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NHL 2001

It has been ten years since EA Sports' NHL series first graced us with its presence on the Sega Genesis. The use of real players and teams was unmatched back then, and this feature was only somewhat eclipsed by the popular pastime of attempting to make the players' heads bleed (c.f. Swingers). From those early days of 2D players with just a few frames of animation and rudimentary sound effects, the series has evolved to one of the most consistently visually and aurally stunning games on the shelf. This year's edition, NHL 2001, adds a number of improvements and new options to the venerable series, attempting to provide something for hardcore hockey fans.

If you've played earlier NHL products from EA Sports, you have a pretty good idea of what to expect from NHL 2001 as far as gameplay is concerned: a blend of arcade action with a large dash of realism. The most obvious addition is the Momentum Meter, which tracks team morale. The team that possesses momentum enjoys bonuses to their abilities, but the favor can be fickle. Just like in real hockey, a number of factors contribute to the momentum of a game. For example, a three-goal scoring streak contributes just as a particularly tenacious shutdown by a goalie does. The Momentum Meter is a valuable addition, as with its inclusion, NHL 2001 is one of the first sports titles to attempt to depict the important effects of team morale.

click to enlargeWith the exception of the Momentum Meter, the biggest change to NHL 2001 is the updating of its teams, as would be expected. It contains all thirty of the National Hockey League teams, including the new expansion Columbus Blue Jackets and Minnesota Wild. Twenty international teams are also featured, from Finland to the Ukraine and Latvia. All of the rosters are up to date, and the expansion team rosters can be filled with old or new players. In addition to these, the new Create-a-Team option allows players to add another expansion to the NHL by importing or customizing logos, jerseys, the name of the organization, and their home city. These custom teams can be filled with multiple copies of the same player, or a combination of players from other teams; doubles of these players remain on their original team to maintain the integrity of the rosters.

Once players select or create a team, they have a number of general options, which also remain relatively unchanged from NHL 2001's predecessor. Players can start a quick matchup between any two teams, play through a tournament, engage in a high-pressure shootout, manage a team during one or more seasons, or simply skip to the only really important time of year, the playoffs. All of these play options are available as single player or as multiplayer games.


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