Usually, before starting a game I take a sheet of paper and a pencil so I can quickly write down general ideas which remind me what it felt like when I was playing so I can use those items in my review. This time I’ve must have played for half an hour before even noticing I was still standing up. So if you’re going to play NHL you are warned: don’t open the box until you sit in your favourite easy chair and you can spare a few hours because the first thing you’ll get up for is to place your ps2 in some ice, so it can recover from you’re merciless hockey-marathon.
Like you could have guessed I didn’t write much down the first evening or should I say night because this game will hook you up. You’re probably thinking I am getting paid by EA. Just ask my mother how my eyes were looking in the morning when I got up at six o’ clock to go to school. It gets worse every time, instead of at least typing some sentences after I’ve opened a text-editing program (No, that doesn’t have to be Microsoft Word) I trick myself into playing by thinking I have got to test some things.
Like in every sports-game the objective is to win matches in various competition-types such as exhibition, season, playoffs, tournament, elite leagues and dynasty mode. In “Elite league” you can choose between 3 of the European top competition: Germany’s DEL, Sweden’s Eliteserien and Finland’s SM-liiga.
In dynasty mode you are the manager who has to get his team together, earn points, schedule meetings, make contracts, in short everything what a manager needs to do. The difference from other manager games is that you still have to play the matches yourself.
The stadiums are very nice. Glass walls, ice with scratches, better spectators than usual but still too bad to reward. Players look very detailed and move and handle fantastically natural. Knowing that a ps2 only has a 700Mhz processor it is unreal that such graphics are possible to obtain. I’ve checked and the pc minimal requirements are also astonishing low, but it must be impossible to play with such great effects you get on the ps2.
I’ve once body checked an opponent so hard, that he flew through the glass-wall around the ice which immediately shattered to pieces without any interlace. After the referee had blown his whistle, the game was paused during the replacement of the glass. That’s not what makes it great, but a pie has to be finished with cream.
As we are used to, EA added great music to this game including songs from The Deftones, Less Than Jake, Gob, Adema, The Ataris and Alien Ant Farm. Even if you don’t like that kind of music, they are all top bands and get you in the mood for some fast, hard hockey, but the in-game sound-effects really takes this one to an higher level. Skates tearing up the ice rink, a puck hitting the fence, metal bar or another player feels like “Oh yeah!” and the muffled bang resulting from a body check is a power-up for the moral. Still, there’s nothing more supporting than the loud, wild banging from untamed supporters almost destroying the seats. Comments are terrific, they even have their own vision of how your game tactics should change and make jokes once in a while.
Although controls and gameplay are well-considered, it will really take a while before you can really feel at ease. Hockey is a very fast game and you have to do a lot of things at during the action. Hard-core hockey fans won’t see an issue here and you can adapt the difficulty according to your experience but don’t expect to win a championship over the weekend. NHL 2004 evolved into a simulation instead of staying arcade. No harm there because EA did a great job and after all, a game should last long and that can not be obtained by keeping everything simple.
EA is a large-scale company and they have the resources to buy licences. There are lots of original teams and competitions to choose from, so you won’t find the “Moghty Dacks” here.
If you are still not satisfied, you can always create a custom team and custom players.
NHL 2004 is definitely one of the moment’s best sports game. It doesn’t matter if you like hockey or not, this game has something everybody can enjoy. Great graphics, good gameplay, superb sound and original teams and leagues. Now although this is a great game, perhaps wait a few days instead of rushing to the store, because Midway’s “NHL Hitz: Pro” should be coming out soon and it might be nice to know which aspects are different, so you can decide the game that suites you best.