NHL FaceOff 2003

NHL FaceOff 2003

Written by Charlie Sinhaseni on 11/22/2002 for PS2  
More On: NHL FaceOff 2003
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.
Speaking of dead weight just forget about the referees for a moment here. They call infractions for some of the most absurd reasons, sometimes casual checks will result in a 5 minute major without any justification. A quick replay shows that no foul play was involved yet my man was put in the sin bin anyways. Maybe the designers meant to include a crosschecking animation but either way, it’s sloppy programming.

Faceoff tries to add a franchise mode but it fails horribly, containing only the very basic elements of what the gameplay mode necessitates. Basically it pans out as a glorified season mode, allowing for multiple seasons, players who retire, players who are drafted and players who are traded.

Usually the one saving grace in 989 Sports-made games is the commentary but that’s just not the case here. Commentary is bland and morose, much like the rest of the game. The announcers have no emotion or emphasis to their voices and the majority of the commentary lacks cohesiveness. It just pops up with comments from time to time to describe the action but wheres the flow? Where are the transitions? There will be little transitions that play between breaks on the ice but it’s accompanied by an awkward silence. How about some comments about the game in general here guys? I’m glad that they chose Mike Emrick as the voice for their game but they did little to do him justice here. He’s an awesome commentator that has the ability to show the game to you, not just tell you about it. His vivid descriptions and patented style make for some truly compelling commentary, not the drivel that he’s been given here. Daren Pang is onboard as the color commentator but his comments are far and few between. For some odd reason he’s silenced for the majority of the time, only dropping in a line or two every few minutes or so. Good choices, bad execution, kind of summarizes the entire package.

My friend happened to walk in to the room as I played the game. I asked him what he thought of the game and he replied with “when did you dig up the old PSOne?” Imagine his shock as I angrily held up my Dual Shock 2. He couldn’t believe that a game that was so incomplete actually made it to the market. That’s just it, this game feels absolutely incomplete, as if every single facet is missing at least one major component that would make it all fit together. Instead you’re presented with a game that seems like a mesh of incomplete ideas and concepts. You’ll absolutely cringe the first time you witness a fight because the animations are just so incomplete. The slow motion replays only serve further to defraud the animations of this title. Sure it comes with good intentions but good intentions don’t make me want to spend $40 on a game that I'll never play.

Should I give this game a better score just because it increases on the deficiencies of its processors? It's not much of an improvement over Faceoff 2001 so that scenario is out of the question. Should I seriously give a damn if the player models have been upgraded from amazingly crappy to only remarkably crappy? The truth of the matter is there are far better games on the market, who gives a damn if the game is showing minor improvements? I don’t care if the entire team really is participating in a roller hockey league, not when they’re throwing out unrealistic and horrifically bland filth like this. Move over Gameday, you’ve been dethroned.
Don't waste your time with this crapfest. It puts the ASS in embarassment, one of the worst games to arrive on the scene in some time. 989 Sports has hit a new low.

Rating: 2.6 Bad

* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company.

About Author

Gaming has been a part of my life for as long as I could remember. I can still recall many a lost nights spent playing Gyromite with that stupid robot contraption for the old NES. While I'm not as old as the rest of the crew around these parts, I still have a solid understanding of the heritage and the history of the video gaming industry.

It's funny, when I see other people reference games like Doom as "old-school" I almost begin to cringe. I bet that half of these supposed "old-school" gamers don't even remember classic games like Rise of the Triad and Commander Keen. How about Halloween Harry? Does anyone even remember the term "shareware" anymore? If you want to know "old-school" just talk to John. He'll tell you all about his favorite Atari game, Custer's Revenge.

It's okay though, ignorance is bliss and what the kids don't know won't hurt them. I'll just simply smile and nod the next time someone tells me that the best entry in the Final Fantasy franchise was Final Fantasy VII.

When I'm not playing games I'm usually busy sleeping through classes at a boring college in Southern Oregon. My current hobbies are: writing songs for punk rock bands that never quite make it, and teasing Bart about... well just teasing Bart in general. I swear the material writes itself when you're around this guy. He gives new meaning to the term "moving punching bag."

As for games, I enjoy all types except those long-winded turn-based strategy games. I send those games to my good pal Tyler, I hear he has a thing for those games that none of us actually have the time to play.

When I'm not busy plowing through a massive pile of video games I spend all of my time trying to keep my cute little girl fed. She eats a ton but damn she's so hot. Does anyone understand the Asian girl weight principal? Like they'll clean out your fridge yet still weigh less than 110 pounds.

Currently I'm playing: THUG, True Crime, Prince of Persia, Project Gotham 2 and Beyond Good & Evil. View Profile

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