SYSTEM
PSX

PRICE
$44.99

DEVELOPER
989 Sports

PUBLISHER
989 Studios

RELEASE
09/99

NHL FaceOff 2000 Review

By: John Doe


989 Studios latest installment of its NHL franchise is one fast hockey game. Showing improvement with every new game, 989 is on it's way to creating the "Uber-Hockey-Game" or super hockey game and one day it will succeed. NHL FaceOff 2000 is not without it's problems and still has room for improvement, but fans of the series will dig this solid effort.


Highs:
Lows:

As I have already mentioned, I love the speed at which this game travels. After playing Fox's NHL Championship 2000, which moved at the speed of molasses, it was nice to kick in and get the excitement back. The game speed is even modifiable so if the standard speed setting is too fast or (gasp!) too slow, then by all means, change it to your liking. As you already know, this game offers the usual modes of play: Quick Start, Exhibition, Season and Playoffs. All of the teams are here, including the new kids on the block, the Atlanta Thrashers.

This installment features more realistic skating physics than EA's NHL 2000, which you'll either like or not. I personally like the challenge of more inertia-challenged skaters; it just adds more realism to the game. This version sports a faster framerate and cleaner graphics than previous years, but still comes up short in the move list once you hit the ice. Compared to NHL 2000, which implemented a much needed deke button among others, FaceOff 2000 comes up short in the control department. Heck you don't even get a poke button for goodness sakes.

What it all comes down to is control and in some areas, FaceOff 2000 is just too forgiving. The icon passing allows you to guide that puck to your partners even in the most ridiculous of situations, making the passing game too easy. Passes that would normally be picked off by a blind man go unnoticed by the opposition, allowing you to pass back and forth with ease. Of course this leads to numerous one-timers which the goalie AI on the easy and intermediate settings just can't seem to stop. In fact, I think it is safe to say that the rookie mode and even the intermediate mode are strictly for newbies. Veterans will have to really ramp up the difficulty just to make things more enjoyable.

Graphically this game looks great while playing. The animations of the players are smooth and realistic, aside from the goalie, which looks a little stiff. The instant replays tend to look a little blocky and rough though. The camera angle is 99% perfect except for just after a face off, when it tends to focus a little too low to the ice and masks some of the action. The crowd however is a different story. It looks like a Monet painting; flat and colorful. More definition would have been nice.

In the sound department, FaceOff 2000 is a mixed bag. The crowd noise is excellent and really adds to the overall excitement of each game. The sound effects such as slapshots and goal post hits are accurate. However the commentary is unnatural and sounds very pieced together like an audible ransom note. It just doesn't work for me. It doesn't ruin the actual gameplay by any means, but it sure doesn't hold up against the competition, namely the excellent play by play in NHL Championship 2000. There are too many voice inflection inconsistencies that affect the flow of the sentences.

For those who like to dabble in creation, FaceOff 2000 has an easy to use Create-A-Player feature. The presentation is streamlined which makes the process easy to understand. Once a player is created you'll have to free up some space on the team of your choice, by releasing or trading other players (who needs Yzerman when I've got Mr. Poo Poo Head?) and then sign your new player to the team. If you want your player to get ice time right away you'll then need to edit your Line Roster. All in all it took less than 2 minutes to create my player and get his butt on the ice for his first game. Once you are familiar with the controls, you can expect to cut that time in half.

Complaint Dept. I was expecting more moves and better AI in this game but it didn't happen. I like the overall feel of the game, but it could have been just that much better with some more control options. The AI is really what brings this game down. Once you figure out what fakes out the goalie, the scores will look like you've been playing a basketball game. Of course if you are lucky enough to play the game in multiplayer mode (up to 8 players) then most of this won't bother you much at all. Oh and although this means nothing to me, armchair coaches will be displeased: there is no Franchise Mode.

Once the dust settles on this seasons hockey wars, you can be rest assured that 989 will be implementing new ideas for 2001. I'm sure we'll see the new moves, better AI and more realistic passing that would have made this installment one of the greatest hockey games ever made. As it is, FaceOff 2000 is a solid effort, it just depends on what you are looking for in a hockey game. The speed of the game, realistic physics, and easy to navigate menus make this a worthwhile package, just remember to crank up the difficulty.

OVERALL
7.5

GRAPHICS
7.5

CONTROL
8.0

MUSIC/FX
6.0

FRUSTRATION
2.0

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