NHL Breakaway 98

a game by Sculptured Software

Platforms: PSXNintendo 64Nintendo 64

Genre: Sports

See also: NHL Games

Acclaim's venture into N64 ice hockey, and it ices the Wayne Gretzky games with its hi-res graphics and supersmooth gameplay.

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NHL Breakaway 98 Downloads

NHL Breakaway 98 download

Little excitement and a dearth of originality. There's nothing here that hasn't been done better in Wayne Gretzky.

reggie posted a review

Overview

The new hockey season is upon us, which means only one thing: new hockey games. I have never been a big fan of the sport of hockey, but for some reason, I really enjoy hockey video games and the power and excitement they offer. It seems like year after year, the games are getting better and better. It looks like this year will be the best yet for hockey fans.

The first title I got my grubby paws on was NHL Breakaway 98. This baby packed all 26 teams and over 600 players, boasted serious artificial intelligence, 5 gameplay modes, a season mode that awards bonus points to help pay for physical therapy for your injured players. Finally, and most cool, is the "create a player" option that actually has your name showing up on the back of the jersey, and on the player icon. There is nothing as cool as watching yourself slam Gretsky into the glass, shattering and spraying the first three rows. YYYYEEEESS!

Gameplay

I am going to make a bold statement that may be a bit out on a limb... but hell, why not? NHL Breakaway has all of the ingredients to make it one of the coolest hockey games ever, but has a few nagging flaws that will get magnified by the press. I guess technically I am the press, so later in the review I will do my best at pointing out these flaws, but I feel they are not too terrible.

Strengths first, though: I can say that you will find no disappointment in the gameplay. NHL Breakaway is a blast and best of all, it is easy to play. Some games out there have the glitter, but just don't have gameplay that keeps you coming back for more. The best compliment I can give the longevity of NHL Breakaway is that, unlike most other sports games, I have not abandoned my season yet. After 7-10 games, I am still totally into the season mode. The gameplay has kept me going, but also the create a player option.

You're able to create a player, give him a name, number, and distribute skills ranging from aggressiveness to shot power. I know, many games give you this option. Why is this so cool? Because the player you create is accurate in size, and has the correct jersey number and name on the back. Also, like in popular football games, the player with the puck has his name next to him so you know who it is. It was so cool to see "yourself" slam people into the Plexiglas, shoot the game-winning goal in overtime, or kick the crap out of someone in a fight. Now, maybe if you have no life, you would make a team of yourself and all of your buddies, throw in Happy Gilmore as your badass, and play a season. Okay, so I have no life... but it was still cool.

Another impressive feature is the scoring. It is not too difficult and it is not too easy. It is simple to get the hang of shooting, but it takes some skill to knock it past the goalie. You can vary the speed of the shot as well as aim the shot high or low. After a game or two, you will be firing shots with the best of them.

Now it is necessary evil time. After reading the above, you are probably wondering why I didn't give the game a higher score. Because of slowdown, that's why. The game is plagued with annoying slowdown right before a goal is scored and when the announcer calls over the PA that there is one minute left in the game. Occasionally, the slowdowns happen in the middle of the game for no apparent reason. This was very annoying, although you always knew your shot was going in before it actually hit the net: the game seemed like it was loading up the strobe light which caused part of the slowdown. Sure, that does not affect gameplay, but it's still disappointing to see. The slowdown at the one minute mark did affect the gameplay occasionally, and the more I played the game, the more it started to bother me.

One more little thing: The manual has a glaring omission in the controls section. The chart that outlines the control configuration shows the commands for the X button and the square but just has two black circles that should have had the circle and triangle actions. I know this is minor and you can find them farther back in the manual, but this was still an oversight.

I almost forgot another cool thing in the game. You can turn on the glow and fire puck. These give the game the feel of a game broadcast by Fox. If you have never seen a hockey game broadcast by Fox, they had the great idea of putting something in the puck that only the TV cameras could see. This leaves a red tracer behind the puck when it is hit. This was so the new hockey fans could always follow the puck. Anyway, you can have this option turned on in the game, and it looks quite cool.

Graphics

The graphics are top-notch. The various camera angles range from up close to far away. Each of the angles is detailed and looks good. I found the medium camera to work best. This gave the players all a good size and you could read the jerseys but still see down the ice far enough to pass the puck. Also cool was body-checking an opposing player into the Plexiglas and shattering it all over the crowd. I think they did a great job on the graphics.

Bottom Line

If it was not for the slowdown problems, NHL Breakaway 98 would be great. I know that this is only one thing, but it should have been addressed. I would have rather had no announcement that there was 1 minute left, than to have the slowdown. The gameplay kicks ass and you will keep coming back for more. The glow puck is also a great idea. With other games that aren't as strong as NHL Breakaway 98, I usually find myself saying that I wish I could take bits and pieces from other games to create the perfect game. Aside from the slowdown, NHL Breakaway 98 seems to have done that.

reggie posted a review
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