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NHL 2001

by Tristinian

The hockey season draws near and although the number one thing on my list of 'things to do' is getting a brand new Leafs jersey to cheer on my fave team, I still have to finish the 2001 season I started last week. You might be saying, "What is this? The 2001 season didn't start last week…ah…oh….NHL 2001 from EA…right, this is a game review web site. But I have a question…why is he still dragging on this stupid 'you might be saying' quotation when he's supposed to be reviewing this damn game?!". The introductory rhetoric has been sliced through as of now-let's make this short.

NHL 2001 is on the scene, on my hard drive and well…on my mind. EA's latest version of the 'coolest game on earth' has essentially brought a lot of great things that add polish and shine to the 2000 edition, but at a cost that is very noticeable. It should be known ahead of time that system demands are high for this game and the days of playing NHL '99 and 2000 on a banshee based system at a resolution of 1024 x 768 are more than gone. But since a lot of gamers out there are currently upgrading their systems-or at least their video cards-this might not be too much of an issue for most of you. Just keep in mind that if you can't run the game with speedy frames at 1024, details maxed and FSAA turned on (GeForce or V5), don't be surprised.

But the neato things that NHL 2001 does bring range from new camera angles to new game modes, and from new jerseys and teams to improved character face rendering. The players' faces still look freaky and practically undead (which is normal for this series), but there is an improvement from 2000 to be noted. Some might notice the general graphical improvements in the game right away; others might not and complain that there is not enough of a visual difference to warrant how demanding the game now is in comparison to its predecessors. Even more might be curious about the fact that D3D and Glide performance in this game is fundamentally the same a lot of the time. But funny enough-it doesn't matter-and here's why…the game is fun.

The playability and control of NHL 2001 is sharp and crisp, and the chemistry that made the series the hit it is today is still there and has only been mildly tweaked with. And given that tweaking CAN be admitted to, this 'tweaking' becomes apparent in the more 'arcade' style of play that NHL 2001 offers. The serious hardcore gameplay of previous games seems to have been merged with the arcade feeling that comes with big smashing hits and fast paced action with overemphasized visuals and audio treats to boot. The additional camera angles that one can now adopt as well can give a player anything he/she wants whether it be seeing more of the ice, or just feeling more apart of the on-ice action itself.

The game is fun…yes. And there are improvements…yes. Does it look better? Sound better? Play better? I'd say 'yes' for all of those. But buying this game after having bought NHL 2000 last year might not be so good an idea depending on what sort of NHL PC gamer you are. Because let's be honest…even the commentator's offerings haven't changed much for the better, and who needs more in-between-play player animations just for the hell of it? Well, those who have bought every version for the last few years might want to pick this title up. The new glossy helmets that the players strut are sure to be attractive to those hardcore fans. But those who buy a variety of PC games throughout the year and may be on a tighter budget, you might want to consider keeping your old 2000-UNLESS you own '99. Because if you own '99 only, this is an upgrade you will probably want to make if you are looking to add some much needed steroids to your PC hockey gaming experience.

Finally, for all you cynics out there…if you are the type to notice and heckle at things like the fact that the coach in the game ALWAYS only talks to a player that is either 3rd from the right or 3rd from the left on the bench…still don't give up. The game can be cheesy…we have all known this for a long time-ever since the color commentary started getting goofy on us during games. But despite the small cheesy setbacks in terms of game additions, the fact that there isn't too much new to see in-game and the higher system demands, it is still the best NHL game to date-and even a cynic can't deny that.


FINAL MARK

Nothing new, but geez...it's just fun.

Improved graphics, in-between-play animations.

System demands a little bit of a pain depending on the system being used. Low-end users beware.

81%

 

Steve Thomas is about to beat on Ottawa! Oh wait...the Leafs killed 'em off in the play-offs anyway. whatever.

 

Note the ice-mist from the player in the upper right corner...the player's faces still look whacked, but, mmm...ice mist.

 

Rob Blake puts a beating on good ol' Darby Hendrickson-didn't he used to be a Leaf? Ok, ok...enough Leaf talk.