Search For Posters!
  Join the SGN staff!
Help Wanted
Release Dates


About Us

The Sports

Partner Links
Auto Insurance Quote
Irvine Moving Companies
LA Moving Companies
Brand Name Shoes

NHL 2K (DC) Review

Publisher: Sega Sports
Release Date: February 2000

Background Info

Screens (6)
Remember back to September 9, 1999. Sega released the exquisite NFL2K which took the console market by storm. Then came NBA2K, which featured the league's best players throwing the rock. Now, several months into Winter, Black Box and Sega Sports have given us NHL2K. With an emphasis on simulation, the Sega Sports label has quickly shown it can produce high quality and realistic simulations of our favorite sports.

NHL2K maintains the same high graphics standard set by NFL2K and NBA2K, but gameplay is what makes or breaks a game. And suffice it to say, NHL2K does not disappoint when it comes to simulating the play of real NHL hockey. With all the big name players and teams, NHL2K will have you hitting the ice in no time.

Presentation/Graphics : 78
While NFL2K dropped jaws with its graphics, there was always something odd about the players. They seem a little out of proportion compared to the field. There's no denying the graphics weren't anything short of incredible. But NFL2K (and NBA2K) were developed by Visual Concepts. NHL2K, on the other hand, was developed by the team at Black Box, who have put their own graphical spin on the first hockey title on the Dreamcast.

Where the players in NFL2K seem out of proportion, the skaters in NHL2K fit the ice to exact dimensions. Players appear somewhat stocky with their shoulder and leg pads. Goalies fill the nets with a little extra padding strapped to their bodies. The player models are highly detailed. Depending on the camera view used, names and numbers can be clearly read as you skate down the ice. In addition, uniforms capture the appropriate logos in shape and color.

The rinks themselves have realistic surfaces, as the ice reflects lights from above and you see the reflected images of the players as they skate by. The rinks' logos are plastered deep underneath the ice along with the blue and red lines. Scuff marks on the ice keep the lines from being solid in color, which adds a touch of realism to the game. And as the game develops, additional skate marks are carved out on the ice. Unfortunately they disappear after a minute or so, but the game keeps tracks of nearly every single mark on the ice.

As players move down the ice, the NHL2K engine utilizes a variety of player animations. The skating animations are fluid, and as players head towards the goal, the puck switches from side to side on the stick blade. On defense, poke checks are clearly visible, as you see players extend their sticks in attempt to steal the puck or slow the opposing player. What this means is you can actually see when a penalty will get called. Depending on the camera view, hooking is easy to discern. Sticking with the defensive side of the game, body checking entails throwing some elbows around, which are all clear as day in the game.

The camera views available during play are the ice, side, overhead, action, and 3/4 overhead cameras. The action cam is best suited to games where you just want to watch the CPU battle with itself. It's not a view for playing. The ice cam puts you in the action from a vantage point just above the ice. This view is great for checking out the goalie movements, but its field of vision is limited and makes passing difficult. The overhead view is more like a blimp view. The side and 3/4 views open up the ice making the passing lanes easy to predict.

Out of your control is the view for each faceoff. Each time a faceoff occurs, a randomly selected vantage point is used. The scary thing is that some views look so real you'll think you're watching an actual game. From the striped referee dropping the puck to the crowd in the stands, the motion and atmosphere are right on. The crowds are similar to the ones in NBA2K. That is, rather than being static, the fans pump their fists and stand during the game.

For all its wonderful graphics, there are two items which are graphics related that put a black mark on the game. The presentation is television style, and as such the score is shown in the upper left corner of the screen. While the size of the scoreboard is small, the puck and players can get lost behind the score, depending on the camera view used. Usually this is isolated to the corners of the rink, but if your goalie is under pressure, you'll frantically try to dump the puck out of your zone. Finding it underneath the score can be downright frustrating.

