Straight to the penalty box. Review

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.





  • Good framerate
  • I thought this was a PS2 game?!
  • Real hockey players aren't this dumb
  • Bad player animations
  • Is this the XHL?

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