If you own either of the past two renditions of NHL FaceOff, you really have no reason to pick up 2001.
NHL FaceOff 2001 is essentially a carbon copy of last year's game, with a few additional modes and the standard roster upgrades. If you've been keeping score at home, you know that this means the game is now a second-generation copy, since FaceOff 2000 was almost identical to FaceOff 99. So what's it all mean? Basically that if you own either of the past two renditions of NHL FaceOff, you really have no reason to pick up 2001.
The game has all of the usual features you'd expect, like all of the real teams, stadiums, and players, as well as various modes of play such as exhibition and a full-fledged 82 game season. New to this year's NHL FaceOff are three modes: tournament, shoot-out, and practice. While the tournament mode is just about standard in every other hockey game, shoot-out and practice are nice additions.
The gameplay and look of NHL FaceOff 2001 will be instantly recognizable to anyone who's played any of the previous games. Once you actually get on the ice and start smacking the puck around, you'll find that the game's controls are very smooth and responsive, and they offer a variety of moves for you to execute. You can either pass the puck using standard line-of-sight passing, or you can choose to use icon passing.
The AI in this year's version is actually a step slower than last year's. The computer just seems a little less aggressive than in previous years and a bit behind with its goalies. Even on the veteran difficulty setting, the computer has trouble putting together plays sometimes, no matter what team it's controlling.
Visually, NHL FaceOff 2001 is a decent looking game. The player models are fairly solid and have a lot of smooth animations. You can even recognize some of the marquee players by their faces during the replays, which usually get good camera shots. The stadiums are represented very well in NHL 2001 in that they all have accurate banners hanging from the ceiling and the rinks themselves look very convincing.
In the audio department, NHL FaceOff 2001 does a decent job of re-creating the sounds of a hockey game. From the play-by-play and color commentary that is once again provided by Mike Emrick and Darren Pang to the clink of the puck as it hits the post, NHL FaceOff 2001 is one of the better sounding hockey games. The commentary of Emrick and Pang gets a little old after a while, but they keep it interesting for quite a few games.
In the end, NHL FaceOff 2001 is basically the same game we've been playing for three years now. If you're a fan of the series, you'll enjoy the new modes but will surely find that the game just simply hasn't changed much. If you've never played a NHL FaceOff title and are interested in picking up a hockey game, you'd be better off with Electronic Arts' NHL 2001.