NHL FaceOff 2003


posted 11/22/2002 by Charlie Sinhaseni
other articles by Charlie Sinhaseni
One Page Platforms: PS2
Enter NHL Faceoff 2003, one of the weaker hockey games of 2002. You’d think that I’m exaggerating but then again, you’d be wrong.

The experience begins well enough with a pretty well-produced video package that displays some of the best that the NHL has to offer, then it’s all downhill from there. The menusa are populated with closeups of some weakly designed player models. Of course you’re sitting there, hoping that it will get better so you fire up a quick game and then it hits you, it’ll get a whole lot worse before it gets any better.

Not one portion of this game is above average, from the player models to the absolutely horrendous commentary, everything is strictly by the numbers. Even the size of the rink appears to be unproportional to the players and the goal. It seems to be huge, far larger than the ice in real life and other games, and you’ll notice it right from the start. In order to compensate for this inaccuracy players will move at a blistering pace. Here’s a great example, I’m controlling a defender and a puck handler moves into my zone. He’s about five feet away from me so I decide to hit the speed burst/check button to close the gap. What happens next is baffling. From a standstill, I magically zoom across the ice about at 100mph as I give him the hip check from hell. Umm all right. Of course the game is full of horrible animation that could have benefited from- let’s not kid ourselves, this game is made by 989 Sports, no amounts of work could save it.

In addition to some frames of animation it appears that someone forgot to add some AI coding. Goalies in Faceoff are – by far – the worst to appear in any hockey game this year. In terms of goalie reactions, this game makes wrist shots from half ice look like slap shots from close range. Apparently goalies are always too entranced by the bright lights of the arenas to notice slow moving shots that travel in their direction from half ice because they always seem to have a hard time handling them. One time a slow moving puck crawled towards my goalie from across the ice. This should be easy, just pick it up and toss it back to his player right? Nope, he dives out and instead of handling it himself he deflects it to the opposing team. Of course he’s out of position so the opposing team has an open shot at the net but then I remember I’m playing Faceoff so the AI does the logical thing and passes it back to a defender in his own zone. DOH.

Of course the game plays horribly as well, even the slightest bump will cause your puck handler to lose the puck. So much for that 99 puck handling rating that Jaromir Jagr has, he’ll control the puck like some 4th line rookie. Forget about cohesiveness in the gameplay, everything is so disjointed that you’ll have a hard time getting through a game. There are some nice tries at making this a decent game (such as user controlled passing and the drop pass feature) but they’re not good enough to save this one. The action is just so unrealistic that it’ll turn you off within a matter of minutes. Attackers are far too slow to move up into the attack zone, often times you’ll drop a pass back, expecting some help only to find it sail back into the neutral zone, thus drawing you offsides. You have no idea how frustrating this is until you’ve experienced it for yourself; I don’t think I’ve ever seen attackers take so long to arrive in the zone. In real life attackers will often have a hard time staying onside because they’re so ready to get into the zone. Sadly, this isn’t the case with Faceoff as most offside infractions will come from you passing the puck and expecting your men to be up for the attack only to see it sail back to the neutral zone. Again the AI is amazingly stupid and at times, it feels like you’re the only one doing work on the ice. Forget about depending on your teammates because quite frankly, they’re just dead weight.
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