Generally favorable reviews - based on 12 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 8 out of 12
  2. Negative: 0 out of 12
  1. You can’t really go wrong with this one.
  2. What accounts for the less-than-perfect score is the extreme amount of tweaking it takes to get everything just the way you like it.
  3. 90
    You know this gameplay: There’s been a lot of excellent tuning but no mammoth overhauls.
  4. 87
    This year's game just maintains at the status quo level. True, that's a high level, but it isn't the marked improvement we were hoping for.
  5. There is room for improvement in execution of strategy and AI but it looks great, sounds great and is fun to play.
  6. There are only a few improvements to help distinguish it from NHL 2002, but these changes further increase the realism of what is considered the best hockey simulation on the market.
  7. It's everything you'd expect from NHL 2003, except - isn't it time you expected more? [Dec 2002, p.133]
  8. The Game Breaker special shots are, frankly, corny; and the Dynamic Dekes are just too hard to control. [Nov 2002, p.142]
  9. There's just enough innovation here to warrant spending another 50 clams, but only if you're a die-hard fan of the series. [Winter 2002, p.105]
  10. The realistic puck physics and new goalie animations are the best additions, but certainly do not make up for the cheap computer A.I. and the Swiss cheese defense.
  11. It’s not sim enough to match up with Sega’s offering, and Midway has a faster, more fun arcade hockey game in NHL Hitz.
  12. As always, the graphics in NHL 2003 are exceptional, especially on the Xbox. There were times when I thought I was watching an actual hockey game. [Nov 2002, p.88]

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