NHL 2002EA Sports has always been known to create the most realistic hockey simulations every year, even up to this date. Although itâ€™s the only realistic hockey sim available for the Xbox, NHL 2002 was developed by EA Canada and offers six gameplay modes, all new NHL Cards, new gameplay cameras, a new game story, and all NHL teams and international teams- essentially meaning that although it is the only one, it is a great one at that, and definitely one that shouldnâ€™t be missed by any Xbox-owning hockey fans. There is no real competition on the Xbox for NHL 2002, except for the hard-hitting action-arcade game NHL Hitz 20-02 from Midway. EA Sports has improved this yearâ€™s edition of its NHL hockey series in many ways. Although the game is a port from the Playstation 2 console, it offers somewhat of an improvement on the Xbox. EA Sports is offering all the looks and luxury of a great hockey sim, but will you be getting something else? Gameplay: NHL 2002 offers some major and some minor improvements over NHL 2001. Some of the new features include the addition of the breakaway, save, and the hit camera. Also in NHL 2002 is the great addition of NHL Cards, a cool feature that act like virtual trading cards right on your television screen. You can read more about NHL Cards later on in this review. You will find that everything else has been improved and polished for the Xbox, including the gameplay and the visuals. The new special cameras in NHL 2002 are very impressive. Besides the replay camera, EA Sports has added in three action cameras to improve gameplay and impress gamers. The three cameras are the breakaway, hit, and save camera. The breakaway camera appears whenever a player breaks away from all players and passes the blue line without any opponents in the defensive zone. The hit camera appears whenever a player performs a â€œbig hitâ€ on an opposing player. Finally, the save camera appears whenever a goalie make an unbelievable big save. When the hit and save cameras do appears, they always show three different camera angle shots. In all, they look very impressive and give gamers a new perspective on the action. Another great addition to NHL 2002 is NHL Cards. The NHL Cards feature some of the NHLâ€™s top players in mini cards. You are given the option to have the NHL Card mode on or off. There are many tasks to completed, such as score a breakaway goal. By completing that, you receive 200 points. Collect as many points as you can then, by entering the NHL Cards section, you can purchase a pack of cards for 2000 points. You are then given a selection of randomly selected cards. You are able to sell your double for more points. If youâ€™re lucky, youâ€™ll get secret and Easter egg cards to add more fun to your game. Player cards range from gold, silver, and bronze. This addition to NHL 2002 will be having you playing for hours completing all the tasks and collecting all the cards. Itâ€™s a great new experience from EA Sports. Yet another new addition to NHL 2002 is the a story-mode of sorts. The game story adapts to your gameplay and how youâ€™re playing the game. If youâ€™re playing a game and completely blowing your opponent away, the game story feature will appear saying â€œtotal dominationâ€. EA Sports has brought another new way to please gamers and keep them enjoying future NHL games to come, as well as come back for future incarnations. It is really interesting to watch and listen to how the gameâ€™s artificial intelligence reacts to how you play the game. The modes in NHL 2002 are basically the same as they have usually been, except now many of them feature improved aspects over previous installments of the NHL series. The modes youâ€™ll find in NHL 2002 are quick match, season, playoff, and tournament. Quick match is the same as it has always been, nothing ever changes, where the game selects a team for you and you are set right into the game. The season and playoff modes have been tweaked a little, mainly with the interface and the options you have during the season. The tournament mode is very interesting and is worth checking out. NHL 2002 offers as much realism as possible in its modes, giving gamers hours and hours of enjoyment. Perhaps the easiest and most likeable facet in NHL 2002 is the control system that EA Sports Canada has developed. Itâ€™s easy and quite simple to follow and understand. EA Sports has put in the very simple and intuitive controls. Youâ€™ll find a shoot, pass, hit, deke, and speed burst buttons all equipped for you across the main face buttons, and all are very easy to reach and use when you need them. EA Sports clearly brings the best gameplay hockey action to the show, and it shows its magnificence on the Xbox. The modes of gameplay arenâ€™t bad, per se, but a franchise mode and skills competition would really give the game some fire for future years. Maybe next year, right EA? PLEASE, EA!
Graphics: NHL 2002 brings realism to the game, and nobody brings it better than EA Sports. Visuals are simply gorgeous compared to the other competition. Remember that NHL 2002 is a port from the Playstation 2, it doesnâ€™t take complete and full advantage of the Xboxâ€™s superior hardware, but it is more polished and overall looks solid. Some gamers might be somewhat disappointed that NHL 2002 didnâ€™t look as good as it could have been, but it doesnâ€™t mean EA did a horrible job on the visuals of NHL 2002. Even though it is just a port, the graphics are still photo-realistic. Player animation is very detailed and precise. A playerâ€™s body movement is great, from taking the face-off to getting back up from a big hit. Goalies have everything from the blocker, trapper, stick, and movements to the facial and jersey movements. A very important part of any sports game is animation and movement, as well as player models. Jerseys could be more polished as well as the name on the back of each jersey. Not all NHL teams used the same style of writing when putting the players name on the back of the jersey. Jersey movement is very awkward and moves in strange positions that donâ€™t agree with the movement of the player or goalie. It is almost as if the jersey is on a separate torso at times. The visuals in NHL 2002 are great, but they are nothing spectacular for a Playstation 2 port. Everything is smoother and comes together nicely on the Xbox. Itâ€™s a great looking game, but there are some problems to think about and that should be corrected for NHL 2003. Sound: The sound in NHL 2002 is somewhat strange because itâ€™s excellent and terrible at the same time. The before-the-game preview is excellent because you have the Barenaked Ladies, Sum 41, and The Tea Party performing pre-game music (All Canadian bands)(Ed.â€™s note- he just had to stick that in there, didnâ€™t he?). The music really pumps you up for the actual game. The commentary is NHL 2002 is presented by Jim Hughson and Don Taylor. Donâ€™t get me wrong, Jim Hughson does a great job with the play by play action, but Don Taylor gets just plain annoying, especially when you first start playing the game. Heâ€™ll teach and advise you how to pass, shoot, check, and sadly, even move. I have to express that if you cannot figure out how to move, you should be doing motor skills exercises, not playing a video game where movement is essential. It gets really tiring after a while, since he graciously decides to help you in all three periods. On the good side, heâ€™ll only do this for exhibition play. Other sound effects in NHL 2002 are well done. You can mostly hear everything, from the drop of the puck, to the player hitting the boards, to the players shouting at each other. One thing I was surprised not to see was the goalie introductions, and Iâ€™m really hoping EA Sports can get it together and have that for the 2003 installment. It is just another feature that would really make this game the most authentic experience around. Replay Value: NHL 2002 is definitely a game worth settling down with and playing for a while, as it gets very deep and pulls you right into the game, especially with the new game story and NHL Cards feature. The season and tournament modes will keep you busy with endless options and the NHL Cards feature will have you very busy trying to collect all cards to complete your collection. A few gameplay modes to think about would be a franchise and skills competition to increase the level of gameplay. For a hockey fan, NHL 2002 is very much worth the purchase. Overall: You just have to pick up this game if youâ€™re a hockey fan. Your other choice for hockey action on the Xbox is the hard hitting NHL Hitz 20-02 from Midway. NHL 2002 will keep you busy for awhile with its deep modes of gameplay and endless options. Although itâ€™s a Playstation 2 port, it offers some improvements, and now the graphics and gameplay are more amazing than ever. For hockey fans and sports gamers alike, hereâ€™s a title you shouldnâ€™t miss. --Chris Banovic