NHL '98 (PlayStation) review
"There comes a time in every reviewers life when he has to defy common sense, shut down a large portion of his brain and dive into the neon trash-can that is franchise sports. EA Sports is generally the main offender, churning out the same mindless rubbish year after year, and it just so happens that they are behind the NHL hockey series! NHL ’98 was my introduction to the sleazy world of fast-paced action and 12-month updates, and I can’t see my intrigue stretching much further after what I’ve w..."
There comes a time in every reviewers life when he has to defy common sense, shut down a large portion of his brain and dive into the neon trash-can that is franchise sports. EA Sports is generally the main offender, churning out the same mindless rubbish year after year, and it just so happens that they are behind the NHL hockey series! NHL ’98 was my introduction to the sleazy world of fast-paced action and 12-month updates, and I can’t see my intrigue stretching much further after what I’ve witnessed.
I’m the first one to admit that I know absolutely nothing about the game of ice hockey, my only experience is seeing a fight between two gritty characters wielding large sticks (and I’m not entirely sure if that wasn’t Gladiators). Despite my overwhelming inexperience, EA’s title proved a highly accessible game and soon enough I was scoring “goals” with my “hockey stick” (see, I even learnt some of that hockey lingo). This pick-up-and-play style of game is probably the best feature that NHL ’98 boasts, as once the trivialities of the actual sport are overcome you’ll be competitive.
Playing this game is a nice and easy task. You can pass with a button, you can shoot with a button, and you can sprint with a button. Using these controls along with the “special maneuver” command (perform dazzling moves that will leave your opponents with a mouthful of ice) you’ve got yourself a system that is accessible and efficient. It paves the way for some very slick play, some of the fastest I’ve ever seen! Defense can be turned into attack in the blink of twelve eyes, and there’s a very handy control scheme to make it possible.
There should be enough teams here to satisfy your appetite, you get all of the teams from the NHL competition along with a number of national sides. Each features different capabilities (more or less proficient at scoring, defense, etc.), a roster that was deadly accurate five years ago and what I assume are realistic uniforms. While the players don’t stand out from each other in the middle you can see a nice mug shot or two if you wish.
EA certainly managed to cram some nice stuff into their game in this installment (even though it was only 1998 for heavens sake). You can play a full league, a finals campaign, a sudden death shooting thing or just a plain old exhibition match. Included in the game are penalties, injuries and fighting, so the general spirit of the game is captured here…I suppose.
Three, count ‘em THREE difficulty levels have been so obligingly heaped upon us by EA Sports. Each one is likely to give you a good run for your money at some stage of your ability’s progression and the most difficult will always provide some kind of trouble for you. There are naturally a few cheap ways to score some fast goals, but nobody FORCES you to use them SCUMBAG! That aside, NHL ’98 will keep you thoroughly challenged for a long enough stretch of time.
Graphically this title has never really had anything to boast about. The visuals are certainly sharp, and it’s pretty easy to see what’s going on most of the time, but there is certainly a primitive feel about things once you get a look at some of the slower movements. Fast looks okay, but slow or stationary is abysmal. The graphics do their job.
In the sound we find a slightly more competent aspect of NHL ’98. With some great crowd involvement and some relatively good commentary (sometimes it can fall behind a bit drastically) you can’t really ask for much more. Having to sit through a national anthem at the start of every single bleeding game is a quirky and irritating touch, but is hardly a major factor here.
Overall, NHL ’98 has its fair share of nice arcadey moments. However with the frenetic pace (not to mention sloppy defense tactics) that EA tried to achieve, the game often just feels like a glorified game of ping-pong.…or some other crappy little pointless game. I really don’t see why anybody needs to give this game a go, I’m fairly sure versions ’99 through ’02 are sitting on a shelf somewhere after all. Oh yes, you Americans and Canadians are very silly people for giving this sport a home; it’s really quite a ridiculous pastime.
Community review by kingbroccoli (July 09, 2004)
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