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The NHL series has never been big on realism. It's always been about pure adrenaline pumping gut checking fun on ice. The latest installment is no different. With a bunch of new features and changes this game in my opinion is the best game in the venerable series. Last year's game was kick ass with great AI and visuals that simulated a real living ice rink and sounds to boot. Expect things to get better.

So where do I start? The most outstanding improvement clocks in with the overall gameplay category. Remember the weird slowdown? It's been obliterated - 2002 runs as smooth as a baby's backside. The rink has officially been declared a no slow zone. Checking? It's great - no more stop and go checks! Blast opponents into next week all the time and every time. Other new touches include manual dekes and saucer passes for good measure.

Second of all this game incorporates a lot of eye catching new features. I will start with my personal favorite - the new breakaway camera. It emphasizes and heightens the tension in breakaways. What happens is whenever your guy is on a breakaway the game fade outs all other sounds except the player's heartbeat - pretty dramatic stuff. I hated one thing though if you're skating toward the goal at the bottom of the screen, the breakaway camera will maintain that perspective instead of shifting around to follow the attacker in from behind. As a result, the goal and the goalie often block most of your view. I turned it off after the first few times. A way more cooler one camera incorporated in the game is the Matrix-esque or now the Max Payne-esque slow motion from-different-angles replay whenever there is a spectacular save or bone crunching tackle. On the other hand, a more original and very well done new replay option is found in the new "game story," which basically tracks the flow of the game and flashes back to key moments, either much earlier in the action or just a few seconds ago. These replays pop up during stoppages and can be skipped simply by pressing an action button on your controller, but they are often worth watching just for fun. Some of the themes you'll see during a game story update include a hot goalie, a hat trick, one team dominating the play, or a dramatic comeback by one side or the other.

NHL 2002 adds a lot to the core game, including an in-game NHL "trading cards" book, similar to the ones found in some of EA Sports' PlayStation 2 games (NCAA Football 2002 for example). You can accumulate points by completing various specific objectives, such as scoring a hat trick or reaching the 20-goal plateau in a season. These points can then be spent on trading cards, which in turn unlock other special features. The most common of these is the ability to turn the player on the card into a hero for varying periods of time. Others include unlockable goal celebrations and arcadelike power-up items, such as superfast shots. As with the commentary, most hard-core fans of the series will likely prefer to ignore a lot of this stuff, aside from the fun of trying to collect all the available player cards. 

The game sounds excellent and more or less exactly like the real thing. Crowd chants, cheering and sounds of the gut-checks or blocks are well done and sound pretty real. You get plenty of great, authentic sound effects as well as a few inoffensive tunes from the Barenaked Ladies and Sum 41. But the ace in the hole is the announcing. Yep, for once in well, ever, I actually enjoy the announcing. It doesn't repeat itself as much as most sports games do and you'll actually laugh now and then. I'm so stupefied, I'll just move on.

The Create-A-Player has also been enhanced with a new face builder feature. Now you can put your face in the game! Well, sort of. A bunch of the game's player faces don't really look like their real life counterparts, but it's still not too bad.

The graphics are as good as ever, but the whole jiggly midsection that was found in 2001 still pops up every now and then. How many severely overweight hockey players have you seen in the NHL? I only want to see those guys in the Sumo Hockey mode (yep, it's another unlockable!).

The usual game modes are here, from the typical quick pre-season outing to the monstrous ten season Career mode. If you'll ever played the EA's NHL series, you know exactly what kind of modes to expect. And if you ever want to get through them all, it will take a long time. 

All this, along with an easy to handle control scheme, makes playing the game a breeze. The game flows much more smoothly in all respects, from the start of the opening ceremonies to the final buzzer. It's fast, it's furious, and it's as close as you'll ever get to controlling an NHL game on TV. 

This game is the best game on ice or on your hard drive. Go geddit.




Game Info

Game Name: NHL 2002

Genre: Sports
Publisher: EA Sports
Reviewed by:
Hitech Sweetheart
Mail him.

Game Score: [Five lightning rating]

Story / Plot:
Reviewer's Tilt :

Game Tested on:

- PIII 800 Mhz
- 128 MB RAM
- Savage 4 16MB
- Windows ME

The Good: Gameplay, Graphics, Controls, Customizing options, interface
The Bad: Joypad/stick required for two player game, Not many new features besides graphics improvement.
The Ugly: The Nigerian players????