NHL 2K Review

For Dreamcast

Rating: Good
   The last three games I reviewed were South Park Rally, Fighting Force 2, 
and Mario Party 2, so it wouldn't take much for NHL 2K to be an improvement 
over the recent norm.  Thankfully, NHL 2K is better than the three 
aforementioned games, but it's still not quite a must-have game.
   One thing that's particularly innovative in NHL 2K is the incredible 
physics engine.  Not only does this apply to the puck, but it also applies 
to the players themselves.  Checking (basically trying to knock the crap 
out of another player) is executed brilliantly.  Every hockey game before 
NHL 2K made every check a devastating hit that knocked the victim flat on 
his back.  In NHL 2K, there is a lot of pushing and bumping in addition to 
full-fledged knockdowns.  This makes the game much more realistic since the 
majority of hits in the real NHL don't result in knockdowns.  
   Also, the frequent small hits make the big hits seem like much more of a 
big deal, as do the great animations for hard checks.  It's also nice that 
the players don't automatically line up perfectly for every hit.  You 
really get a good sense of momentum while playing the game.
   Another area in which NHL 2K excels (for the most part) is Artificial 
Intelligence.  The superb AI causes the game is get more and more fun as 
you move up through the difficulty levels, which is the exact opposite of 
games with sloppily-done AI like NBA 2K and NFL 2K.  In NHL 2K, the pro 
level is much more fun than the rookie level, and the all-star level is 
much more fun than the pro level.  This is because the computer players get 
more aggressive, intense, and intelligent.  They don't just magically gain 
the ability to make 80% of their shots like the players in NBA 2K.  Besides 
a big glitch that's covered later in this review, the only complaint I have 
about the AI is that it's easier than it should be to blow past 
   The AI forces you to play NHL 2K like you would play the actual sport.  
Passing is a big part of the game; you can't just skate mindlessly towards 
the net.  There's a button just for dumping the puck (shooting it all the 
way across the rink to kill time), which comes in handy during penalty-
killing situations.  The effects of fatigue are done very well, with speed 
bursts and fatigue being directly related to one another.  I once thought 
that it would be cool if hockey games had a juke button like football games, 
but NHL 2K does this idea one better by letting you create your own jukes 
with the silky-smooth analog control.
   Like most hockey games, NHL 2K doesn't have a perfect camera angle.  The 
Action Cam is too zoomed in for you to see where you're going, and the Ice 
Cam is too zoomed out for you appreciate the awesome graphics.  The perfect 
camera angle for this game would be just like the Ice Cam, only zoomed in a 
little bit more.  The camera angles are great in the Action Replays that 
play after every goal.  Just as in NFL 2K and NBA 2K, this game's Action 
Replays really add to the mood of the game.  In addition, the interface 
lets you do what you want to do very quickly, whether it's looking for a 
particular statistic or just getting into the game.
   Fighting and injuries are both big parts of hockey, but neither of them 
are featured prominently in NHL 2K.  Occasional fights intensify the 
physical nature of hockey in real life, but fights are extremely rare in 
NHL 2K.  Injuries are also a big part of hockey.  Sometimes players sit out 
to let their injuries heal, and sometimes they tough it out and play 
through their injuries.  This has yet to be fully captured in a hockey game, 
and NHL 2K is no exception.  As a matter of fact, I have never seen a 
single injury occur in all my hours of playing the game.
   There are plenty of little glitches and oversights in NHL 2K.  For some 
strange reason, you can't change your strategy settings on any menu screen; 
you can only change them during the actual gameplay.  Even if you have 
turned all of the announcers off, they still start every game on the "on 
position."  You can get them to shut up by going to the options menu, but 
it's annoying to have to do this every single game.  Penalty shots 
sometimes cause the game to freeze up, forcing you to reset the system and 
start the game over.  Line changes sometimes happen at illogical times, 
creating easy breakaways for the other team.  Fortunately, these small 
problems don't significantly detract from the overall experience of the 
   The menu music ranges from decent to very good, with none of it being 
truly great.  The sound effects are good for the most part, but it's odd 
that a siren goes off at the end of every period, but never after goals.  
It's also odd that there aren't any crowd chants.  The announcers are very 
repetitive, but in all fairness, it's extremely hard to do play-by-play 
commentary in a hockey video game because of the fast action nature of the 
   NHL 2K comes up short in the options department.  There's nothing 
resembling a Franchise Mode, which limits the game's long-term depth.  Not 
only that, but you can't play with anything less than five-minute periods.  
Also, you can't play a short season or even a half-length season.  The only 
option is a full 82-game season.  Sure, you can simulate games, but then 
you're not solely responsible for your team's record.  Fortunately, the 
NHL's playoffs are like a mini season on their own, with 16 teams making 
the playoffs and each series being best-of-seven.  As a result, people like 
me who want each season to be fairly short can just choose the Playoffs 
   So, what keeps NHL 2K from being a must-have game?  I'll tell you what: 
One huge, devastating glitch in the goalie AI that lets you humiliate 
goalies on any difficulty level by executing a simple trick.  I won't say 
what this trick is so that I don't ruin anyone's enjoyment of the game, but 
I will say that it renders goalies almost completely helpless (to the point 
that I was once able to score 15 goals in one game against the Dallas 
Stars).  Once you've perfected doing the trick, scoring goals is as easy as 
deciding what rating to give South Park Rally.  
   If Sega had kept this game in development for a few more weeks or months, 
perhaps someone would have discovered the scoring trick and fixed it by 
tweaking the goalie AI.  If this had happened, NHL 2K would have been the 
best hockey games released in years.  As it is, the AI glitch drastically
decreases the entertainment value of an otherwise excellent game.

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