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Game Over Online ~ Actua Ice Hockey 2

GameOver Game Reviews - Actua Ice Hockey 2 (c) Gremlin Interactive, Reviewed by - FKrueger

Game & Publisher Actua Ice Hockey 2 (c) Gremlin Interactive
System Requirements Pentium 133, 16MB Ram, 4x CD-ROM
Overall Rating 46%
Date Published Wednesday, May 5th, 1999 at 04:25 PM


Divider Left By: FKrueger Divider Right

With the NHL playoffs underway, the timing is perfect for Gremlin Interactive to release Actua Hockey 2 (in Europe anyway). For those who played the original, you might remember that Actua Ice Hockey was released shortly after the Winter Olympics and was deemed the official hockey game for the Nagano Games. Playing any number of countries involved in the Olympic tournament was the focus of that game, but this time around it’s based on the 1998 NHL season… or rather, the GHL. That’s right, Gremlin Interactive has chosen not to license the NHL teams and NHLPA rosters, so you won’t get to play with your favorite NHL players. Does that destine this game to be a dud, or does it manage to make up ground in other areas?

When you first load up Actua Hockey 2, you can’t help but notice the lack of NHL licensing. In this day and age, it’s a necessity to have that basic element in order to create a realistic hockey game. Instead of the Colorado Avalanche, you’ve got the Colorado Wolves. The Tampa Bay Lightning are actually the Tampa Bay Storm, and so on. I was impressed with the logos that Gremlin created for the teams though. The players on each team are represented much like the teams are. For example, Temmu Selanne is known as Temmu Solenna. Wayne Gretzky is known as Wayne Grotzky, and so on. This is obviously an attempt by Gremlin to present their players as close to the real thing as they could, without breaking any agreements or laws. In the end, it’s just sugar coating though, as die hard fans will be let down by the lack of licensing.

Enough about licensing though, a good game can still be made here. All you need is a superb engine, some snazzy graphics, great sound and a sweet manager mode, and perhaps all will be forgotten. So let’s start with the graphics. Like the original, Actua Hockey 2 offers full 3D support, but the game doesn’t seem to take much advantage of it. The players are poorly detailed and appear incredibly blocky. You can’t read the names on their shirts let alone recognize their faces. The game features the usual graphical , lighting and transparency effects, but none of them are done very well. The rink itself looks pretty good though, and the presentation of the fans is just about as good as NHL 99 from EA Sports, which isn’t really saying much. Overall, the 3D engine needs some serious work. Low end users might find that the graphics slow down the game, but you can toggle just about every aspect of the graphics, so you should be able to find a setting that results in smooth gameplay. There are 8 different camera angles in the game, and like NHL 99, there’s really only one or two of them that satisfy the eye. I don’t know why they include so many angles that are completely useless, none the less, they are there for your enjoyment. I suppose if there’s a highlight in the graphics department, it’s the menus. They are presented nicely and can be easily navigated. The team logos also look sweet, but that’s about as far as it goes. Overall, the graphics are rather disappointing, and fans of EA Sports’ NHL series will certainly notice the difference.

It doesn’t get a whole lot better when it comes to the sound in Actua Hockey 2. The sound quality is horrible and as a result, it doesn’t create a realistic atmosphere. The commentary, besides being low quality, is dull and incredibly repetitive. You’ll end up hearing the same lines over and over, each period. It really becomes annoying. I found the commentary to be very spiratic as well. There were several times during the game where you’d expect a line or two, but it says nothing. The crowd effects are rather weak too. You don’t get the sense that the arena is full, or even half full for that matter. The in-game effects, such as shooting the puck or checking an opponent, are also a little weak and generic. There is little music during the game, although the menu music is nice. I kept getting the impression that perhaps my speakers weren’t working all that well during the game, but it turns out the sound quality was just poor.

Being Canadian, and a hockey fanatic, my hockey games must have realistic gameplay, or else I just won’t stand for it. NHL 99 did a decent job in the gameplay area, although there were certain elements that were down right awful. After playing a little Actua Hockey 2, I’m beginning to miss even the worst elements of NHL 99. The gameplay in Actua Hockey 2 is frustrating, to say the least, and really interrupts the flow of the game. The first thing I noticed was the players, when they skated around the ice. They don’t move fluently, but rather they seem to float on the ice. This made controlling them a little difficult, since it was very hard to make the kinds of turns needed to complete certain plays. For example, it was very difficult to deliver an open ice hit. It was hard to deliver any body checks for that matter, because it was so hard to control the players when they didn’t have the puck. With the puck, it was a different story. It was much easier to control, but still not all that great. The one thing I was impressed with was the passing mode implemented into the game. When your player had the puck, his ‘highlight’ would feature an assortment of passing angles, to show you which pass he could make, and which pass he couldn’t. (Unlike NHL 99, where you could make a pin point pass, behind your back, while facing the wrong direction) This little feature was great to begin with, but became increasingly annoying as the game went on. I think they should have only included this feature for beginners, since advanced players should know exactly what pass they can or can’t make. It was awkward skating up the ice with this large ‘highlight’ of sorts showing you all the possible passing options, all the time.

