Until they have full contact figure skating…
The bloodlust of the crowd, the smell of beer in the air, the long lines at
the restrooms – I love hockey. There’s just something magical about the way
athletes can play a fighting sport cleverly disguised as a game.
In any case, hockey is fast paced and deserves a fast paced game. With Electronic
Arts’ NHL 2001, we’ve got the PS2 ‘s first step out onto the ice. Let’s
see if these old guys still remember how to skate.
EA’s NHL series has been a strong hockey staple for fans and not a whole lot
has changed over the years. Sometimes that’s a good thing, and sometimes, it’s
not. With the release of the PS2, we now have a much more powerful system to
play with, so you’d better believe there would be some changes.
The most obvious upgrade for 2001 is the enhanced graphical quality.
NHL 2001 looks awesome. The game’s level of detail is definitely set
on high. Everything from the expressions on player’s faces to the reflections
on the ice are there and really make the experience that much more exciting.
The only really weird thing is the way a player’s upper torso seems to move
independently from the lower, giving them a sort of old-school action figure
The mo-cap isn’t half bad, but I don’t ever recall seeing grizzled hockey
players hop up and down like giddy schoolgirls after a scoring a goal or winning
a game in real life.
Surprisingly, the sound is pretty good. Effects are accurate and the game’s
music is actually tolerable. Featuring music by Collective Soul and Templar
(who?), the tracks in NHL kinda grow on you. The announcer, however, gets annoying.
Not every single thing that happens in a hockey game is worthy of high pitched,
feverish excitement. That guy really needs to lay off the caffeine pills.
All thirty of the NHL teams are included and even some international teams
are thrown into the mix. Ah, international hockey, where the iceborn brutes
from all over the world come to knock each others’ teeth out. Did I mention
how much I love this game?
A new addition to EA’s NHL series is the momentum meter. Now you can actually
see how the game is progressing” or so they say. Sometimes this meter seems
just plain wrong. At one point, I purposely got on the wrong side of the puck
and was losing by a score of 5-2. At no time did I lose the momentum advantage.
What’s the deal here? If you’re going to include something like this, try to
get it right, I say. Momentum is a tricky thing to measure and the benefits
of having the momentum advantage aren’t apparent. Maybe they should have had
a heckler shout insults when teams are playing badly. Or maybe they could have
the 2D cardboard audience throw beer cans.
NHL 2001’s gameplay takes a no-nonsense, simple approach to playing
hockey. Controls are very easy to pick up and the game has an arcade feel to
it. The four main buttons for a puck handler are shoot, pass, deke and speed.
If you’re on the defensive, just know that there are three different ways to
check a guy.
Woohoo! Three ways to check! I was thrilled…until I realized that NHL
2001 doesn’t quite capture it accurately.
Now, anyone with the slightest sense of physics would realize that smashing
into someone at a faster speed means a bigger hit. In 2001, your “big
hit” button only seems to work when you’re standing still. To accurately put
the big hit on opponents, players must skate out in front of their target, stop,
and then apply the hit. So, dear gamers, there will be no flying down the ice
to smash a puckhandler this season, no squashed faces pressed up against the
glass, and certainly none of that icky roughness that makes hockey fun. At least
there’s still some good ol’ fighting to be had”
…at the daycare center in the GR compound, that is. To put it mildly, fighting
in NHL 2001 is the most pathetic and sorry display of fisticuffs I’ve
ever seen in my life. Even a four-year old could knock the bejeezus out of these
guys. Fights have two punches – high and uppercut. They imitate bouts of Rock
’em Sock ’em Robots so accurately that it seems like only a matter of time
until someone’s head pops off. At least that much imitates real hockey.
Hockey is one of the fastest paced sports around and an NHL video game should
reflect it accordingly. 2001 runs at a pretty slow pace overall and fails
to capture the frenzied pace of professional hockey. In addition, you’ll notice
some bizarre slowdown when passing the benches. Maybe the players are checking
to see if someone put a whoopee cushion on their part of the bench.
Even with all these problems, a hockey newbie will probably enjoy this game.
Its simple controls and impressive visuals are just enough to make this game
satisfactory. But for veterans of the series and die-hard hockey nuts, this
game turns out to be a disappointing dish that reeks of cold leftovers out on