Review by Stevens4

"Best NHL Game To Date, But Could Be Better"

I may not be the best person to review an NHL game. Not because I do not follow the ''Coolest Game On Ice'', but, instead, am a rabid fan of ice hockey. So, why does this make me a potentially bad reviewer? Probably because the things I look for in a hockey game are things most casual gamers can overlook. When I play, I want to feel like I'm on the ice. Basically, I want my video game to capture the ''true'' NHL experience.

I am pleased to report that EA satisfies my needs, if not completely, but definitely, adequately. Some of my review will reference NHL2k for the DC, as that was my favorite next-gen system hockey game (and I stress ''was''...). So, let's start with the good.

My favorite thing about this game is that I can actually lose a game! I know, that may sound strange, but after playing every hockey game on the market for the past 10 years, it's nice to not beat every team 15-2 every time the puck drops. I have read some posts and reviews with people saying the game is too easy and this may be the case if you play on Rookie mode and not adjust the AI sliders, but after following some of the suggestions posted on the message board, I am proud to report I get realistic hockey scores in my games. This may turn off the gamer who picks up a hockey game and enjoys playing ''NHL JAM'', but people who buy hockey games FOR hockey, will like these settings.

Other positives include the presence of the National teams to play against. Nice to have a chance to take Team Canada on a world tour and attempt to capture the gold medal. The extra touches also were appreciated. Things like a smooth ice surface at the beginning of a period and turns into a ''cloudy'' surface by the time the horn blows, the captain's ''C'' and alternate captain's ''A'' on the player's jerseys, the player's number on the back of their helmet, and the way the glass bends when you check some poor guy with all you have are wonderful. The game also knows hockey rules, unlike NHL2k; offsides and icing are called correctly, face-offs are where they should be, etc.

Now, for the negatives. None of these ruin the game, but their omission prevents me from calling this game truly perfect. First, I really do not care for any of the camera angles from which you can choose to play. NHL2k did a much better job keeping you on top of the action and switching to a wider shot when necessary. My camera angle of choice is the ''classic cam'', but it makes the goal towards the top of the screen seem too distant. As good as the player models are, I like NHL2k's better. While NHL2k omitted some jersey lettering, their players were larger and a little more crisp. EA has always made their players a little small and I think this may be an attempt to make the rinks seem larger. Not a bad idea, but it's a waste of superbly detailed jerseys when you have a hard time just reading the numbers on the back. The arenas could be better as well. While the ice surfaces are close to being true to their respective arenas, the arena itself is the same for every team. It's nice to see the distinct architecture for each venue, but again, EA has always left this out from the NHL series. They can get NFL stadiums down to perfection, but not NHL arenas. The checking animations and accompanying sounds are too ''cartoony'' and lend an unnecessary arcade feel to the game. I've watched many a hockey game and have yet to see an NHL player flip head over heels while a giant ''WHOOOOOSH'' sound is heard. Finally, fighting is completely useless. Ooo, I can press the square button repeatedly... just doesn't do justice to a good hockey throw-down.

Like I said, the above negatives are probably considered trivial by most and they do not affect game play in a negative fashion. They are simply items that would make this game the ultimate NHL experience. Bottom line, this is the best hockey game to date for any system and includes elements that can be appreciated by everyone from the casual fan to fellow NHL die-hard supporters.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 03/18/01, Updated 03/18/01

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