…what you really feel like screaming when of those 250 lb. defensemen on this game comes out of nowhere and steamroll you into a wall while his friends race up to play Silly-Putty with your remains. With NHL Faceoff, Sony Sports has done it again, following the huge success of last year’s NFL Gameday with an amazing first generation hockey game. They seem to be setting an early precedent, much the way EA Sports did in the early 90’s on the Genesis. This game is a perfect blend of the two hockey juggernauts, EA Sport’s NHL ’96 and Sega’s NHL All-Star Hockey, filling in the little blanks that the previous two has missed. Beyond this, NHL Faceoff is it’s own game as well.
To start, the mechanics in Faceoff are really impresssive in that almost everything about the game resembles the real thing, from the fluid player movement, to the player him (maybe one day her…) self as well. The on-the-fly camera angles were a graet effect, and a feature that will probably become a standard for games to come. Another really impressive thing about this is the strategy needed for shooting, with shots ranging from tricky one-timers to wicked slapshots. The control granted to the player on the shot is amazing. Goals are no longer just 90% luck (maybe only 30%. . .), but carefully planned and executed (hopefully) to perfection. Beware though, the weird difficulty settings can make this control backfire on you. On easy, the game regresses into NHL ’95, where first-time rookie players (including my 8-year old brother) score 10,11,and 12 before the other team takes that many shots. On hard, there is more challenge, but not for any drastic change in computer A.I.. I usually could score 2 or 3 goals consistently, but on about 70 or 80 shots a game, always giving you that bad feeling that the only way you scored is because there is a possible glitch in the game. Medium difficulty gives a decent challenge, and is the most fun, but eventually gets mastered, leaving you in a state of limbo…
The graphics are good, if a little fuzzy, but the realistic player movement more than make up for this (readable player jersey numbers would’ve been nice — this is 32-bit, you know). The music and sound FX are also pretty good for the most part, though those spine-tingling checks don’t pack the same crunch as in, uhh…well, NHL ’96, but the slapshots and wristers do.
The features of the game are good and bad in their own special way, but since this is a first generation hockey game, I’ll give it a little more slack than I will its second and third-generation counterparts. I was really impressed with the create-a-player option in a first-generation piece of software, and all the new teams, locations, players, and 95-96 stats (which were really in-depth). The most disappointing thing about this game was the fact that you couldn’t save anything. You could get ‘up-to-the-minute’ game stats, but no player stats, not even after the game. I overlooked this flaw in my grading this time, but it hurts me that Sony Sports has made this fatal error again (NBA Shootout comes to mind as another that left player stats out). No other dramatic features other than trading are included here.
Along with the lack of player stats, I was annoyed by the fact that, if not saved for a season, a created player can only last one game before being taken off the game. After messing up the stat thing, Sony should have at least gone to the trouble of fixing this. But, oh well, there’s always next year and … (I know it’s getting old) NHL ’96. Speaking of next year, I hear Virgin’s got something special with NHL Powerplay ’96. Wink, wink.
All in all, Faceoff is an excellent addition to the Sony Sports lineup, but now I will repeat the advice that I gave for Gameday — if you need a hockey game NOW, it’s here, but if you’re like the rest of us and can only afford 3-5 games a year, you should wait for Powerplay ’96. Buying Faceoff is a little like watching the zamboni ride the ice before overtime.
Improvements for next year:
- 5 minute majors and 4 minute double minor penalties
- player stats in all categories
- saveable player stats in all categories
- drafting, editing, overall increased management options
- variable season lengths
- different check buttons
- an adjusted computer A.I.
- NHL Powerplay ’96 (PSX)
- NHL ’97 (Saturn/PSX)
- NHL Faceoff ’97 (PSX)
- Wayne Gretsky Hockey (Nintendo 64)
- NHL All-Star Hockey ’97 (Saturn)
- NHL Powerplay ’96 (Saturn/PC)
- NHL ’96 (PC)
- NHL All-Star Hockey (Saturn)
- NHL ’96 (Genesis/Super NES)
- Wayne Gretsky Hockey (Genesis/Super NES)