The second issue is with the line changes and coaching strategies. These are invoked by both human and AI opponents, and when called up, a menu is displayed onscreen during gameplay. The menus take up approximately one-eighth or so of the screen, which is both a distraction and negative influence on the flow of the game. On more than one occasion I had a breakaway while the CPU opponent was making a line change. I lost sight of all my players on the right side of the screen as the CPU was deciding what line to put in.

So while the graphics are nothing short of spectacular, the graphical score has to be diminished because of the completely boneheaded implementation of the in-game menu system. Why the developers couldn't have minimized their impact is a question they should answer for the next version of the game.

Presentation/Audio : 95
NHL2K features television style commentary in the form of Bob Cole and Harry Neale. The team does a good job keeping up with the action, and the color commentary stays fresh for each game. A couple of comments were repeated from one game to the next, but the play-by-play more than made up for any repetition. The play-by-play calling was right on top of who received passes, who took shots, and who stole the puck.

Keeping with the atmosphere of a real hockey game, music could be heard piped over the stadium speakers. Familiar tunes were heard that are indicative of going to any professional sporting event. Music changed from pre-recorded tunes to the good old hockey organ.

The sounds of hockey are clearly evident in the game. Slapshots are crisp, and striking the goal posts with the puck has a sharp clank. Hitting the boards produces a thud type sound, and the sounds of the skates on ice are modeled exactly. Like NBA2K and NFL2K, the crowd cheers in NHL2K. However, it doesn't have the dynamics of the crowd in NBA2K. The crowd in NHL2K seems to cheer no matter the score or pace of the game. Also, the sounds skips a beat occasionally. It's nowhere near as bad as the sound in NFL2K, but it does happen sporadically.

Interface/Options : 55
From all appearances, NHL2K is an unfinished game. While the gameplay and physics are right on, the options in the game just speak of unfinished business. Manipulating menus is straightforward, and getting from the main title screen to the game is simple. However, the problem lies with the available game options.

NHL2K has three basic game modes - exhibition, season, and playoff. Choosing the season style of play, you'll be in for the long haul. Expect to play the entire NHL season to advance in the game, as NHL2K lacks any sort of season customization. This is a definite turn-off to many, and playing nearly 100 games to win the cup is just too time consuming. And if you were wanting to have injuries in the game, forget that too. Unforgivably, there is no option to turn injuries on, and thus there are no injuries in the game.

Besides having no options for season lengths, this title has a terrible statistics tracking system. Every gamer likes to compare his players to the league's best, but in NHL2K the task is made more difficult than it needs to be. Selecting the season stats, you'd expect to see the top goal scores, goaltenders, and top assist men. The only way to compile these stats in NHL2K is manually. Stats are listed on a team-by-team basis. So if you want to compare your scorer to the others in the league, you have to check your team's stats, make a note of the stats, and then cycle through every team and compare. Furthermore, if you want to see how your competition is doing from game to game, forget it. You can only view the schedule (past and future) for your team. During game play, the statistical model breaks down every now and then. A few times the incorrect player was credited with a goal. This occurred when the puck was deflected by the goalie and I had a player near the goal.

Controlling the players during play utilizes very few buttons. On offense, passing is done by pressing the A button and pushing the analog stick in the direction you'd like to pass. Tapping the X buttons snaps a wrist shot, and holding the X button unleashes a slap shot. The manual states that the slap shot utilizes the analog stick for placement. Imagine facing the goal. Holding the X button and holding the stick up and to the left or right puts the puck in the upper corners of the net. While nice in theory, the goalies respond quickly and this feature loses its appeal quickly. Players get a burst of speed with the B button. To dump the puck into the opponent's zone, press the Y button.

On defense, the A button changes players, supposedly to the player nearest to the puck. On several occasions the player chosen was not the closest to the puck, so I found myself repeatedly tapping the A button. By pressing the X button, your player poke checks his opponent, and a speed burst or body check is initiated with the B button. If your opponent is getting close to the goal, the Y button causes your player to try to block a shot by usually falling to the ice. By default goalies are controlled by the CPU. To control the goalie, the goalie control must be set to manual in the settings menu.

