pro on Xbox.
The third Hitz game for the Xbox, NHL Hitz Pro boasts the usual set of improvements and gameplay tweaks. It's the best looking attempt from Midway on Xbox so far, with clean, crisp textures, convincing venues, superbly animated players and excellent commentary.
Other improvements have been made to gameplay and play options, and there are lots of them. First, there's a new season mode boasting the obligatory update of teams and stadia, as well as a new 5-on-5 match game.
There's also an upgraded franchise mode - effectively a management mode - in which players are free to build a dynasty and look after all aspects of their team. You'll be able to draft and trade players, form offensive and defensive game strategies and determine which of your players are left sat on the bench. And once you've done all that, you're free to play their matches too.
And last but not least, Hitz Pro plays host to an all new online mode in which gamers can compete head-to-head, participate in online tournaments and even rate themselves in the online player rankings.
Hitz Pro is simply an update, like virtually every other sports title released as part of a series, but it's a good update, and the addition of online play makes it well worth a look.