Platform: GC, GBA, PC, PS2, XB

Genre: Sports

Publisher: Electronic Arts

Developer: EA Canada

ETA: Fall 2003

 

Related Links:

Review: NHL 2003 (GC)

Review: NHL 2003 (PS2)

Review: NHL Hitz 2003 (PS2)

 

 

 

 

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NHL 2004

 

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.

 

nhl 2004 preview    nhl 2004 preview    nhl 2004 preview

 

The 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.

 

Features:

Right 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.

 

Deep 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.

 

Drop 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 the action.

 

New Hitting Animations: Tons of new body checks motions captured from even more angles for added realism, including explosive player collisions.

 

Smart 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.

 

NHL 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.

 

International 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.

 

EA SPORTS Bio: Memory card based tracking/rating system recognizes and rewards gamers for playing multiple EA SPORTS titles.

 

Vastly 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 broadcaster.

 

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.

 

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

 

- Omni

(September 7, 2003)