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NHL 2000 is the latest simulation of the sport of Ice Hockey featuring all of the teams within the National Hockey League, plus 18 top National clubs, 2 All Star teams and the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim.
Putting the player in control of the swiftest and strongest players on the ice, NHL 2000 delivers non-stop hockey action from the first drop of the puck with big hits and sweet fakes that you control. Pick up and play with the tutorial level, or take a team from cellar to Stanley Cup in the new Dynasty mode.
Sound and Vision:
Following the customary live action intro your selected team will line up alongside their opponents for a short introduction as the camera gently pans down from the scoreboard before settling in your chosen position. There are eight angles in which to view the game and an option to switch on the Auto Zoom, Reverse Angle and Auto Replay features.
Early impressions are good but because the players are set against the blinding white background that the ice presents they may first appear a little blurred. To counteract the high-resolution graphics many gamers will need to adjust the TV/monitor brightness and contrast controls until the desired effect is achieved.
There may not be a remarkable change in the graphics over the '99 version but a smarter Artificial Intelligence seems to have been programmed into the players to offer further realism, while the frame rate also appears to have been moved up a few notches.
Once again the polygon figures of the players have been motion captured to create the illusion of real hockey action. Every player has their own squad number texture mapped onto their shirts but they appear to have been involved with a genetic scientist who experiments in cloning, as all team members look identical.
There is little evidence of any movement from the crowd who appear as rows of colored circles contained in regular blocks behind the protective viewing screen. If Playstation 2 lives up to it's dream we should soon be witnessing individual characters wandering through the stadium isles, stuffing burgers and hot-dogs into their faces. But at this point in time we will have to put up with the occasional camera flash against a lifeless backdrop.
The commentary adds tremendously to the big game atmosphere. It's a fast flowing observation of play from ESPN's Bill Clement with each player in possession named and every decision explained. The in-game sound effects are as realistic as you can get with the clattering of sticks, the swish of the skates on the ice, a few grunts and groans as players collide at speed, all backed by the sound of the baying home crowd.
Surely you must have seen a game of Ice Hockey being played before? Each team has five outfield players and a keeper to begin with but rough play can see your team numbers rapidly reduced for timed periods. The game is played on an enclosed ice rink, obviously, and the ball is a puck which the players attack with a hockey stick. The players wear multiple layers of clothing for protection and because it's damn cold, while masks and gloves are worn because it's dangerous.
Multiple gameplay modes are once again available. Quick Start wastes no time and throws you straight into the heat of the action with a one-off game between any two sides from the National Hockey League, International scene, an All Star selection or those Mighty Ducks. Similarly an Exhibition is a single game between any two teams where up to eight players can join in by connecting two multi-taps.
You can play through a 27, 54 or 82 game NHL Season complete with player transactions and stats. When the regular season ends, the top eight teams from each conference move on to the playoffs where the champions will attend an awards ceremony for their gallant effort. If that takes too much time then why not dive straight into the Playoffs in a 1, 3, 5, or 7 game series.
A round-robin Tournament may be set up with up to 16 NHL and national teams to determine the undisputed NHL 2000 champions. For a quick thrill Shootout mode has been included to practice your penalty shots.
All rules may be tampered with allowing the player to virtually customize their own game. Grasping these rules is essential otherwise play will degenerate into a series stop-start frustrations. Veteran gamers may wish to skip the following few paragraphs.
The red line divides the rink into two halves and the two blue lines mark the start of the offensive and defensive zones. Penalties will be called for hooking, slashing, tripping, interference, cross checking, elbowing, holding and for throwing snowballs. Thankfully this can be turned off for a thoroughly enjoyable dirty game.
Offside is called when a player enters the blue offensive zone before the puck does. Thankfully this can be turned off for the goal moochers.
A two line pass is penalized when the puck is passed from the defensive zone to the area past the red centre line without contacting a player, while icing determines whether a puck can be played from the defensive half to the area behind the goal you are attacking. If these are also switched off then you don't need the ref.
During the interval of each quarter your offensive and defensive set ups may be edited to change the flow of play. Getting to grips with this facility is essential as a correct tactical change should alter the course of the game.
As far as gameplay is concerned NHL 2000 is very easy to pick up and play. There are four skill levels ranging from Beginner to All Star. All of the face buttons have a dual function dependant of whether your on the offence or defence. When attacking the press of the appropriate button will allow you to pass, shoot, speed burst or perform a special move. When holding off the opposition the players will hook, block, speed burst/check or sweep/poke. What could be simpler? (Accelerate and brake I suppose). The shoulder buttons are used to adjust line changes or perform an impressive spin move. Don't forget, line changes can be the key to winning or losing games.
If we were honest one of the main reasons for watching the sport of ice hockey is for those inevitable punch ups. Don't give me that garbage about it being a contact sport or the tensions of the players in a red hot atmosphere (hot? It's held at an ice rink). It's downright thuggery... and we love it. When tempers flare the game grinds to a halt and off come the gloves. Two players move in on each other and fight to the death (well, until someone falls on his arse). It may not be Tekken 2 but it all adds to the enjoyment. The anti-boxing brigade can turn off this option at the main menu screen.
In summary, if you are looking for your first Ice Hockey Playstation game then you can do no wrong by picking up a copy of NHL 2000. If you already own last years version then maybe this is a little too similar and should only be purchased if you wish the latest stats and players.
This is a 1 disk game for 1-8 Players (using two multi-taps). It is compatible with the standard (digital) joypad and the analog stick controls of the dual shock joypad. Games can be saved via memory card (1 block per save).
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