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NHL 2002


EA Sports


1 - 4


Does this year's hockey offering from EA Sports match up to that of year's past?

EA Sports has been the staple of the gaming industry's sports explosion ever since the days of Super Nintendo. I can still remember chugging along on my Sega Genesis playing Madden '94. Needless to say the company has grown a bit and is now one of the best respected and one of the largest game development companies in the world. Its NHL line of games has also been something to marvel, with the franchise following the same stellar form as the company by growing and morphing to suit the taste of a specific year. While some years may not have turned out as well as years past, for the most part the NHL series has been a staple of the company for as long as I can remember.

With the recent release of the Xbox, NHL 2002 represents the first sim-oriented hockey game for the young and prosperous system, and does not disappoint. The game features EA's always-solid presentation, some very well done commentating (something that has become very hard to come by in today's sporting environment), and awesome play mechanics.

First we'll start with the game's visuals. On the positive side, the frame rate issues from last year's PS2 version are pleasingly absent from this year's Xbox offering (surprise, surprise). Nice facial textures that move accordingly to the onscreen player's actions are a nice touch as well as very cool crowd shots. On a goal, the camera will switch to a crowd view that showcases two or three members of the audience going nuts for their chosen team. You'll see outfits that match the home team's colors and uniforms and the fans will cheer and boo accordingly with the play on the ice. The only two negative aspects of Xbox's inaugural hockey offering is the absence of fishtails of ice and a fairly bland color palette. With Sony's Faceoff 2001 (a game that came out last year even) one of the best graphical features were the fishtails of ice that would spring up on a turn taken at a high speed. While this is nitpicking a bit, I've come to expect such perfection from EA Sports. The only other disability that slightly hampers the visual feast is the bland color palette. When the camera is at its default view the players seem a bit washed out while skating around the rink during a game. While the problem is corrected when a close up shot is taken, this doesn't excuse the normal camera, which is where most of your time playing the game will be spent. Despite a few very minor setbacks, NHL 2002 excels in the graphics department.

The gameplay of NHL 2002 stays true to EA form, offering fast paced and high scoring games at lower difficulty levels and slow, nail biting low scoring games at higher difficulty levels. The gameplay modes offered are standard hockey fare including: Season, Exhibition, Shootout, Playoffs, and Tournament. The standard adjustments can be made to the season mode - that is where most of us hockey fans will be spending most of our time. You can adjust the game to allow for bigger hits, higher scoring games, better pass accuracy, and the list just keeps on going. If you've got a certain style of hockey that suits you, chances are NHL 2002 has got it. New touches that EA Sports has made to the gameplay include a brand new breakaway came that slows the game down a bit to give you a chance to think about your every move. A new camera angle is presented and the overall feel is that you are actually streaking down the ice on a breakaway in a real NHL game. A definite thumbs up for the breakaway cam.

The other added camera angle is something of a mixed bag. I've affectionately dubbed it the slam-cam. It presents you with an up close and personal view of a check that you just laid on an opponent. The only problem here is that the computer makes some odd decisions about when to utilize the new camera angle. Sometimes it will showcase you creaming an opposing player, while another time you'll get to see a completely missed check.

The newly added control over celebrations is a welcome surprise from EA. You can select from a relatively long list of celebrations some of which are available at the start of the game, and some of them must be earned by acquiring points and buying cards (see next paragraph for the explanation on purchasing cards). You'll have the ability to press A, B, or Y to manipulate the player on screen to perform one of the three selected celebrations. While it may seem like a small addition, it really improves the overall fun factor of the game.

The next addition to the gameplay section of NHL 2002 is one of the greatest additions ever made to a hockey game and that is the NHL cards of NHL 2002. You acquire points by performing certain tasks in the game, such as scoring a hat trick with two players or scoring on a two-on-one. These tasks will amount to a large sum of points, which can ultimately be spent on playing cards. Each playing card can come in one of three classes, bronze, silver, and gold. These classes will determine the resale value of the card and the power of the card. Each card of one of the 189 available player cards carries with it the power to make the player featured on the card a "hero" for a certain amount of time. For bronze it's one period, silver it's two, and so on. The playing cards aspect of NHL 2002 doesn't stop with measly player cards, rather it continues on by offering a few added celebrations and some rather humorous cheats. Overall the playing card segment of NHL 2002 follows true to the Madden games of yore and offers a completely new dimension to the series.

The sound in NHL 2002 does take a bit of getting used to, but once you are accustomed to the commentating you'll be fan just like me. The incoherent banter of the two commentators is a bit rattling at first, but if you take your time and listen to what the two puckheads are saying, it's actually pretty funny. They interact with each other just like real commentators would and even go a bit further by talking about a few "off color" subjects. The crowd noise is fairly standard fare, cheering for a goal, booing for poor play - it all makes sense. The hits are also nicely done, being able to hear the grunt and groan of the player being pummeled is a real treat to the ears. The audio package in the game is a definite improvement from year's past.

The control format is also standard, offering deke, pass, shoot, spin left and right, and speed burst, as well as a cool big-hit button on defense. The play mechanics also stay true to NHL games of the past offering quick and solid controls that perform nicely under pressure.

The overall feel of the game will definitely appeal to hockey fans of all ages will definitely be able to appreciate NHL 2002 in one way or another. Some may fancy a fast paced game, while others may be into the card trading aspect of this year's offering. Regardless of what you enjoy, if you're a hockey fan, NHL 2002 is the way to go on the Xbox.

Gamer X
Hates ice skating.

NHL 2002: The Scores













The Final Word:  NHL 2002 is a solid game all around with only a few slight blemishes on the surface. The gameplay is solid as usual for an EA Sports game. The formula of solid gameplay, plus solid sound and controls makes for a hell of a hockey game

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NHL 2002 Screenshots

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