Game Review - by James Allen
Hockey season is upon us again (didn't it just end?), and, as always, a new NHL game comes out. EA's games have traditionally been pretty good, and with off and on competition; the NHL series has usually been the highest rated hockey simulation. How does NHL 2001 rank in the great scheme of things? Quite possibly the best hockey game ever.
NHL 2001 features all the real players and real teams for the 2000-2001 season, including expansion Minnesota and Columbus. The game itself includes several modes of play, including Quick Game (A.K.A. exhibition), Season (which is really like a Franchise mode), Playoff, Tournament, and Shootout. All of these modes can be customized on a level that is far above many other games, and becomes one of the strongest points of NHL 2001. In addition to the usual rule changes you can make to customize your game, the AI settings are tremendous. You can customize, on a sliding scale, all of the following aspects of gameplay: game speed, speed burst length and percentage, fatigue, aggression, injuries, hitting power, fall recovery, shot blocking, pass interceptions, pass accuracy, pass speed, shot accuracy, puck elasticity, puck friction, goalie rebounds, penalties, fighting, and player and goalie boost. Basically, you can play an all-out, fast paced game, a slow, more realistic game, and anywhere in the middle. And the best part is, the slider bars actually DO have a noticeable different in the game. What EA has done is include an arcade and simulation game in one package, and made the transition up to the user, instead of the usual difficulty ratings. NHL 2001's completeness is astounding.
The sound is also incredible. You can hear the complaints of the players, hear the puck smack the boards, hear the players smack each other, hear the crowd react, and so much more. Commentary by Jim Hughson and Bill Clement is the best in any sports title to date. Repetitions are few and far between, and Bill accurately breaks down why the goal occurred. The sound is top notch.
Gameplay is probably the hardest thing to rate in NHL 2001, since the gameplay can be customized in so many different ways. This is why the gameplay is so unbelievable. Any type of hockey game you can think of (fast, slow, offensive, defensive) can be created and played realistically. The awesome gameplay is a derivative of the plethora of different settings you can make. Someone has finally realized that not everyone wants the same hockey experience, and NHL 2001 is superb at accommodating each person's wants and needs. The gameplay is what you make of it.
Are you kidding me? The graphics are the best of any sports title I have ever seen. Despite some clipping problems, the graphics are enthralling. I'd rather watch a game on NHL 2001 than on TV, because it is much more detailed and amazingly real. The player's faces look EXACTLY like their real life counterparts, and are in 3 dimensions, too. You can compare the player to their 2D picture, and the accuracy is astounding. Plus, the players have very fluid animations, especially between face-offs. Players encourage their goalies, the coach yells instructions, and the penalized skater complains to the refs. I've let a couple of goals get by me just saying "Wow." Even the menus are cool. I am truly impressed.
NHL 2001 is the best hockey game on any platform ever, and may possibly be the best sports game ever for the PC. This title should not be missed, and, for once, I don't feel dirty enjoying an EA game.