Only the physical will survive.
The NHL series by EA Sports is undoubtedly the most successful hockey video game franchise in the business. I remember back in the day (4 years ago) when a couple of friends and I would gather after school to play NHL '94. We would each pick four teams, create a tournament bracket, and battle each other for Lord Stanley's cup. Who won the most? I did, of course! I wouldn't have brought it up if I didn't! My SNES controllers did take a beating, but the bragging rights and some scotch tape made up for it. Ahh yes, what fond memories...
It's been another year, so time for another NHL game. In NHL 2000, you get the usual game modes: Exhibition, Season, Playoff, Tournament, and Shootout. For most gamers, the most interesting mode is Season mode. After each season, players will move around via free agency, aging players will retire, and you can even draft rookies. There are even roster updates you can get from the GR patches section. Props to EA for including this feature.
With the EA Sports online gaming system, it makes it easy for players to find opponents over the Internet. While it's not as cool as sitting beside your buddy on the couch while you crush his team into the ice, you were really only able to do that with the console versions anyway (Who has two controllers for their PC?). Internet multiplayer definitely helps any computer sports game.
The sound and graphics are just spectacular. EA went all out and licensed music like Garbage's "Push it", Uberzone's "Dokta Dokta", and Gearwhore's "Accelerator." You can feel every body check and shot, and the arena noise puts you right there in the game. The graphics are incredible, too. Every NHL player looks almost exactly like his real-life counterpart, and the player and goalie animations are awesome.
Another cool addition is the 'face in the game' feature. Most sports sims have the 'create a player' option that lets you choose a generic face for your player. This is still included, of course. But NHL 2000 takes things a step further by letting you literally put your face in the game! All you need is a picture of your mug (not too hard if you have a scanner), and you can play with your favorite hockey stars! Darn, if only I had a scanner, I'd open up a can of whup-ass on that girlie-man Jagr.
Now on to the gameplay. Basically, the core gameplay hasn't changed since NHL 94, though each year it undergoes minor tweaks. EA said there were more ways to score in NHL 2000 than in previous versions, and they weren't kidding. In the first game after installation (I set it at the hardest difficulty setting), I notched 13 goals . . . and I was playing 10 minute periods! Maybe (probably) I'm just gifted, but I expected to lose a few games before I even came close to winning. One problem is the defenders on the opposing team allowing you to skate right by them, avoiding you as if you had the black plague. Not the best AI in the world.
Besides the amount of scoring, another unrealistic part of NHL 2000 is the unreasonably high number of shots the computer takes. In each game, the computer constantly outshoots you, and it's usually by about a 2 to 1 ratio. The computer would take shots, and my goalie would always make the save. I'd take the pass from my goalie and race down the ice, go right past the defenders, and score. It's unrealistic and may disappoint gamers who like the simulation aspect of the game, but for arcade-minded players, it's fun.
Besides the gameplay flaws, NHL 2000 is an extremely fun game to play. The non-stop action and punishing body checks, which, I might add, are just as fun as scoring goals, make this game hard to stop playing. This game almost makes me forget about NHL '94 . . . almost. If you have last year's version, or even the one two years ago, the only thing that's really changed is the players. It's still a solid hockey game, and the best one on the market.