NHL 2002 Review
Whenever EA Sports is mentioned in the realm of videogame lingo, many things come to mind. I believe what many people immediately think of is the Madden series, which is well deserved, due to its impressive gameplay and sheer realism of football greatness. However, what also needs to be included with the talk of EA Sports is the heralded NHL series. With last year's NHL 2001 not living up to many people's expectations, EA hoped to bring a new level of hockey entertainment to the Playstation 2. Many additions and game qualities have been added to this year's hockey title and basically every element has been improved on making for one heck of an NHL experience.
I've always seemed to love hockey games no matter what the title. The adrenaline rush and all-out excitement of the NHL created a spectacular atmosphere, and was a tremendous way to play videogames. From my Sega Genesis all the way up to my PS2, hockey titles were just simply fun to play. What I am realizing now that I am getting older, however, is that EA Sports is easily the king of NHL titles and should be placed head and shoulders over almost any other competition. EA has once again provided a sport's title that will keep you playing for months at a time.
The graphics in NHL 2002 have been noticeably improved from last year's title and show a little more what the PS2 can do. The player models are nicely polished and the cut scenes really show a great amount of detail that EA has put in. The frame rate of the game is absolutely smooth without any sign of slow-down. For those of you who have played NHL 2001, you may have noticed slight lag when there were heavy numbers of players in one area, especially the middle of the rink. NHL 2002 has solved every problem related to that and presents gamers with an incredibly realistic and fun way to play hockey. Such events as goal saving and checking are beautiful in the sense of their execution. Assortments of goalie saves are now available and checking is as explosive as ever. The detail that is shown for both of these is amazing and should not be taken lightly. The crowd in the game is also very well done and gives the sense of a real NHL experience. The 3D crowd models are both pretty to look at from far away and when shown in numerous cut-scenes. Also what needs to be mentioned is the graphic detail shown during fights. Come on people, this is a hockey title and fighting is one of the most enjoyable elements when playing. As the camera zooms in, each punch is shown with great detail and adds realism to an already incredible hockey title. Make no mistake about it; EA has given NHL 2002 a contending spot for best hockey game out right now.
What makes NHL 2002 such an amazing hockey title, aside from their spectacular graphics, is that it delivers a stellar performance in the gameplay category as well. The number of additions and refined elements truly enhance the style of this game and allow for an assortment of options to choose from. One of the most noticeable additions is that of NHL cards. Just like EA did with the Madden series, players are now awarded points for their unique and praiseworthy efforts while playing the game. As you rack up points for say scoring a hat trick or coming back from a 3-goal deficit, you will have the option of purchasing an NHL card that can enhance your team during play. Another gameplay option that is worthy of applause is the addition of the saucer pass. I found this to be absolutely crucial in making a perfect pass to my teammate and found it extremely helpful when attempting to avoid an opponent. By holding down the pass button, players can now flip the puck over an opposing side's stick, making it less likely for your enemy to block what may be a breakaway goal. The game modes are about what you'd expect with franchise/career mode made available this year. Play now, season, playoff, tournament, and shootout make out the list of options at the start screen and allow the player to basically choose whatever intrigues him/her.†
Possibly my favorite part of the game, NHL 2002's sound and commentary is one of the best I've heard in a sports game. This is a very bold statement and I'm saying it with ease. The commentary in NHL 2002 is absolutely hilarious and makes me want to repeat a few of the one-liners right now. Jim Hughson, Don Taylor, and Jon McComb are the announcers during the game and do an absolutely marvelous job. You won't be hearing any Madden/Sumerall type commentary in this title, and thank God for that. The announcers are upbeat and portray commentary as it should be, with light-hearted remarks and comical jabs at both themselves and the players. The in-game sound effects are just what you'd hope for with bone crunching hits and the crisp sound of the ice, as players maneuver freely. The explosive sound of the puck hitting your stick on a one timer is incredible and really gives the game an adrenaline rush. I simply can't say enough about the sound category here folks. EA Sports has once again appealed to every facet a gamer could want.
Well, with the gameplay scoring as high as it did, you'd certainly expect the controls of NHL 2002 to deliver with just as much effect. To no surprise, the controls of the game are both easy to pick up, and respond perfectly with the in-game action. It is with some of these added controls that a player can really get an advantage on their opponent. Triangle is the deke button, auto-deke when just tapped, and allows for manual deking if held and used with the D-pad or analog stick. Simply put, if you hold down triangle you can choose where to deke and have a better sense of control with your character. This element is especially helpful when attempting a breakaway or losing that last guy before you hit the net. X is for passing and changing players while on defense, Square is for shooting and poke checking opponents, Circle enables a speed burst and body check while on defense, with L1 and R1 being spin moves accordingly. It should take you about five minutes to get the hang of NHL 2002's button scheme, and from then on you will be able to eliminate opponents left and right.
Finally, with every element that NHL 2002 has been able to accomplish, you will want to continue to play this game over and over again. The Season mode is especially addicting with a Franchise mode to follow when it is complete. Shootouts are a nice way to work on your shot on goal and the Play Now feature is perfect for a quick game with a friend or simply for practice. I loved the additions in NHL 2002 compared to last year's, and commend EA Sports for the effort they have put in. The NHL Cards are something that should have been present last year, but with them finally appearing in this year's title, they are that much sweeter. Expect many hours invested in this game with a replay value the best I've seen in a hockey thus far.
Overall, what is left to say about NHL 2002? If you are a hockey fan then you should easily already have this game. However, if you are still debating whether or not this game is worth your $50, then let me make it easy for you; NHL 2002 is presently the best hockey title out right now, in my opinion. The replay value makes this game worth every penny, and your friends will love you for having it. If you have a multi-tap then NHL 2002 is a must-have on your shelf. For the rest of you, you simply won't find an NHL title more fun and addicting out right now.
11/24/2001 Matthew Stensrud