The goalies in the game weren’t very realistic either. NHL 99 has never done a great job with goalies, and here we see that Actua Hockey doesn’t either. There seems to be only a few positions the goalie will take when stopping a shot. There were several times when he stopped a shot standing upright, that in fact he couldn’t have stopped without dropping into a butterfly position. The good thing about the goalies though, was their speed. Unlike NHL 99, where the goalies move across the crease at lightning speed, all game long, the goalies in Actua Hockey 2 were much more realistic in that respect. One timers actually worked on occasion, and cross crease passes resulted in goals, like they should. I didn’t come across a case where there was a question of whether or not a player was in the crease, ala NHL 99, so I can’t comment on whether this game has that feature or not. Most of the goals I scored, were one timers, and most of them I didn’t even know they were in until, all of a sudden, colored lights filled the arena. It’s extremely difficult to set things up in the offensive zone. The combination of awkward movement, and horrible camera angles, resulted in me guessing which passes I should make in order to get a scoring opportunity.

Actua Hockey 2 does feature a more advanced fighting mode than NHL 99. You can actually grab players while your fighting and pummel them into submission. In NHL 99, you didn’t fight, you squabbled and ducked until you were the referees had enough. In Actua Hockey 2, you duke it out until you draw blood. As like in NHL 99, you can choose pre-planned modes of play for your team. That is, you can choose to be aggressive on the forecheck, or defensive with the neutral zone trap. I didn’t notice any powerplay or short-handed modes, it was more of an adlib experience with the man advantage. There are so many things I should probably mention about gameplay, but I don’t feel I can go much further in a productive manner. The bottom line as it relates to gameplay, is that the game just isn’t very realistic. It doesn’t play like a hockey game should play. It’s difficult to control the players, they move awkwardly on the ice, the camera angles aren’t very pleasing, and the flow of the game just isn’t there. I’m playing a hockey game, but there’s no feel to the hockey game.

When you aren’t playing a game, you’re controlling your team. You can make roster changes, trade players, and all the other usual options you’ll find in a hockey title. When you attempt to make a trade with another team, the computer will evaluate and decide whether the trade is fair. This seems to be made on a player by player basis, simply comparing whether the ratings are similar or not. It doesn’t take into effect what the opposing team needs in terms of players, or anything else. Just the quality of the player. Then again, what hockey game out there does this? Certainly not NHL 99. While we’re talking manager mode, let’s talk about simulating games… oh wait, you can’t! That’s right, I found no way to simulate games, with my team, that I didn’t want to play. In other words, if you play the same team 4 times in a given month, and you’re tired of playing that particular team, tough luck. You’re basically forced to play each game, so if you’re looking to play a short season, you’ve got no choice but to choose a 24 game schedule, rather then choosing an 82 game schedule and simulating half of the games. Other then that, the options are all the same as before. You can edit your lines, you can edit your rosters, the players all have ratings in multiple categories, etc. One thing you can’t do in Actua Hockey 2, is make your own players. If you’re looking to add yourself to your favorite team, you’ll be disappointed.

The game can be controlled using either the keyboard or a gamepad. As I mentioned before, actually controlling your players during the game is a little difficult, but it’s not because of the way the game is setup keyboard/joystick wise. In fact, it’s a very basic setup that you can alter, just as you can in NHL 99. The game also features multiplayer via the usual connections, those being modem, LAN, and network. Multiplayer games are very similar to solo games, in that the game isn’t very fluent. It also lagged quite a bit at 56k, and I was forced to turn off some of the graphic effects in order to play the game better. No matter how many options you turn off though, the game never seems to flow the way it should.

If you’ve played NHL 99, you’ll be extremely disappointed with Actua Hockey 2. In fact, if you’re bored of NHL 99 and you play a little Actua Hockey 2, you might be compelled enough to re-start another season of NHL 99. The difference is that noticeable. There’s a lot of other little things I didn’t mention about Actua Hockey 2, but there’s really no need to mention them at all. The bottom line here is that Actua Hockey 2 just doesn’t play like a hockey game should. There’s no flow to the game, no atmosphere, and the manager mode leaves a lot to be desired. The graphics are below par and the sound quality is poor. There’s a lot of work that needs to be done here. The basic features are in place, Gremlin just needs to work on the little things that make a hockey game realistic and fun. They also need to get the NHL licensing if they want to attempt to portray the NHL and it’s players. Without licensing, you basically need a flawless game in order to attract hockey fans alike. In this case, Actua Hockey 2 just doesn’t get the job done.

 

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Rating
46%
 

 

 
 

 

 

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