Review by Atlas
"Dated, but still good"
I'm not going to elaborate much on this game early on, because we all know what it's about, trading, shifting and playing your way to Lord Stanley's cup. I don't know if there's a glowing puck option, but you shouldn't need it.
Ok, this was a really fast, smooth running game, except in a few areas. Your goaltender has two methods of dumping the puck, a low shot/pass, and the high, CuJoesque flick, but I have no idea how to choose one or the other. Another flawed area is the fighting, there's a lack of options, no jerseying, no body shots etc., there are only two punches. Also, when goaltending it still has the classic 'stop' and 'poke check' controls, sorry...no selecting your manoeuvre in this game. My biggest problem is the line changes, if you choose 'manual' you highlight a line, and wait, and wait, and wait until the set time elapses, this is a real pain between stoppages. The computer's selection of lines is also flawed, in that it wont send out checking against line 1, it will match your line 1 with their checking though and so on, also, you cannot change defence separately. The last area I hated was that, there's no character development, and no second season, it's one season, and it's over. I liked working up worse players into superstars, and that's not available. Don't think this is a bad game though, it's still an 8/10, I'm just trying to be really specific, but the line change thing is annoying, so is the goalie flip. Oh yeah, trying to lay down some hip checks gets a little buggy sometimes.
Hockey Semantics 10/10:
This game understands how hockey works, the player ratings are accurate enough, and it does something amazing with the players, the game realizes that the image of superstars is bloated. If you go to create a character and emulate Ed Belfour, although he has a 96 rating, there are only 88 rating points available, so if you know what you're doing, you can make some awesome trades. Also there is only one cheap trick to score goals (not pulling the goalie and switching controls back), the rest of the time, the best strategy is cycling the point, left wing, repeat until you get an opening (or too much pressure), and a potential deflection. Tips are awesome, just like in reality. It also includes goaltender endurance effectively; most goalies have a weak spot, which will be enhanced if you bombard him. Those are two examples, but your coaching choices actually work now, and you get a nice selection of formations...even the trap. Dumping the puck is also included effectively, but the momentum meter gets out of hand. It also allows complete customization of difficulty, and gameplay, there are still beginner, rookie, pro, all-star, but now you can change things like overall player speed, % of speed bursts, fatigue, aggression, fall recovery, accuracy, and more. Also once you're about to start the game, you can tinker with difficulty (rookie, all-star mode changes computer awareness and A.I, not ability). You can alter each team's player ability, and goalie ability, separately. So, if you're good at scoring, but not deking, you can turn your skill up, the computer skill down, and raise the computer goalie skill.
Bunk, but not distractingly bunk. The volume is always funny, and it's not exciting.
It's nice, but it doesn't really capture the mood of what it's like to be on the ice, when skates carve, it's too dull, and the crowd cheering isn't violent enough, but the hits sound good, and so do the shots. Each sound is a little too dull though. The taunts are done fairly well too, not even close to a real hockey taunt, but it can and will annoy your human opponents.
Ok, it's not Bob Cole, Harry Neale, Kelly Hrudey, or Ron MacLean calling the game, and there is no 'coaches corner' with Don Cherry, but they do an alright job. What they say gets muddled occasionally, when a goal is scored, they might say the goalie tried to get his blocker on it, even if it went high trapper off a one-timer etc. There are a lot of little trivia things hidden throughout the game, like Tie Domi's hero being Tiger Williams, or when Mogilny played with Federov and Bure.
The only beef I have with this, is that there aren't enough buttons to perform every one of the manoeuvres. They let you customize your own controller, and add 3-4 extra moves, so you don't have a wasted button. Where it lost points was the line change, and the goalie dump, and although you CAN tip the puck, you can't order it if you're the shooter, but that's ok.
These are really, really nice. 90% of the time the goalie will actually get the puck in the trapper, instead of the arm...sweet. There are some glitches, where the puck will travel clean through the goalie's jersey, and when you take a shot, you'll never, ever touch the puck, but that's only distracting on replays. Replays are annoying because they try to do the matrix effect each time, but you can skip them, so no harm done. The plexiglass shakes really nicely, but it shakes in Colorado, and everybody knows the glass in Colorado moves about 1cm and always causes injuries, but you can't expect them, to include that kind of realism.
Now, this was a great game, and I'd have loved to give it a higher rating, but I felt really shafted when I found out that I couldn't continue from season to season. Sports games are all about replay value, but when I can't improve players (besides hot streaks), it really feels like the game is missing something. Also the line change time really does get annoying when you want to cycle your own lines. I was required to give this a 7, the gameplay is great, but next year's is better, and the one after that will be too.
So, summarily, this is the best hockey game for the ps2 in the year 2002, by a landslide.
Who rents a hockey game? Buy this...or NHL 2002, or wait until October and get 2003, but it seems that the 'NHL' series will maintain its stranglehold on the quality of console hockey.
Reviewer's Score: 7/10 | Originally Posted: 07/22/02, Updated 07/22/02
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