NHL 98’s presentation, its graphics and sounds, are arguably the best in any sports game from its period, and perhaps as impressive as in any game of any type. It only supports 3dfx cards, but get it running and the game looks great. Each arena in the NHL is lovingly recreated; for example, as the last strains of the national anthem are being sung at the start of each game, one sees the scoreboard, retired jerseys and championship banners hanging from the rafters.
The game starts with commentary from the two announcers; as each goalie is shown adjusting his mask and anxiously banging the ice with his stick, a TV style overlay displaying their current stats. The announcers’ commentary is appropriate to the stats for the goalies, as it is throughout the game. In fact, the announcers are done extremely well, throwing out comments and statistics during the game and playing off of each other, adding to the feeling of watching a television broadcast.
Everything about NHL 98 would lead you to think that this is intended to be a simulation of NHL hockey, when in fact it is not. NHL 98 fails miserably as a hockey simulator. First, the game plays much too fast. The animated characters in NHL 98 skate around at a frantic pace, zooming from one end of the ice to the other at speeds that Federov and Gretzky can only dream of. Players will watch a pass go by without a thought of reaching their stick out to grab it, and heaven forbid that they should ever move backwards to grab a loose puck or pass.
There are numerous other reasons that NHL 98 is a poor simulation of real hockey, but the one that demands special attention is the way the game handles shooting, scoring and the goalie AI. In the NHL, teams average somewhere around 20 – 30 shots a game, a game consisting of three twenty minute periods, and it is not unusual for a team to occasionally have no shots on goal in a period. In NHL 98, using ten minute periods (versus the real life 20 minute periods), it is very common for the human player to have 60-80 shots on goal per game.
So it’s not a simulation, but how enjoyable is NHL 98 as an arcade game? It depends on what your tastes. If you don’t care about the lack of similarity to real hockey, but find the graphics and sounds to your liking, NHL 98 may be to your liking.
System Requirements: Pentium 100 MHz, 16 MB RAM, Win98
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