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NHL 2K: Looks great, less thrilling

Action Shots

February 15, 2000
Web posted at: 8:33 a.m. EST (1333 GMT)

by The Freshman

(IDG) -- Sega Sports' recent games, including NFL 2K and NBA 2K, have been universally acclaimed for graphics and presentation, thanks to the power of the Dreamcast, but some gamers have been less than impressed with the gameplay at the heart of these titles.

NHL 2K is a Sega Sports game that, again, looks downright incredible, but its gameplay seems to be missing something.

NHL okay

All the features are here in NHL 2K, from custom players to custom plays (which show up on your VMU). All the teams are represented, with various jerseys that you can choose from before the game. There are all sorts of moves to do, passes to make, and shots to take, and by the time you finish NHL 2K's Season Mode, you'll probably have seen them all. Rest assured, every feature you want is in the game.

What NHL 2K is all about, though, is graphics. You'd swear you were watching a real NHL game if you weren't sitting close to the TV. Your skates leave little ruts in the ice, sprays of ice fly up when you pull a tight turn, and TV-style cut scenes fill time in-between plays, as your players fidget, skate to the penalty box, or celebrate great goals.

The play-by-play commentary by Hall-of-Famer Bob Cole and former NHL coach Harry Neale help complete this feeling of presentation. Whatever its other faults, NHL 2K is a landmark in console hockey presentation.

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Slick ice

No other console hockey game can dream of competing with NHL 2K in the graphical arena. The skate ruts and sprays of ice are immensely impressive, and the player models (each made of 1,500 polygons) simply amaze, with perfectly rendered team uniforms (down to the names on the back of their jerseys) and animations.

You can feel the disappointment when a player slouches his way to the penalty box, and you can sense the excitement as your team scores the deciding goal. Console gamers have never seen hockey like this; only EA Sports' NHL 2000 for the PC comes close.

2K slides a bit when it comes to sound, but only because of the commentary. The commentators sound good enough, but they repeat too often, lag behind the play (easy to do in a game as fast as hockey), and even launch into some of the most mundane trivia you'll ever hear in-between plays. Random arena-based trivia is all well and good, but to hear the same obscure trivia repeated during a single game puts the color commentary on the "tune-out" list.

Offensively, NHL 2K's controls work well, but on the defensive side you'll find yourself relying on the skill of your goalie, because your checks really don't seem to do the job. The CPU can skate down-ice, surrounded by three or more of your guys, and still hang on to the puck long enough to take a shot. It's just annoying having to pray every time the puck's in your end.

I'm okay, you're 2K

NHL 2K is a sight to behold, but once you play it you might not want to be holding it for long. Gamers weaned on the speed and control of NHL 2000 and its series might find NHL 2K a bit slow and odd for their liking. Gamers looking for a graphical spectacular, however, won't find any better.

Pro tips

  • Set up scoring opportunities in front of the goal. Wait until you have a man to your left or right, tap him a pass and press X to shoot as soon as the pass gets there. If you do it right, the goalie will be confused and the shot will go in.

  • If you hit the A button when the puck reaches about this position in a face-off, you'll win face-off almost every time. Face-offs seen from a side-angle require more care, but the overhead angle gives you a huge advantage over the CPU.

  • Anytime you're skating next to a teammate, and the goal is wide open, do a pass-n-shoot. If you can catch the goalie far off to one side, leaving the net open, your quick pass/shoot combo will go in most every time.

  • If you're killing a penalty, you won't be called for Icing, so if the heat is on, just wrist-shot the puck into the opponent's end of the ice. Use the time spent bringing the puck back to take a breather and reorganize.

  • Get to know your players and their positions. A right-winger will be in his best position if you have him take the puck up the right side, because then the center and left-winger will be in their own places, ready for a great play.

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