On both offense and defense, line changes and strategies can be selected. The interface associated with the changes is cumbersome and affects the flow of the game. By pressing the L button, a coaching strategy menu pops up. Offensive strategies are listed on the left side of the menu with defensive strategies on the right. Changing strategies requires you to use the digital pad to move up, down, left, or right. The manual states the various strategies, but actually never says how to change from one strategy to another. To activate a strategy (and get rid of that obnoxious menu), press the A button. If your players tire quickly, line changes using this system can often leave your team exposed for a few seconds.

The manual did little to endear me to the Black Box writers. Aside from not explaining how to select a strategy, the manual is sparse, with most options only having short one sentence descriptions. Some options, such as difficulty level, are neglected. For example, under the VMU Backup option, the manual reads, "The VMU is used to save your game data." No kidding. What it doesn't tell you is that you save and load the game progress, your settings, your user stats, and various other pieces of information. The manual is great for getting the basic gist of the game, but that's about it.

Gameplay : 90
Typically I like to get a gentle introduction to each game to get accustomed to the control and AI. For sports games, this usually means playing a few games on the easiest level. Since NHL2K lacks a practice mode, playing on easy was the only way to get started. Or so I thought. I quickly got the feel of the game and was ready to jump up a level. The difficulty setting can be set before a game or adjusted during the game. Jumping from the Rookie level to the Pro level, I noticed little, if any, difference in play. For that matter, playing on All-Star was so similar to Rookie that I figured Black Box just didn't have time to tune the AI. So the gameplay portion of this review is restricted to playing on All-Star level.

From the drop of the puck, you know you're in for something good. As mentioned earlier, the graphics and sound give you the feeling that you are part of a real NHL contest. Faceoffs can be won (and won fairly consistently) by pressing the A button and the instant the puck hits the ice. From there, you'll notice that the pace mimics a real game. Skating is momentum based. It takes time for skaters to reach top speed, and each player in the game has varying degrees of acceleration. Players can stop quickly, but once stopped, it again takes time to get speed up.

Momentum is also utilized in the checking game. At low speeds your players have better control and can make tight turns. But trying to body check at low speeds is akin to line dancing. You and your dancing partner are simply strutting your stuff down the rink. To put a big hit on the opponent and knock the puck away, you'll have to sacrifice some control for speed. You may miss the opponent, but if you get him, you'll splatter him to the ice.

Hit players enough and you might find yourself in a scuffle. While not a common occurrence, roughly one-third of the games I played featured one fight. There is a bit of strategy involved with fighting scenarios. Should you wish to forego the pugilism, hit the A button three times and your skater skates away. Your reward for being a choir boy is your opponent gets to spend two minutes in the box while you are still on the ice. And speaking of penalties, the referees in NHL2K dish out a good number of penalties. The most common infractions are hooking and roughing.

Some players have better physical attributes than others. Stronger players are able to work through a crowd and overpower the defense on the way to the net. So NHL2K offers a tremendous variety in the skill level of players on each team. If playing in season mode, you'll quickly discover the positive and negative attributes to each player on your team and plan accordingly. Playing with the Red Wings, I loved having Sergei Federov in the game to break through the defense. When defending power plays, the speed of Chris Chelios is a definite advantage.

The game offers three offensive and defensive strategies, but to be honest, I never fully noticed a difference in them. My style of play is up and down action, and coaching strategies were somewhat useless. As a feel good measure, I would start the game with my offense set to aggressive. After scoring a goal or two, I'd back off to passive. Likewise, on defense, I would use a zone or man defense most of the time. If I was down, I'd slip the setting down to an intimidation style of defense hoping to catch a break.

About the only time I'd break away from my frenetic style of play was on power plays. With a man or two advantage, the defense tends to go into a roving box defense. Thus, you can utilize a traditional power play attacking offense. The puck can be passed from behind the net out to the point. I was quite successful holding on to the puck for times consistent with real hockey. Besides adding a sense of realism, this also gives you an opportunity to look for holes in the defense.

