Replay Value: 7.9
Electronic Arts has been making hockey games for quite awhile. If you've owned every version since the first one on the Sega Genesis, you probably won't bother reading the rest of this review as you know already know you want it. This is, by quite a ways, the best looking ice hockey game to be found anywhere.
The player detail is astonishing, and you should have little trouble recognizing your favorite players' faces in the game. Most people, however, play video hockey from a zoomed out view so much of this detail can only be seen playing around with the instant replays and also during goal celebrations. What detail? Try reflective helmets and visors, snow sprays, ice reflection, expressive facial movements, fully detailed referees, coaches, and bench players and on and on. The players' eyes also look a lot more natural than the creepy big white eyes in Madden 2001.
Unfortunately, all of this detail seems to hit tax the engine pretty hard at times and there are apparent losses of frames or even some slowdown. This is especially visible as you skate by center ice, possibly because there are just too many things going on with the animated bench added to the action skating by on the ice. Does this annoyance make this a bad a hockey game? I wouldn't say so, but it certainly keeps it from being a great hockey game.
The game can be as difficult as you want it. If you are any good at hockey games (or even if you're not) there is good chance that you'll score over 15 goals against the computer on the Beginner and Rookie levels. Even on the pro and all-star levels, seasoned players should have no trouble with the computer opponents (that is if you leave the game at its default speed). By turning the game speed up just one notch, the computer becomes a very worthy adversary on the higher skill levels.
For last several years, EA has been nailing their sound and presentation on their hockey games and NHL 2001 is no exception. The announcers keep up pretty well with the on ice action, and the beginning of the game still has that TV-style polished look to it. The pre-game sequence looks better than ever from the team coming out of the locker room, to the flashy fireworks.
A bit puzzling is that a few features found in the PSone version are nowhere to be found on the PlayStation2. One of which is the icon-based passing feature that allowed you to select which player to pass to on the fly. Also missing is the NHL Challenge mode that rewarded you points for completing certain skill tasks such as scoring so many goals in a period, getting a hat trick, winning a certain amount of face-offs, etc.
Despite its short-comings, this is still the hockey game to get this year especially since the new version of the Dreamcast's NHL2k has decided to sit on the bench for a year.
(Note: This game is also compatible with the older PSone Dual Shock controllers, but not the PSone multi-tap.)