Next to football, hockey has to be the most represented sport in the video game arena. It seems that just about every developer has released a version for the 1997-1998 season. EA Sports has been doing hockey games for as long as I can remember, and theirseries has to be up there with as the longest running sports series around.
Here we are in 1998, and as expected, we get our yearly rendition of the NHL series, NHL 98. With a totally new game engine that claims to be faster than the previous NHL titles, NHL 98 is clearly the best hockey game around. Smarter AI, tons of gameplay modes, real NHL color and play-by-play, and tons of improved game options highlight this year's release. Which leads me to say one thing: EA Sports has figured this hockey thing out.
NHL 98 is the best hockey game of the year. It is that simple. Nothing comes close to the realism that this game offers. The game does have a few minor annoyances that will be overlooked and forgiven because the upsides greatly outweigh the negatives. To shake things up a little, I will clear the air of these annoyances first and then go into the great positives of the game.
The biggest annoyance I had with the game was the annoyingly long pauses during gameplay and line changes. I don't mean pauses during actual action, but the pauses between the on-ice action. Say, for example, you have a penalty called on your player that requires the player to be sent to the penalty box. You watch the player skate across the ice and into the penalty box. Then, the camera zooms out, goes black for a second and then zooms into the face off. The whole process takes roughly 15 to 20 seconds, the whole time of which I am mashing buttons in a futile attempt to bypass all of this. Yes, it does give a "television" type feel to the game, but after playing a few games, it becomes more of a time-consuming annoyance. The sport of hockey is supposed to be fast and furious. These breaks just slow the action.
The second minor annoyance is very trivial, but it bothered me. I like hockey games that allow the gamer the ability to control the player even after the whistle has blown and the action has stopped. I love having the ability to get in a cheap shot or two after the whistle. This is a part of hockey, so it should have been included. There is nothing more rewarding than slamming into a celebrating offensive player after he scores a goal and blasting him to the ice. Too bad they don't let you.
Enough of the trivial negative details. Let's talk about what makes this game good. First and foremost, it is accurate. That is correct. You actually feel like you are playing hockey (not that I know what it feels like). Your player acts as if he is on ice and all players react the same. This is not one of those games that lets the computer-controlled players rip around like they are on rails. Everyone is treated to the same player physics, which makes the game more realistic and fair.
It took me a few games before I realized what it was about this game that really made it feel so real, aside from the obvious physics. It finally hit me. I was playing on defense and the guy I was controlling was nowhere near the action. I was trying to get him back over to the puck and hit the speed burst button. My player slammed face first into the glass. Since he was nowhere near any action, I figured he would just bounce off unaffected. Instead, my player slammed headfirst into the glass and went sprawling across the ice. This was awesome. It meant that no matter what is happening on the ice or where you are positioned, you have total control of the player. Long gone are the days of situational controls, depending on the player's current location or situation.
Another thing that really blew me away about this game was the player animations. Talk about attention to detail. When a player got knocked down onto the ice, it looked like a real person getting knocked down. The arms and legs would go sprawling in different directions. Also, when the player would get back up, he did not just magically appear standing again. You would see him pull in his arms and lift himself off the ice. It was also a riot when a person was sent to the penalty box. He would skate to the box (takes a bit long), open the door, sit down and start throwing his arms in the air while yelling some mumbled complaint at the refs. This was classic and made me laugh every time it happened.
Another plus is that fighting is back in the game. It seems that the fighting was removed from a previous version of NHL. Not to worry. You stand a great chance to get in a brawl. Admittedly, the fighting engine is a bit weak, but are you here to play hockey or? All it takes is one too many cross-checks, and you will be dropping the gloves and throwing down in no time.
This game is also chock-full of options. Just about anything you can think of is available, so I am not going to list them. Let's just say that the game has all of the stat tracking, modes, and customization that you would expect from a top notch EA Sports title today.
This game has some great graphics. Like I said above, the player animations are incredible and as realistic as I have ever seen. The stadiums and crowds were also well done and looked great. I did have a little trouble finding a camera angle that I really liked. I like to play the game zoomed in fairly close so you can see all of the hitting action and animation of the players. But there was just not a good camera angle that was close, yet far enough away to still see the action around you.
If you like hockey, you will love this game. It really shows how far hockey has come as a sport and in video games. This game reminded me of the old-school NHL games I used to play on the. I have never been a big fan of the sport of hockey, but I have always enjoyed hockey video games and this is my favorite of all time.
NHL 98 DownloadsNHL 98 download
NHL 98 features much faster and refined gameplay, which took the series ahead by introducing international competition, with 18 International teams to choose from. Other game modes include Season (option to pick between 25 or 82 games) and Playoff (best of 1, 3, 5 or 7 matches) and a Penalty Shootout mode.
Along other new features such as "in-the-fly" tactics developed by Marc Crawford. The players now being less angular, with less pixels showing in the textures.