Where’s the Zamboni?
Hockey games have been at a standstill for the last few years. Every hockey game
that comes out looks like every other hockey game that comes out with only minor
differences in the graphics, realism, difficulty, or control. Basically, however,
the play is the same. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a bad thing. Hockey games
have found a system that works; now it’s just a matter of refinement. While NHL
2K does offer a good amount of new eye candy, it just isn’t that much different
than it’s predecessors.
2K and NBA
2K, Visual Concepts was not the developer of NHL 2K. Instead, Sega
Sports put Black Box games in the developer seat, and unfortunately, it shows.
Though NHL 2K is a really good hockey game, it just doesn’t feel as polished
as the other games in the 2K line.
Graphically, it’s hard to complain about NHL 2K. With over 1,000 motion-captured
moves and reflections off the ice, this game looks better than any hockey game
has ever looked. Then again, it is on the Dreamcast, and right now there are
no legitimate contenders. However, the players themselves don’t look quite as
detailed as the ones in the other 2K sports games, and one is left to
On the flip side, there are many little details that weren’t overlooked. If
you use the camera to zoom in on the puck, you’ll notice that it actually has
the home team’s logo on it. The puck! Also, the fact that the players skates
cut up the ice while you play is a nice touch, but where’s the Zamboni to smooth
things out in-between periods?
Ever wanted to see what your favorite hockey arena looks like from ice level?
Well, all 27 pro arenas are in NHL 2K with elaborate detail. From the
fireworks during player introductions to the size and shape of the scoreboard,
the designers didn’t overlook anything. With multiple camera angles, as well
as a good instant replay option, you can watch the action from anywhere. You
can even watch the action from the nosebleeder seats, but this time, that’s
a good thing.
gameplay, as I said earlier, is almost identical to any hockey game you’ve ever
played. Wrist shots, Slap Shots, One Timers . . . it’s all here. The fighting
is in there too, complete with dodging and grabbing your opponent. One cool
feature is that you can opt not to fight. If a fight starts and your opponent
removes his gloves, but you choose not to fight, only your opponent gets penalized.
I’m a lover, not a fighter.
The AI in NHL 2K is better than any that I’ve encountered up to this point
in a hockey game. After winning games 17 to 3 in NHL
2000, I was happy that NHL 2K actually offered up a serious challenge.
Though no one gets between me and the Stanley Cup for long . . .
One of the other things that separates NHL 2K from other hockey games
is the control. The three basics are there: shoot, pass, and speedburst/body
check. One drawback is that the shoot button is really sensitive. If you’re
looking to do a wrist shot, you really have to be gentle and only tap the button,
otherwise you’ll wind up for a slap shot. Needless to say, it can be frustrating
when you’re on a fast break and by mistake wind up for a slap shot, giving everyone
a chance to catch up. There’s also no deke button. If you want to fake out the
goalie, you have to do it yourself with the analog stick. Thankfully, these
problems can be overcome by just taking some time to get used to the control
The biggest problem with the game lies not with the gameplay, but with the
commentary. Unlike NFL 2K, where it is rare to hear the announcers repeat
themselves, the commentators in NHL 2K repeat themselves all the time.
It just gets annoying. Even though the commentary is done by Bob Cole and Harry
Neale, it just gets tedious. All hail the person who invented the mute button!
In the end, NHL 2K is a good hockey game, just not a great one. Even
with the few flaws that it has, hockey still has never looked better. Sega Sports
is now three for three as far as their sports titles . . . No wonder EA Sports
won’t design games for the Dreamcast when they’ve got this kind of competition.