NHL FaceOff 2003 Review (PS2)
They really should have named this game NHL HipCheck 1998. I could really just end the review there, but I have actually been pulling for 989 sports to make a comeback and I want to be fair. However, where I could see that effort was made in this years version of GameDay and GameBreaker to produce a quality title, I really don’t see that with FaceOff. It’s obvious that a financial commitment is not being made to this title and I feel for the programmers and production staff that work on these types of games that 989 has cranked out the last few years. I just keep asking the question if you are not going to try, than why bother?
Well enough of my editorializing. Let’s get to the review.
Here is where I got the clever name of NHL HipCheck, the main defensive move that is used entirely too much is the Hipcheck. Hooking is also used quite a bit, of course these defensive tactics are used quite a bit in real hockey, but the results vary, in FaceOff the results are very similar.
The animations are very limited as well; they seem to spend a lot of time on animated big hits and very little on the subtle parts of the game like skating and shooting. The stance that defensive men take as they skate backward really reminds me of games from the SNES days. It is very robotic and stiff, not natural looking at all.
The Gameplay is not all bad and the game is at least playable. However it’s faults are too big to ignore. As I mentioned the animations are robotic and stiff, so is the gameplay. I honestly feel like I am watching code instead of a hockey game. The movements of the CPU players are way too predictable. The defensive men actually move in unison at times with absolutely no variation in how they respond to the puck.
Another good thing is that the on the higher difficulty levels it is not easy to score and a fair amount of passes are off target or intercepted. On the downside the lack of animations kills this positive aspect of the game. The CPU picks off every pass in the same manner, the puck magically appears on the tape and the CPU player is immediately headed off in the other direction. There are just too many frames missing in various animations and because of this, the realism suffers.
Darren Pang and Mike Emrick are pretty good, but the sound bites are limited, although I still get a kick out of Pang’s favorite saying, “Holy Jumping”, I have no idea what this means, but I like it.
The crowd noises are horrendous, they remind me of the first World Series Baseball on the Dreamcast, the booing and cheering sound very fake and aren’t used very well.
There is a season, playoff, tournament, shootout and career modes. The career mode is for 10 seasons and has absolutely no depth. At the end of the season when you go to sign free agents you find out that you can only decide to sign guys that the CPU determines, want to play for you. So basically you have no opportunity to bargain with any of the players you might want to help your team, you can only choose to sign or not sign the players the CPU offers you. The rookie draft is two rounds and is nothing special, just picking players from a list based on their ratings.
The shootout mode could be cool but at least against the CPU it lacks any real excitement.
A lot of people seem to look for things not to like about games, I like to take the opposite approach and I try to find things to like about games. There just isn’t much to like about FaceOff 2003 especially when a game like NHL 2K3 is on the market or a game like NHL Hitz is available for the arcade fans. The graphics are bad, the gameplay is below average and the career mode is weak, add it all up and it makes for a game I can’t really recommend to anyone.