Review of NHL 2001
I was fully expecting this game to play identically to the version released for the PS1. Although it has much of the same feel, there are enough differences that seem to improve on the PS1 version. Most of this comes from the improved graphics, presentation and base gameplay of this PS2 version. For instance there is simple things…in the PS1 version the puck is huge. In this version, the puck is smaller and more in proportion to real life. Also, the player physics is different enough to change how players move and shoot. There is much more realism and less fudging compared to when you handled and shot the puck on the old platform.
There are several modes to choose from, none are different from the PS1 title. To get a quick start, you just enter the Quick Game mode. It will randomly select two teams. Pressing R1 and R2 can randomly pick other teams. Once you move on, you can choose which team jersey to wear and wait for it to load. OK, heres an annoyance. This takes a long time to load. Im sure as developers get a handle on the disc streaming capabilities of the PS2, this time can be cut down…hopefully. The controls are the same as before, but you have a little more control over your players. Also, there are additional camera angles to choose from. My favorite is the one that stays behind the play, so the camera keeps rotating as you go up and down the ice. I also really loved the replay feature. When you score and pause the game, you can choose replay from the menu. Here, you can zoom in and out on the puck, rotate the camera in a nearly unlimited set of angles and even change the view to the coachs view, press box, etc. Then you can go frame by frame. Heres one area where the increased graphics power of the PS2 really pays off.
The options include a regular season, playoffs and a 5-on-5 shootout which is essentially 10 separate penalty shots. As the defender, you need to control the goalie to stop the offensive player. On offense, you need to beat the goalie one-on-one. That is not very easy at all. In addition to the regular teams, there are 18 all-star teams from other countries that you can play against as well. The default setting is that most of the illegal actions are allowed. It also defaults to allow injuries in the game. Put on a big hit, and you can knock out an opposing player. But if you desire more realism, you can turn on icing, two-line passes, frequency of penalties and even injuries. If the periods are too short for you, you can always increase the period length. And of course, you can adjust the ability of the game to match your improvement as you progress.
Its amazing what detail has been put into this game. You can see individual movement in the fans in the stands (this is only during stoppage of play when the you can see beyond the player). You watch the players on the bench wipe their heads with a towel, chat with each other and hear from their coach. After a goal is scored, the players raise their hands and their faces show the happy emotions. The players even gather around to celebrate. This game gives you great close-ups of all the players and does a good job of making them recognizable. The ice surface shows the markings of people skating on it. Unfortunately after the intitial wear and tear, it doesnt appear to change as the game progresses. One neat thing is in a stoppage of play and the player skids to a stop, his skates kick up ice crystals…very realistic.
EA Sport also did a really nice job of capturing each individual arena. Even the banners hanging in the rafters seem to be clear and somewhat readable. They even went a step further to duplicate the scoreboard in the center to be like the real one and not just a generic scoreboard. The boards show ads, but mostly are plugs for EA sports. Question: will we soon be seeing ads in these games in exchange for money to the developers.
As great as these graphics are, you can really see where they can improve even further. The characters still have a level of stiffness in them--almost an Al Gore stiffness--but not quite that stiff. They sometimes lack a fluidity of motion that you know by the next gen of games will be fixed and there is some (gasp) slowdown.
The play by play is nothing special. There are no real star announcers used in this game. They use phrases put together from pre-recorded clips that flow really well. They announce the name of the player and the action. Overall, the play by play is good--but not great. They did fix a problem from the PS1 title. When you speed the game along and bypass the replay, etc., the announcers now keep up with the action.
The game is in true surround sound and the sound effects are realistic and believable. They did a good job of capturing the true chants by the fans. Its not just Lets go ! If the fans chant something different like Torontos Go Leafs Go! the game catches these. In the background music, I wish theyd done the same thing. In the arenas, there is a generic organ playing the background music. Most new arenas have abandoned the organ for pre-recorded clips of music. Id like to see each arenas signature song after goals to be added in (cripes, there is DVD capability here!) to add to the realism that theyve captured so well in the visuals.
OUR PLEDGE: We promise that we have fully played 'NHL 2001' before writing this review. The scores given above are our honest opinion and were not influenced in any way by the manufacturer or distributor of the game.
This review was written by Tom Downey © Absolute PlayStation
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