As most gamers know, when a sports game has great graphics and sound, half the battle has already been won. Then comes the other half: gameplay. Sadly, NHL 2002
had me at hello, but then lost me at the Career mode. That is one of the brand new features added to the standard Exhibition, Playoff, Tournament and Shootout games. The Career mode starts off as a regular Season, but once Lord Stanley is raised, it's time to play GM. The best way to describe this is the cut-and-paste version of EA's Madden series
. You draft two players onto your team, and then head to free agency. Here are where the problems lie. First, unless you've written down your entire roster, you don't have any idea of which players are up for a new contract or who retired. Second, there is no salary cap or money involved at all. Players you want to sign give their feedback to your team via Mood Indicator: one of four faces that ranges from 'Where do I sign?'
to 'I didn't know that city had a team.'
However, players only want to sign with you if your team is playoff bound. Therefore, don't expect any big names on your roster if you're no good. Sadly, everyone in NHL 2002
is playing for the love of the game, not for the big contract. Even if you do sign somebody, you won't have any idea on how long their deal is for. I haven't been let down this bad since my high school nickname was 'Dateless.'
Besides an awful rendition of a Career mode, the rest of NHL 2002 is incredible. The other features to the game include Create-a-Player, NHL Cards, and Game Stories. With the Create-a-Player, you can make the next superstar for the NHL. The NHL Cards is another copy of the Madden series, although this is much better. You earn points for things you do in a game (score a hat trick, win five face-offs, etc.), then later purchase cards that can boost your players, or unlock secret teams and cheats. The Game Story is brand new, and that shows up during the game when you're in a rout or in a comeback, and says something at the bottom of your screen like 'Controlling the Play.' It doesn't do much, but it does add to the TV style presentation, so no harm no foul.
The game itself is just like the game of hockey: very physical. You'll have to work the passing game around if you ever want a chance at scoring. Believe, one timers are your friend. I'll also mention the other little replay feature: if your goalie makes a great save or if you deliver a punishing blow, the game will stop and replay it three times, and then resume play. I loved all of these new features, besides the Career mode.