As the saying goes, 'Another day, another dollar'. Another year,
another sports sim. So why should 1998 be any different? NHL
Powerplay Hockey '98 is the latest addition to the ever growing
catalogue of Playstation sports games.
The original Powerplay Hockey game was fairly sluggish and
possibly more suited to the novice player. It was relatively easy to
pick-up-and-play but the tasty graphics were spoilt by the fact that
it was difficult to see who had control of the puck - which rather
defeated the object of the game. It also lacked the abundance of
options and stats which fill out every other sporting title and
failed to include the obligatory punch ups that add a bit of realism
to ice hockey games.
This years offering is a vast improvement in both graphic and
gameplay departments making for a more playable and enjoyable
experience, but would it satisfy the craving of a public who have
already witnessed the irresistible NHL 98 from EA Sports? Let's see.
Powerplay 98, in case you haven't already gathered, is a simulation
of the sport of Ice Hockey. The game features all 26 teams within
the National Hockey League and a selection of top International
squads. 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, with the idea being to smack a small puck into the
opponents goal more times than they can score in yours.
Powerplay 98 has certainly moved up a few notches on the visual
side. When the motion captured players first take to the ice and
skate off to their allocated positions each action looks mighty
impressive. Once again their reactions and movements are quite
realistic, especially when two players collide sending one, or both,
sprawling head first across the icy surface. Rather than leap back
onto their feet they gradually drag themselves up taking a few
seconds to regain their senses.
The speed of the game has been vastly improved but not to the
point where the realism of the sport is lost. It takes a second or
two for the players to gather momentum (even with the speed button
firmly pressed down) and although pushing the left and right
directional buttons offers an instant reaction as they weave through
the defence, a sudden 360° reversal will see the player
overshoot the mark, grind to a halt and then he must slowly build up
speed to catch up with play. This will be acceptable to those who
have got off their backsides and ventured on to an ice rink, while
those who do not understand the physics involved may call this
sluggish. The increase in speed from last years offering has had a
slight effect on the look of the players as they now have a slight
grainy appearance. Not enough to cause confusion as their strips are
easily identifiable, so are the squad numbers on the back of their
shirts, but it is noticeable.
The smooth scrolling, cool blue ice rink is accurately set out
with the red and blue lines that highlight the zones having a misty
edge to them that gives them a slightly melting appearance. The
player in possession is highlighted by a brightly colored circle at
their feet while the opposition in control bears a dull grey
Thankfully this years offering makes use of more intelligent
camera positions. The standard tracking view should be suitable for
most players but an in-game option is included should you feel the
urge to tamper with the visual settings.
A replay mode is available for use at anytime during or after
play and the use of the fast forward and rewind controls allow you
to check out individual players performances and abilities.
there has been little change with the sound effects. Once again
there is no big name commentator to report on the action, however
there is a stadium announcer who keeps you informed on certain
aspects of play. The noise from the crowd is a constant roar which
seems more of a background fill-in rather than a creation of
atmosphere and is only interrupted by the occasional few bars from
the stadium organ. There's the clatter of hockey sticks, the
scraping of blades on ice and the occasional sound of the referees
whistle but that's about it.
hockey gamers can generally be placed in two categories. Those that
seek out the best sim around at a given time and then stick with it.
They will play it to death, learning every shot, block and check and
play out numerous full seasons with several teams. The clock is set
at the maximum 20 minute period, while the options are rarely used
as Offside, Icing and the 2 Line Pass are permanently welded on.
They regularly adjust tactics, trade and coach players. In their
spare time they peek through a gap in the curtains, awaiting an
unsuspecting mate to pass by. Then they pounce.
"Fancy a game on my Playstation?"
"Ever played Powerplay hockey? It's cool. All you need to
know is that you press this button to pass, that one to shoot and
that to check. Okay, lets go".
During play your mate notices that you are skating backwards,
line changing, switching players, fast skating, hooking, smothering,
performing wrist shots, slap shots, body checks and poke checks.
"How did you do that?" cries the mate.
"Oh, I forgot to tell you. You just press this, you just
Before you know it they have well and truly whopped your ass
and then gleefully claim that it was 'fun' and 'we must do this
Then, of course, there are the gamers who must purchase every
single sports game on the system, no matter how similar they are.
This type of player demands real named players, up to date stats and
an option to switch off certain rules to speed up the flow of the
game. In fact the inclusion of NHL Powerplays Quick Start should
suit them down to the ground. When first loading up they will
probably go for a 5 minute period Exhibition game playing as the
high flying Philadelphia against a lowly opposition such as
Switzerland. Just to test out the moves, of course.
After a few Exhibition games they will probably opt for a World
Tourney or skip straight into the Play-offs. Should the offer of
playing out a Season prove too tempting, then thankfully the full
option of games may be reduced to as little as eleven. You see, to
these players time is of the essence and there is no way they could
find the eighty-two hours required to play out a full season. I
often wonder how may people complete more than one season because I
assume the majority of gamers play to win. therefore after 41
fixtures you are usually too far off the pace to succeed or so many
points ahead it becomes boring.
NHL Powerplay Hockey '98 should be suitable for both these
types of player as all of the above features are included within
this sporting sim. In addition there is a wealth of information to
browse through at your leisure such as Top 25 player stats and a
helpful guide to team tactics that lists the pros and cons of
specific playing styles. Of course Powerplay Hockey would not be a
true simulation had the finer aspects of the sport not been
included, therefore the opportunity to square up with an opponent
will be warmly welcome with punch, uppercut and block at your
disposal. It's all over in a few moments and the players involved
doubtlessly meet up later in a polygon bar for a beer and a laugh,
somewhere behind the scenery.
you were satisfied with last years offering then you will perform
cart-wheels over this years version. The difference is immense.
However if you are looking to purchase your first ice hockey game on
the Playstation then I would advise you to rent this and NHL 98
before deciding which to invest your cash on.
NHL Powerplay 98 is a vast improvement over last years version I
still feel that it is playing catch-up with other hockey titles. It
is better than NHL 97 but doesn't quite cut it against this years
offering. I suggest that next years update should hit the shelves
before NHL 99 and steal some of it's thunder.