'97 was graphically one of the finest sports titles produced with
the polygon players being motion captured to create an illusion of a
realistic ice hockey game. The rest of the package was presented in
a tidy format from the smooth FMV intros to the television quality
Now EA SPORTS presents NHL '98 with a brand new game engine
that generates fast, transitional, NHL-style gameplay that gets you
off the bench and into the action like no other sports game.
Marc Crawford, Colorado Avalance Coach and Stanley Cup
Champion, teamed up with EA SPORTS to devise and implement unrivaled
NHL coaching schemes - from powerplays to penalty killing,
fore-checking to back-checking, and true offensive and defensive
strategies you can change on-the-fly.
'98 is a simulation of the sport of Ice Hockey. The game features
all 26 teams within the National Hockey League, 18 top National
clubs, 2 All Star teams and 2 Custom teams. 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.
FMV intros are anything to go by then EA Sports have certainly got
"Are you willing to compete with your body?" booms
"Gotta problem with a boney?
Would you stop a speeding bullet?
Are you afraid of the masked man?
Come on - bring 'em on!
Think you gotta game?"
The intro then rips into a non-stop barrage of live footage
featuring some of the worlds top players in action. Shots, stops,
shoulder charging, near misses and the inevitable punch ups, all
backed by thunderous heavy rock music. All this is culminated by the
scoreboard exploding into flames. Man, this game is won before the
Before each game the teams line up for a short introduction as
the camera glides 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 feature.
The graphics are now unbelievably smoother than the '97 edition
while a smarter Artificial Intelligence has been programmed into the
players to offer added realism. The polygon players have once again
been motion captured to create the illusion of real hockey action.
Every player has their own names and numbers texture mapped onto
their shirts but they appear to have been involved with that genetic
scientist who experiments in cloning as their unshaven features are
once again identical.
game commences with a brief rendition of the National anthem for the
teams taking part. The rest of the music follows the example of the
intro being a selection of heavy rock tunes. The excitement this
generates is splendid and it's all presented in Dolby Surround.
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. The commentary is much more detailed
than last years NHL effort with each player in possession named and
every decision explained.
far as gameplay is concerned NHL '97 is a very easy game to pick up
and play. 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 your opponents advances the
players will hook, block, speed burst/check or sweep/poke. What
could be more simpler? Accelerate and brake I suppose. The shoulder
buttons are used to adjust your strategic pattern or simply alter
the camera line. Don't forget, line changes can be the key to
winning or losing games.
Multiple gameplay modes are once again available. Exhibition is
a single game between any two teams. Up to eight player can play in
this mode by connecting two multi-taps.
You can play through a 25 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
Stanley Cup Playoffs in a 1, 3, 5, or 7 game series.
A round-robin Tournament may be set up with 44 NHL and national
teams to determine the undisputed NHL '98 champions.
For a quick thrill Shootout mode has been included to practice
your penalty shots.
First you must grasp the rules of the game otherwise play will
degenerate into a series stop-start frustrations. 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 probably 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
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.
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 crap 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 I 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 then). It may not be Tekken 2 but it's fun all the same.
The anti-boxing brigade can turn off this option at the main menu
more can I say? Yet another ice hockey sequel hits the already
packed shelves to confuse the regular punter. Who am I to say which
one you should chose, as all tastes are different. All I can say is
that NHL '98 equals the best out there in gameplay and pips them all
with that splendid intro.
Sports have got their act together with this sound ice hockey sim.
Excellent graphics, quite good sound and commentary, all of the
skill levels, stats, play options, and team rosters you could want
and Oooh, that intro. If there was one obvious flaw in the whole
game it was the after goal celebrations went on a little too long,
especially when it was the opposing team dancing around in delight.