Rating: Average NHL Powerplay '98 is definitely not the must-have mother-of- all-hockey-games I thought it would be, but it's still a decent game. I absolutely loved NHL Powerplay '96, and after skipping a year in the title, Powerplay '98 has several features the first game should have had: full stat tracking over a season, right and left handed players instead of just righties, and fighting. However, this year's game leaves much to be desired in several areas. Offensively, scoring goals now seem to be based as much as luck on skill as opposed to the first game's skillfully luring the goalie to one side of the net and then shooting it in the other side at just the right moment. Defensively, you just don't get that awesome feeling of checking the living crap out of your opponents that was one of the first game's best elements. Also, the crowd isn't near as cool as last year's game, and the music is more modern rock junk than last year's classic tunes. As for the addition of fighting, yeah it sounds great on the back of the box, until you realize that in order to play with fighting on, you must play with penalties on. If there was an issue about not wanting players to go un-penalized for fighting, there could have simply been a third penalty setting that said "Off, except for fighting." And even if you do play with those annoying, seemingly- random penalties on so you can turn fighting on as well, the fights still fail to capture the joy that is still best found in EA's NHL series on the Genesis. Another problem I have with this game is that instead of saving all seasons, rosters, and options automatically as is now the standard in hockey games and was the case in the Powerplay '96, you have to load and save individual seasons, rosters, and options separately. This becomes a pain with the game's already- lengthy load times, and is made even worse by the fact that often times you'll load rosters or preferences and all your custom rosters will have magically disappeared. This is a pain in the butt, the complete opposite of last year, where everything was automatically saved and loaded like it should be. Also, the graphics are better than last year's game, but hockey game designers have got to learn to make the players look better from far away instead of just when you get in close, because you have to play with a wide camera angle for a hockey game to be playable, and thus you can't appreciate improved graphics if you have to zoom in to see their details. Don't get me wrong, despite all these flaws, Powerplay '98 is still a decent game, but rather than being the absolutely must-have hockey game I thought it would be, it has turned into a game that I feel isn't worth paying $50 for. PlayStation hockey fans should just pick up a copy of NHL Powerplay '96, which is an awesome game that is only $20 now.
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