NHL 2004 / EA / PC

Astute hockey observers will notice that the screenshots here depict some post-2004 NHL content. That's due to one of the game's biggest strengths -- the fact that it's relatively easy to mod almost every aspect of it, and that there's a sizable fan community who keeps it updated every year with fresh rosters, faces, jerseys, goal songs, arenas and so on.

The other unique thing about this release is that, for whatever reason, EA decided to try canting toward a more realistic feel in this particular year. They've gone back to this style somewhat with the most recent releases in the series, but for a long time there in the 90s and 2000s the only hockey options were arcadey affairs with highly unrealistic player movement. Not that that's a bad thing, many of those games are also quite fun and I think I've even given one or two of them a 5/5. But if you wanted realistic turning, acceleration and stopping, passing and shooting you really didn't have much in the way of options prior to this. It's also easier to dislodge the puck from players, either by hitting or by getting a stick in with a poke-check. No more doing laps around the opposing net with your best skater until a shot presents itself.

I feel like this will probably be a divisive game, with some people who are more adjusted to the fast-paced and arcadey action of the old-school hockey titles just not being able to come to grips with the relatively more sluggish movement and necessity of slower, more strategic gameplay to compensate. Big fans of the sport might really go for it, though, since it much more resembles the style of game you see on TV, and especially with the Rebuilt fan-made patches installed and the absolute reams of statistics they keep. The game also has a fairly compelling Dynasty mode, though without all the extra bells and whistles of the 2K games. For whatever it's worth, I love the old unrealistic fast-paced games, and yet I also really enjoy this game (it's one of the few I leave perma-installed on my hard drive so I can just play a little Dynasty whenever) and it didn't take more than a few games to where I was comfortable with the new style and beating the computer more often than not. But you still get a good challenge from the good teams and you've got to hold on to your butt when their star players are skating around creating pressure in your zone, which is how things should be.

Links :

* NHL 2004 Rebuilt

Videos :

* Gameplay Video