The time of reckoning is near. Tonight, the NHL
1999-2000 season will kick into preverbal high gear, and once
again EA Sports has stepped up to simulate all the mayhem in its
digital glory. I know I wasn’t the only one to play the hell out of
last years effort: NHL ’99, and I know I wasn’t the only one eagerly
awaiting this year’s revision. I’ll save the rest of my pre-game and
get right to what you wanna know.
What’s new (or improved):
Completely redone menu interface.
Full blown career mode. Including free agents, dispersal and
More shot control.
Animated player faces.
Updated rosters and teams.
What’s the same (or unimproved):
Blocky player models.
Choppy player movement.
Uninspired, unrealistic AI.
OK kids! Mom always said to give the good news first, so that’s
what we’re going to do. NHL 2000 is by far, and I mean far, the
best and most detailed simulation of professional hockey available
today. Each year the NHL series by EA Sports has consistently
offered a steady improvement of features and enhancements. But,
and sorry mom, here comes the bad news, this year’s offering is a
far cry from what should be expected from a developer as high
caliber as EA Sports. Yes, there are a number of worthwhile
additions, most notably the career mode, which has been like a
gaping hole in the series for sometime now. However, a majority
of the new enhancements are in the form of front-end changes that
really weren’t all that bad to begin with. Do we really need an
entirely different menu interface for a game that is 90% the same?
Development dollars could have been better spent on some
obviously lacking areas, such as the on ice player models, and
horribly inept AI.
Yearly released sports series’ have the arduous task of improving
upon the efforts of both their own title from last year and the efforts
of the competition. Sound familiar? Yeah, I said it last year about
NHL ‘99. The fact is, a majority of yearly sports titles are little more
than last years game with updated rosters, slightly polished up to
look like brand spanking new games. I previously wouldn’t have
grouped the NHL series in this category, but after NHL2k, I may
change my mind. We, as gamers, should have high expectations
from these games that ask us to shell out $50 every fall. And we, as
god-fearing game-playing fanatics, deserve rewards for our
loyalty. Pixilated shifting crowd effects are not my idea of a
reward. Maybe that’s just me.
On that note, what the FUCK is up with the necks? EA Sports takes
a game, spends a couple hundred thousand bucks on accurately
portraying animated player faces that react to hits, goals and
penalties. They include the ability to superimpose your own face
onto a player model. They motion capture a couple hundred
different on ice movements. They do all this, and can’t seem to
find the time to fix the fucking 2D necks. In ’98 it irked me, in ’99 it
annoyed me and now, in ’00 it is just plain pissing me off. During
the semi-cinematic cut scenes the necks are just fine, but during
play, its cardboard cutout city. I’m sure it’s all because current
processors can’t deliver the immense resources needed to
accurately render the incredibly detailed area of the human neck.
The more I played NHL 2000, the more angry and betrayed I felt. I
think other gamers will have similar reactions. But I urge you to
have what I am incapable of: Perspective. NHL 2000, love it or hate
it, is all we hockey aficionados have. EA Sports has cornered the
market of hockey simulations, and we have to play whatever junk
they want to sell us. The multiplayer is laggy (still), the
improvements are marginal, but its really the best thing going for
us ice monkeys. I’ll play NHL 2000 for the full length of the season,
but I’ll do it as cranky and grumpy as possible.