Replay Value: 8.9
Publisher: 989 Studios
Number Of Players: 1-8
Hockey games have always had a place in my heart. Ever since those NHL games on Super Nintendo and all the way to the recent NHL 2K on Dreamcast, I've always enjoyed the great hockey games and I still do. With the aging of the PS, the upcoming release of PS2, and NHL 2K on the Dreamcast, I wonder if another great hockey game will come along on our Playstation? EA Sports has the NHL franchise and 989 Sports has their Faceoff series. Both franchises have had their share of great games, although all of us are trying to forget NHL '99. Well 989 Sports has released NHL Faceoff 2001, that is the sixth NHL game in the long running history of the series. Most of the Faceoff games have always been decent or great. What category does Faceoff 2001 fall under? Read and find out.
What can you expect from the graphics on a five year old system that is only capable of manipulating 360,000 polygons? After seeing the amazing PS2 NHL 2001 my expectations on Faceoff 2001 have dropped, just like Madden 2001. But after playing Faceoff 2001, I thought "not bad", I was impressed by how much the PS can still push out and the visuals were actually quite decent. The athletes all look nicely structured with a good looking body overall. The motion is very smooth and almost has that Madden 2001 feel to it, on top of that, the frame rates are perfect, never skipping a beat and keep the action fresh. The speed of the skaters is realistic, this is probably the most life-like hockey game out there on the PS. But there are a few downs, the stadium is quite shabby and shallow, there is absolutely NO detail in the crowd. I always say that it isn't always important, but Faceoff 2001 has no crowd, just a golden looking background. All is fine in the visuals, I wouldn't expect anything more from PS, this is probably the best it can do for the last 989 Sports hockey title on the PS.
NHL Faceoff 2001 isn't anything new at all, the gameplay still consists of running the puck down the ice and shooting it in the goal. Just like all the previous Faceoff games you still have the usual, Exhibition mode, Season mode, Training mode, Playoffs, Shootout and Quick Start. I'm pretty sure that none of these modes need any explanation, we all know that Exhibition is a pre-season game, a Season is where the gamer devotes tons of time in order to win the Stanley Cup, Training is just to get to know the game, and etc. Faceoff 2001 gives you 40 different hockey teams, 10 of which are either all-star or international groups. The all-star bundled teams are North America, USA, Canada and World, while the international teams are Czech Republic, Finland, Germany, Russia, Slovakia and Sweden. Every single team has an overall ranking that lets the illiterate hockey gamer know which team to pick, so don't pick the Atlanta Thrashers because they have a "pretty" logo, pick some one like the Avalanche or the Red Wings. Faceoff 2001 also lets you customize penalty calls, and lets you toggle between Simulation mode and Arcade. Playing NHL Faceoff 2001 is a lot of fun, especially when you play with 8 people, the party really gets started there. In my honest opinion, Faceoff 2001 is the most fun I've had playing a sports game in a long time, make sure to pick this one up.
Everyone who reads my sports reviews knows the commentary is one important feature to me. I disliked Madden 2001's commentary because it was a bit lame, but I love Triple Play 2001, and FIFA 2000's play by play because it was so common and deep. Faceoff's commentary can be considered to be right on top there with the two big boys FIFA and Triple Play. The commentary is great, constantly flowing and rarely repetitive. The play-by-play only gets repeated after you've played the game hundreds of times non-stop, but if you keep the gaming experience once or twice on a daily basis, you should usually hear fresh commentary and not get annoyed by it. The quality in sound is exceptional, the puck smacking the pole, to the clash between skaters, to the sound that a slap shot makes, all of that sounds awesome and real. And on top all of that the crowd noise is incredibly good, this is what really sets you in the mood.
Controlling your athlete is the same as it has always been, X is to pass, Square is to shoot and holding it is to slap the puck, O is to carry the puck in front of you during a breakaway, and triangle drops the puck. On defense X is to switch skaters, O is to slam into a skater and steal, Square and triangle have no use (or at least one that I've found). Using the analog will give the most accurate control for the skaters and controlling the puck movement, accompanied by that is some great force feedback courtesy of the Dual Shock. Tight controls make this one an even bigger must have.
In the end I found Faceoff 2001 to be the most pleasing hockey videogame out there, yes more enjoyable than NHL 2K. Everything from the visuals, to the fast gameplay, and to the excellent commentary makes up a great game like Faceoff 2001. Hats off SolWorks and 989 Sports who have done a wonderful job by creating the finest hockey game to date, the only thing left to ponder is how EA's NHL 2001 can compare.