Actua Soccer and Golfing games have steadily improved over the years
and it's from this platform of experience that Gremlin prepare to
launch a new range of sporting titles in the coming months,
beginning with Actua Ice Hockey.
Ice Hockey will be the official Ice Hockey game for the 1998 Nagano
Winter Olympics. As such it will be the only game to feature the
full competition recreated in its entirety. Using all the real
players from the qualifying teams, plus some of the teams that
didn't quite make it: (a little artistic licence was needed to
include Gt. Britain).
players strips are so bright and rich in color that it would be
impossible to confuse opposing team members with your own. This is
not just reds against whites but individual squads with dark hose,
blue hoops, black numbers and their names emblazoned across their
shoulders. Even the referee is accurately represented.
The winners of the British championship play-offs, the Sheffield
Steelers provided the technical advice after being motion-captured
for the game. Chris Kelland - former England Captain and an
instrumental part of the Sheffield Steelers - provided most of the
captures due to his versatility and ability to play almost anywhere
on the ice. Piero Greco provided the net -minding honors and an
assortment of hockey officials, completed the captures to provide
the most lifelike animations possible. This was all made possible
thanks to the latest 10 camera motion analysis system which allows a
larger capture area and more body mass to be covered by reflective
markers. This is the only one of its kind in Europe, and indeed one
of only two in the world. Without the ten camera system, the motion
capture of ice hockey would be impossible. It is the most advanced
system in the world.
There are also many captivating 3D effects which3D effects include
real time shadows, fogging, solid external objects courtesy of the
32-bit Z buffer, smooth shading, translucency and bilinear
filtering, which eliminates pixilation.
On the down side there are only five camera angles to select from
and none of them capture the action perfectly. Close up was fine for
studying the detailed graphics but useless for actually playing the
game as even the player in control of the puck sometimes skates out
of shot. Sideline and Goaline views are playable with the Isometric
angle seeming the best on offer. Perhaps Gremlin should have
borrowed a few from Actua Golf.
of play include a 1-4 player friendly game between any two selected
teams, Practice, an Olympic Tournament and a Custom Tournament.
The Olympic Tournament consists of the top 20 nations who attempted
to qualify for this years Nagano Games in Japan. The competition is
played over sixteen days with the objective to grasp that elusive
Gold medal. Not all of the teams begin the competition at the same
time as this depends on their seeding within the world rankings. The
teams that failed to reach this years Olympic Games are available
for selection but you must attempt to change the course of history
and compete in a preliminary round before facing the cream of the
Alternatively you may decide to randomize the draw which will
ignore the current rankings of each team and create a fantasy draw
for the competition. This can be repeated until you feel satisfied
with the final outcome. Once decided the preliminary round consists
of two groups of four teams who compete against each other. The
winning teams of each group will advance onto the final stages.
The Final Round involves two groups of teams with three seeded
teams in each and one qualifier. Once again all teams must play
against each other and the final four go on to play off for the
Gold, Silver and Bronze medals.
There is also an option to create and compete in your own custom
league or cup competition using between 2 and 20 teams.
Once the game is underway the action becomes fast and furious.
Passing is accurate, shooting is powerful and the CPU controlled
team offers a fitting challenge.
The inevitable fighting scenes are a joke with the gamer having no
say in the outcome. Play suddenly grinds to a halt and two players
begin waving their arms around until one of them falls over.
Ice Hockey holds the official licence and format of the 1998 Nagano
Winter Olympics. It has fully motion captured players and officials
and ambient realism. Overall this is a worthy first effort from
Gremlin that is definately worth checking out.
still believe that NHL 98 is presently the best ice hockey game
available on the PSX but this is a good first effort from Gremlin
which has scope for improvement, should a follow up appear next