E3 2001 Hands-onNHL 2002

EA Sports introduces a few new features into its long-running hockey series.

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There was a surprising lack of PC support at the EA Sports portion of Electronic Arts' booth at this year's E3, with most of the attention turned towards the console versions of the more popular EA Sports games. However, NHL 2002 was on the show floor and we had a chance to try it out and get a basic run down of its new features, such as the breakaway camera and the new NHL cards, which have been a part of EA Sports' Madden Football series for the past two years. The most obvious visual improvements over last year's version are the more detailed player faces, and the players certainly express a wider range of emotions after scoring a goal. There are also a few fully polygonal character models dispersed throughout the stands, lessening the impact of the horrible cardboard cutout crowds that continue to plague many sports games. Overall, most of the character models appear to be the same.

Unlike the graphics, there have been a couple of major changes made to gameplay. The most notable is the new breakaway camera feature, which only happens if you manage to skate out in front of the pack and put yourself in a one-on-one situation with goalie. Basically, the camera zooms in on you, the crowd noise is turned down, and all you can hear is the player's heartbeat and the cutting of your skates against the ice. It's an interesting feature that certainly delivers an incredibly dramatic effect, but at the same time, it somewhat disrupts the flow of gameplay, changing NHL 2002 to a more arcade-like rather than simulation experience. EA Sports' main reason for incorporating such a feature was to make you feel like the player on-screen.

Another new feature, which has been included in other EA Sports games, is NHL cards. By achieving certain goals during a game--like scoring a hat trick--you're awarded points, which you can exchange for NHL cards. These cards can then be used to open up new cheats and features. The card system has worked very well for Madden football as it provides suitable motivation for endlessly playing the game until you've received all of the cards, and it should work just as well for NHL 2002.

NHL 2002 has some other additions as well. Now you can actually make saucer passes, so at any time during the game, you can flip the puck up onto your stick and lob it to a teammate. In addition, a new commentary team is entering the booth for NHL 2002, and EA Sports hopes that fans of the series like the new off-the-cuff style. NHL 2002 is currently scheduled for a fall release.

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