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Platform:  Dreamcast
# of Players:  1-4
Developer:  Black Box Games
Publisher:  Sega
Features:  VMU, Jump Pack Compatible
Ratings:  Teen
Memory Req.:  
Sooner or later all of the sports games are going to come out for the Dreamcast system. There are voids to fill. Since there is no competition in these genres you would think that a game really does not have to be all that good in order to sell. However, with the Dreamcast trying to please more and more skeptics, who talk about the Playstation 2 and the Dolphin, they cannot afford to make mediocre sports games. NFL and NBA 2K sure proved that Sega knows what it is doing when it comes to sports. NHL 2K continues in that realm with clear smooth graphics and realistic gameplay.

The problem with modern hockey video games is that they have had to compromise either speed or graphics in order to make the game look like the real thing. There is just no way that a game that moves as quickly as hockey does can be captured with polygons on a Playstation. That fact is very apparent in the replays. If you ever try to show a play in slow motion on the PSX or N64 you will see the characters skip from one pose to the next with no transitional movement. That is not the case with NHL 2K. The characters fill every moment of play with a pose or a movement. What's more is all of it can be looked at from any angle with an amazing replay camera. Though there are still some inconsistencies (sometimes when you pas quickly from one player to the next, the puck seems to miss his stick) I found that most of the time the collision detection was great. It even is so accurate that you can pass the puck between opponents' legs.

My girlfriend regards his game as one made for hockey fans, not gamers due to the easy controls and the high level of strategy. I have to agree (or else it is no more free backrubs). NHL 2K is the kind of game that you really do not have to know much about how the controls work in order to play the game. Pass, shoot and an energy boost are all of the controls that one has to learn. To check someone you just speed up and collide, just like real hockey. The shoulder buttons are used to change lines and play strategies. If you are a control freak, you can take command of these easy to use strategy controls. If not, just let the computer do it for you, and concentrate on scoring.

For those of you that are big hockey fans and are really concerned about AI, you will be impressed with NHL 2K. Though, sometimes the characters tend to bunch up around the puck; most of time they get into the formations that you would expect a hockey team to make. If you drive down the ice the other players will get in position to catch a pass and shoot for the goal. On defense the players back up and protect the goal instead of haphazardly going for the puck. Once you get the hang of it, it is clear how to make a drive for the net. Of course, the more you know about hockey, the better you will be at scoring.

Like real hockey there is fighting. That old rule of making fighting illegal in video games is gone and buried. Now the characters throw down the gloves and duke it out until one of them cannot take it any more. Then they both go to the box for 5 minutes. Fighting is a part of hockey and it is good to see it in a video game, but thankfully it does not occur frequently. Actually the amount of fighting depends on how dirty you play. There won't be a fight unless there is repeated tripping or some unnecessary roughness. You can't beat the pulp out of an opponent unless you are provoked.

There are some other options in the game to keep it fresh. One is a create-a-player mode where you can design some of the old legends, yourself, or just about anyone and stick them in the lineup. There is also the option to play an entire season, made trades, and simulate the playoffs. All of this can keep things current and if you are into the simulation of playing an entire season, then your desires can be fed.

It is true that if you want a hockey game for your Dreamcast you are stuck with this one, but I think that any hockey fan will not be disappointed. There is enough depth and excitement in NHL 2K for it to stand on its own as a good hockey title even with no competition. There is definitely room for improvement, but as hockey games go, this is one of the best.

Chris Shade

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