reviews\ Nov 12, 2002 at 7:00 pm

NHL FaceOff 2003 - PS2 - Review

The puck bounces off the pads of Peter Skudra and onto the stick of Ed Jovanovski. Though the Canucks are in the midst of a line change, Jovanovski fires the puck up ice to Markus Naslund. The Carolina defense wasn’t ready for the attack from the wing and the forward puts on a speed burst that carries him into the Panther zone. A deke to the middle, then a quick wrist shot zips the shot toward the upper corner of the net.

Panther keeper Arturs Irbe anticipated the shot lower. The puck ricochets off the inside of the post and tucks neatly into the netting at the back of the goal.

He shoots, he scores!

And 989 Sports, along with Solworks, scores (albeit sometimes on its own net) with the PlayStation2 release of NHL FaceOff 2003. This game may not have the graphical firepower of other National Hockey League video games, but it does look good, the animation is solid and the game is very enjoyable. There are a few problems with game play, but more on that in a moment

The options package of NHL FaceOff is quite good. There is a new career mode, which allows players to compete over 10 seasons as the general manager. You will be responsible for player trades, retirements, the draft, and signing players to contracts. You can also create a character and place him on a roster. Of course, what game would be complete without the ability to rework the 18 lines an NHL team has?

The game also keeps accurate game stats. You can see number of shots during a game, goalie stats, and player points during breaks in the action. Offsides and two-line passes can create havoc to any offense, and FaceOff does a very nice job of keeping those elements in the game while working the AI so that players avoid those situations whenever possible.

You may have one forward receive the puck and instead of passing, head right down the center of the ice. Wingers have broken ahead of him, and then turn, straddling the blue line until the puck is over it. A nice little drop pass and a quick slap shot can be quite effective.

There are several game modes, including the quick start, exhibition, practice, season, playoffs, tournament, shootout, and career.

The game interface has been kept simple and is player friendly. Control elements may take about 10-15 minutes to get totally comfortable with. The set camera angle may not be the best when the puck is around the crease, but is serviceable nonetheless.

The game’s sound is very solid. Mike Emrick and Darren Pang team up for the play-by-play and stay away from silly jokes. They call and analyze the game, keeping up with the fast-paced action.

The animation and the puck dynamics are solid. Clanging one off the iron can be heartbreaking for an offense, but the movement of the deflected shot is very good. Graphically this game may not be on the same overall level as Midway’s NHL Hitz or EASports’ NHL title, but the game does look reasonably good. Reflections in the ice, the instant replay showing how nasty that elbow to the face really was, a hip check that sends a player skate over helmet are all well realized in this title.

Some of the game play is a little suspect though. During one game the CPU opposition was credited with three goals ­ two of which were scored by the human-controlled team. One goal came on a face off to the left of the goalie. The draw slide past everyone into the net. The second was a back pass (trying to create a little space in the defensive alignment) that skirted everyone, including an immobile ne minder, for the goal. That was a tad frustrating.

NHL FaceOff 2003 is easy to jump into, it is fast-paced, looks good and plays well. The game does, however, trail other titles in terms of graphics and game play, but still is a nice little program.

This game is rated for Everyone.


Gameplay: 6.8
The camera angles can hamper play when the puck is loose in the crease, or is cleared down the ice. However, they do change for replays and offer a variety of views not present during a game. Once in a period, the game moves smoothly, and the presentation is akin to watching a televised game.

Graphics: 6.9
This game has a reconstructed game engine that delivers new animations, player models and arenas. Regardless, this game still takes a back seat to other hockey titles in terms of the game’s look and animation.

Sound: 8
Terrific play-by-play is the highlight, with a solid music score and the general effects associated with a hockey game.

Difficulty: Easy
The game does feature several difficulty levels designed to present a challenge to any hockey gamer. The GM mode also is enjoyable and presents its own set of predicaments. The control elements may take 10-15 minutes to get a solid feel for, but overall have been kept simple and easy to use.

Concept: 7
This program does a nice job presenting NHL hockey, with a solid options package. The player interface makes this a user-friendly game. The AI is a little suspect at times.

Multiplayer: 7
Not much new here, though the shootout action is enjoyable.

Overall: 6.9
The game AI may have a few stumbles, and the graphical quality isn’t near the standards set by EASports or Midway, but this is not a bad game. The audio track is very good and the game does play well (the own goals aside). Camera angles can hamper view, but the game is entertaining.

Above Average

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