Platform: GC, GBA, PC, PS2, XB
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Developer: EA Canada
ETA: Fall 2003
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It's been a much lamented point of sports games. How do you reinvent a sports game with each new installment? One such series that has come under fire the last few years is EA's NHL hockey series. The commentating is hokey, the goaltending sucks, blah, blah, assorted bitching and moaning about any other niggling detail. While NHL 2004 won't be able to please the most jaded and cynical, for the rest of us, the feature list makes it look like NHL 2004 is another evolutionary step, particularly if you like fighting.
number one selling NHL interactive video game franchise continues a
tradition of excellence in its 12th year with NHL 2004. This year's game
includes a new fight system, new hitting animations, and complete right
analog stick control with improved deking and hitting that makes it the
most physical hockey game ever. With a significantly enhanced EA SPORTS
Dynasty Mode, the addition of three new international elite leagues, and
all new commentary from Craig Simpson, NHL 2004 puts players in the rink
for authentic hockey competition. In addition, new EA SPORTS online
gameplay for the PlayStation 2 computer entertainment system takes
competition nationwide. Take the ice with NHL 2004.
Analog Hit Stick: New Right Analog control for hitting allows the gamer
to take control over the physical part of the game. Improved freestyle
deking system with smooth responsive and more intuitive control allows
the gamer to easily take control and perform creative cool moves to
create scoring chances.
EA SPORTS Dynasty Mode: Take your turn at being the GM. Earn enough
experience points and you can upgrade facilities, hire new staff, and
build a better office for yourself. The upgrades affect your team's
attributes and your ability to sign players.
the Gloves: The most realistic and exciting hockey fight engine on the
market uses an authentic fight system that stems from grappling rather
than simple button-mashing boxing. Intuitive controls feature much more
depth and strategy, and even goalies can drop the gloves and get in on
Hitting Animations: Tons of new body checks motions captured from even
more angles for added realism, including explosive player collisions.
Player AI: Using situational AI, players respond intelligently to
different situations on the ice. The computer will predict and
anticipate so that players react intelligently to various situations
during the game.
Atmosphere: Improved rendering, realistic skating and player models, new
animations, stylish presentation, and more real-life stadiums give a
breakthrough new look to EA's NHL product franchise.
Appeal: Select from 30 current NHL hockey teams, NHL All-Star Teams, or
go worldwide with 20 National teams or an international elite league
featuring 39 teams from Sweden, Finland, and Germany, with unique
uniforms, logos, and rules.
SPORTS Bio: Memory card based tracking/rating system recognizes and
rewards gamers for playing multiple EA SPORTS titles.
Improved Audio: New authentic color commentary replaces Don Taylor's
humor with a more authentic style of color commentary. Play-by-play
announcer Jim Hughson teams up with new color announcer Craig Simpson,
who is an ex-NHL player, two-time Stanley Cup® winner, and current
EA SPORTS Online Competition: Sign on to the NHL lobby and find an opponent. Chat online or challenge someone to a game of hockey (PlayStation 2 and PC-CD only).
There are the usual statistical and visual
updates, but two things catch my attention: a new fighting engine and
new color commentary.
There are the usual statistical and visual updates, but two things catch my attention: a new fighting engine and new color commentary.
Opinion seemed to be split on Don Taylor's color work the last couple of years. I liked it, even when it got repetitive. With the addition of Craig Simpson the tone will probably be more serious (a real plus for those looking for hockey simulation rather than a game).
The fighting engine has always been NHL's weakest feature. With the promise of an "authentic fight system" -- if such a thing exists in the NHL -- we might get more than high and low punches with choppy animation. The emphasis on more control extends to other on-ice activities, such as checking and deking. On the face of it this seems like a good thing, but many felt let down with the functionality of the manual deke. (You'll notice there's no mention of the adrenaline slow-mo from last year.) We haven't had a chance to take NHL 2004 for a test skate, so it's a wait and see situation.
And we'll get to see come Fall 2003
(September 7, 2003)