Straight to the penalty box.
The year 2001 was supposed to give NHL fans something besides the beer man to cheer for. With the release of the Playstation 2, visions of beautifully rendered players hitting the ice in a fast-paced game of skill filled the imaginations of many hockey fans. We could now look forward to better graphics, better control and a better game with which we could beat the snot out of our loud-mouthed buddies.
What we weren't ready for was the same pathetic offering that had been spewed forth all over our newly retired Playstation.
If you love hockey, you know 989's last few NHL titles have been, uh, less than stellar. The secret recipe for ice borne action has eluded the series and sadly, that magic formula continues to remain in hiding. With a brand-spanking new platform to work with, one might think that Faceoff 2001 would set the stage for good things to come. Instead, it regurgitates the same subpar swill that is quickly becoming the norm for 989 Sports.
Before I even started playing, I ran across a bizarre oversight that just hinted at the disappointment to come. I was shocked, amazed and in a state of denial all at once. Play close attention readers: You cannot select your team in Quick Start mode. Yep, that's right. All you can do is hit a button for the computer to randomly choose another team. Hopefully the team you want will come up before the next season decides to start.
More disappointment awaits you in the actual game. At first glance, it's hard to distinguish this game from an original Playstation title. With blocky, sharp-edged characters, Faceoff 2001 is a far cry from the next-generation models advertised on the back of the box. Add some herky-jerky animations and we've got a very poor example of what Sony's new wonder machine can do.
So the graphics are a let down. A brilliantly executed game can overcome a graphical snafu any day, right? Sadly, this isn't one of those games.
Control follows a fairly basic arcade setup with your basic shoot, pass, and check offensive buttons. Fake shots and the icon passing ability is nice, but they won't really have much of an effect on your game. I just wish Mr. Deke and Mr. Poke Check weren't missing from the roster.
What does influence the game is the computer's apparent lack of intelligence. After playing just a few games, it is brutally obvious that the computer controlled opponents can't check to save their lives. Period. I've seen more hits from Vanilla Ice.
It's one thing when opponents let you skate past their defenses unsullied, but when your own team lets a man through without even a second glance, things get ugly. You'll have to crank up the difficulty before any computer controlled team will stand a chance against you.
All the modes you expect in a hockey game are here: the aforementioned Quick Start, Exhibition, Practice, Season, Shootout, Playoffs, and Tournament. There isn't a franchise mode per se, but the game does allow for some trading and drafting. What's in a name? Overall, there's not a whole lot new going on here.
Even though the bulk of the game is very uninspired, Faceoff 2001 includes a few nice details. First and foremost is the smooth framerate that has no trouble keeping up with the action. It's always sad to see games that can't handle themselves. Good thing this game isn't one of them.
Next we have one of my favorite details, which is the ability to knock the goalie's water bottle off of the net. I have no idea why this amuses me, but I guess I'm trying really hard to look on the brighter side of this half-melted arena.
Rounding out the incredibly short list of bright spots is the audio. Announcers Mike Emrick and Darren Pang managed to keep the annoyance to a minimum. Also, any sports game that plays "Takin' Care of Business" deserves a cookie.
If you're like me, there's one last vital aspect you're wondering about: the fighting. In a game that's half sport and half street brawl, the little fight scenes are often overlooked afterthoughts. It doesn't surprise me in the least that video game hockey players still haven't figured out what to do with a clenched fist. Things ain't any different here. Faceoff 2001's fights are so funny, they look like something out of the pages of a Vince McMahon script. The punches don't even look like they connect!
Faceoff 2001 is quite the insult to PS2 hockey fans. It's certainly not as good as NHL 2001, and that wasn't a great game. What was barely excusable on the Playstation has no business being on a next-generation console. Poor 989 seems to be falling even further behind with old injuries and rusty skates. Someone definitely needs to check these guys.