Finding holes in the defense is one thing, but scoring in NHL2K is quite another. There's a nasty rumor floating around that it's downright impossible to score in NHL2K, or at least that the scores are too low. Well, have you looked in the sports section lately? Looking at a sampling of games, for 10 games played one night in real NHL hockey, the victor scored 34 total goals with the losers netting 17. So thats a 5.1 goals per game average. And if you look in the NHL stats, you'll find most teams hover around the 3 goals per game average. Playing with 5 minute periods (you can play 5, 10, or 20 minutes periods), I'm averaging around 2.5 goals per game. Not that great, considering the other teams in my virtual league are average 3-4 a game. And in fact, that makes it look like the NHL2K statistical model is a little lopsided.

However, considering I'm only playing 5-minute periods, the scoring is decent. The goalies in the league are strong, but as the season progresses, my skills are improving. Heck, I even had a 6-0 game on All-Star level, scoring 4 goals in the opening stanza. The key to scoring is patience. The game offers numerous breakaway opportunities, but I haven't been able to crack the goalie in these scenarios. In fact, on my one and only penalty shot I've encountered, I completely botched it.

But by having two or three man breaks, goal scoring can open up. Goalies follow the puck, so coming down the sides will cause goalies to guard the posts. A last second pass to the opposite side or the middle will give you a split second of open goal. Depending on the speed of the goalie, you've just scored or been denied. On many occasions the puck hit the pipes and I had to recycle the offense.

I also found a sort of money play in the game. It doesn't work consistently, but about 10 percent of the time I can score a goal off a faceoff deep in my opponent's zone. I won't give it away, but I will say that you need to pass the puck around to fool the goalie. I used the technique down 2-0 with under a minute left in the third against the Blackhawks. I was able to score two goals and send the game into overtime. Unfortunately the boys from Chicago came together and scored in the OT.

There is one complaint I have with the game, and it's not the supposed difficulty associated with scoring. Rather, it's the ease of the game. Playing as the Red Wings, my winning percentage is spectacular. Despite scoring only 2.5 goals per game, I'm winning over 80 percent of my games playing on the All-Star level. Granted, I don't think there is really a difference between levels, but nonetheless, I'm smoking the league.

Replay Value : 95
Even though NHL2K's AI seems like an easy play, I'm drawn to the game. I can't wait to drop the puck on each game. I've had stretches of several minutes of non-stop action with tired players and intense back and forth action. There's nothing better than being tied late in the third or in overtime and scoring a goal. In fact, I think this is what appeals most to me about NHL2K. Because scoring is not commonplace, you relish each goal you score and feel the elation of your virtual team.

Sports games always have built-in replay value. The goal is to win the championship, and doing so takes many hours and games to fulfill. It's no different with NHL2K. With a long regular season (due to the lack of season customization in the game), and an NHL playoff system that keeps teams playing into the summer, you'll be playing this game for many hours.

The key to keeping this game in your library is to lose your preconceived notions that scoring is difficult and appreciate the game for what it is. After the first couple of hours toughing it out with the mechanics, you'll find a gem of a hockey title to keep you happy.

Overall : 88
Despite the fact NHL2K seems unfinished, the game is a great play. The pace of the game gives you the impression you are part of a live contest. The ebb and flow of the games is engrossing to say the least. Personally I'd much rather have a hockey simulation that features limited scoring than a goal fest with double digit scoring. The latter waters down the whole concept of hockey. Hockey, like soccer, is one of those sports where your emotions are bottled up for long stretches. As soon as you score, the emotions pour out and you get a rush of adrenaline. And I haven't had this type of adrenaline rush for quite some time...

By: James Smith 3/7/00

© 1998-2006 Sports Gaming Network. Entire legal statement. Feedback

Other Links:
[Free Credit Report  |   Car Insurance Quotes  |   Designer Shoes  |   Outdoor Equipment

MVP Baseball 2003
Street Hoops
Mad Catz Xbox Hardware

Inside Pitch 2003
MLB Slugfest 20-04
Tennis Masters Series



[an error occurred while processing the directive]