|Written by Brent BaudeHits : 463|
|Thursday, 31 December 1998 19:00|
Once in a while a game revolutionizes the entire industry, usually when PC desktop hardware stabilizes and the software market has enough time to design its code specifically for today's hardware. Now is that time. If you have purchased a computer recently, you should have enough horsepower to run almost any game available on the market. The game that will revolutionize the gaming industry and what its customers expect is NHL 99 for the PC. EA Sports' NHL 99 is licensed by the NHL and the NHL Players Association. It includes all of the NHL teams (including the brand-new Nashville Predators) and starting players. EA's NHL series has won major awards every year since 1993. And while NHL 99 is a successor of already great titles, EA Sports has strengthened its legacy as well as inventing groundbreaking software.
The skating and movements are modeled after that of NHL players. Big names like John Vanbiesbrouck of the Philadelphia Flyers have pitched in and had their on-ice motions captured. The players also hook, spin, deflect shots and attempt wrap-around shots, making NHL 99 the most full-featured hockey game on the market.
The 3-D rendering in NHL 99 is the best I have ever seen in a fast-paced game. The detail is good but what amazed me was the rendering performance. My 266 MHz PC--running without oodles of RAM and without a 3-D graphics card--ran it just fine (although graphics and performance will improve with more RAM and at least a 4 MB graphics card).
The artificial intelligence (AI) engine is also improved. The computer opponents are much more savvy. As you progress through the skill levels, you will notice not only that the game speeds up but that the computer opponents become more skilled. They start blocking shots, checking harder, playing better defense, connecting on one-time shots that even are deflected by their forwards and clearing your forwards away from their crease area. For example, on the Rookie skill level, I was blowing away the computer opponent by an average score of 7-1. In the next skill level, Pro, I could barely muster a 4-4 tie. This leads me to believe that NHL 99 is not a quickly mastered game. Between the skill levels and the computer's AI engine, NHL 99 has real staying power.
One of NHL 99's new features has to do with a couple of NHL rule changes. Just as the real-life crease was reduced in size to encourage scoring, NHL 99's crease was made smaller. Another true-to-life feature of NHL 99 has to do with the crease. The NHL has adopted a policy to disallow goals scored when an offensive player is in the crease during the goal. In just this situation, NHL 99 will go "upstairs" to review the goal. When the call goes upstairs, you get to see a replay of the goal being scored. If there is a clear crease violation, the goal will be taken off the board.
The game's fights are another area where NHL 99 mimics real life. When a fight starts, two players square off. You can taunt and shove the other player. Eventually both players will drop their gloves and have at it. The other feature is that players can suffer or benefit from hot and cold streaks. These streaks actually affect their game play. You sometimes have to decide whether playing an average player on a hot streak would be better than using a good player who is on a cold streak.
NHL 99 is simply the best game I have ever played; no two games have been the same, and as you ascend through skill levels, the game becomes dizzyingly fast. For that reason, I highly recommend playing NHL 99 with some sort of gamepad. I used Gravis's Gamepad Pro, which worked perfectly and requires no configuration for NHL 99. Whether you are a hockey fan or not, you might consider spending those precious post-holiday dollars on the best game available for your PC. Also consider checking out the NHL 99 demo at EA Sports' Web site (www.easports.com).