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Developer Gremlin Options
Distributer Gremlin 1-4 Player
Game Type Sports Sim Memory Card
Review Date March 1998 Analog Compatible
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Setting the Scene
The 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.

Actua 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).

Sound & Vision
The 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.

Modes 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 crop.
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.
Value for Money
Actua 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.

GRAPHICS: 16/20 I 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 year.
SOUND: 7/10
VALUE: 15/20

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