NHL 2004 PC Demo Screen Captures and Impressions

Discussion in 'Gaming' started by NickC, Sep 17, 2003.

  1. NickC

    NickC Second Unit

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    Picture 1
    Picture 2
    Picture 3
    Picture 4
    Picture 5
    Picture 6
    Picture 7
    Picture 8
    Picture 9
    Picture 10

    If anyone wants any specific pictures, ask and I will do me best to post it...

    Impressions
    For the last couple of year's EA's NHL series has pretty much been a laughing stock, arcadey action over simulation, this year EA's brought in a new developer in Black Box to turn the frachise around. They have made a ton of improvements, but they still have a lot more to make. NHL 2004 is going to be the best EA hockey game since the genesis days, better then any of it's previous 3d brethrens, thats for sure. However I don't think it will be taking the crown from Sega this year. However all these impressions are from the demo...

    Graphics
    From what I have seen in the demo the graphics got a nice upgrade from last year. Player models look better then they did before, new skating, shooting, goalie, hitting, dekeing, poke check, hooking, and board animations all look great. Textures could be better, but I figured since it was the demo they might not have included the highest quality. Player head sometimes look a little large as well, but only at times, other times they look fine...

    Gameplay
    It's a lot better than it was last year, but it still has a ways to go. Defensive AI is really tough on the harder levels, I never scored more then three goals on the highest level, if you skate too close to defenders they will hit you, hook you, steal the puck, and get turn overs. The offensive AI is a lot less impressive, teammates don't do what they should do, on a few two on ones I found my teammate skating behind me, towards me, all kinds of stupid stuff instead of going to the net for a pass. Speaking of passing, the passing system is a lot better, probably the best in the biz, you have two passing buttons, one for an ice pass, the other for a saucer pass, the long you hold the button the harder the pass is, you also control the direction of the pass to a degree and you will often find yourself putting passes ahead or behind your players if you miss by too much, very nice indeed. The same goes with passing off the boards and dumping the puck. I don't have a gamepad on my PC with analog sticks, so I was unable to really test dekes and the bruise control, as well as the strategies. players react naturally to hooks, twisting and fighting through them at times, losing the puck sometimes, getting dragged back at other, I would like to see them go further with this next year, I feel like you lose the puck to often when a guy is skating behind you, hooks you and then steals the puck, it works well currently, i'd like to see it improved next year. There are a lot of moves to pin the opponent agaist the boards and in open ice to tie them up, the problem is, if you have played segas hockey, if you get pinned, you have a chance of fighting it off, moving along the boards, or kicing it along the boards, in NHL 2004 if you get pinned you are pressed against the boards, you lose the puck, and its basically a race between the other 4 guys on the ice to get to it first, this needs to work a little more like segas, you don't always lose the puck when you on the boards, you don't always have full control either, this area can be improved. Bottom line, the gameplay is actually fun, feels like hockey, gets tense at times, but it needs more work to be perfected. You won't be scoring a lot of goals on the higher difficulty levels which is nice, haven't found any sure ways to score, but like in real hockey if your one on one with the goalie you have a good chance of scoring if you make the right shot and or deke which is very nice.

    Controls
    The control setup is much different then anything I have seen before. You have pass, saucer pass, shoot, and check on the four face buttons, R1 is speed burst, l1 is a modifier, l2 is hook, and r2 is line change. on denfense you can poke check and check, when using the modifier you can dive or block a shot. Personally I am not too wild about the setup, it isn't bad, but it needs to be better. you should have to modify a shot to be a slap shot, instead of just holding the button down longer, the same with the passing, one button for passing, modifier does a saucer pass. the control of the players is really nice at times and really akward at others, really nice in open ice, really akward along the boards, behind the nets, and in situations where you don't want to move as far or as fast, maybe the fact that i didn't have an analog stick was the difference here, I guess i will find out next week..

    Bottom Line
    A very nice turn around effort by EA to compete with sega, a lot of nice additions from what i have seen, still a lot of work to be done though, but it feels like hockey this year. I wasnt able to test a lot of features like the new franchise mode, but I will post a full review next week of the ps2 version of the game.
     
  2. Jeff Adams

    Jeff Adams Screenwriter

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    I look forward to seeing EA get back
     
  3. Jeff Adams

    Jeff Adams Screenwriter

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    I got cut off there. Anyway, hopefully EA will redeem there hockey game that has gone to total crap the last couple of years. I hope 2004 is a glimpse of what is to come.
     
  4. Brian J Dupuis

    Brian J Dupuis Second Unit

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    Thanks for the detailed impressions. I have all of this year's hockey titles on my GameFly rental queue (bought ESPN NHL Hockey, since I was a fan of NHL2K3), and look forward to playing them all.
     
  5. NickC

    NickC Second Unit

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    Here is the Game Informer comments and scores of 2004 and ENH

    easily the best hockey title of the year" is what they call EA's effort this year...it beats ESPN on both systems.

    PS2: 2004 9.25 to ENH 8.5
    Xbox: 2004 9 to ENH 8.5

    "the most polished and rewarding hockey release this year. It has it all."

    "Nhl 2004 simply smokes the competition both on the ice and in the front office."

    "This series has finally earned the right to live under the hype of the EA sports banner."

    Comments on ESPN:

    "ESPN hasn't made significant strides forward."

    "you can still feel the potential brewing under the surface."

    "ESPN is more of a flowing game than EA's title, but it doesn't have as much realism."

    "A solid follow-up, but not nearly as mouth-watering as EA's game."
     
  6. Richard Travale

    Richard Travale Producer

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    Ahhh, but they still have those stupid band advertisements [​IMG]
     
  7. Graeme Clark

    Graeme Clark Cinematographer

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    I'm sorry, but Game Informer is clueless. And I could post comments from reviews that say mostly the opposite.

    I was rather unimpressed with the PC demo, but chalked it up to hoping that my meger PC and crappy pad made it worse than it seemed.

    But then I tried the XBox version today for a bit, and came away completely unimpressed. The control, as has been the case since the switch to 3D, is absolutely horrid. My guys wouldn't move where I told them to, there was no flow in the way they skated, and you'd keep getting stuck in choppy animations that you had to wait to play out until you got doing what you wanted.

    Manual deke's seem completely useless unless you're on a break, big hits are far too easy, and using the right analog for that seemed beyond pointless.

    Graphics are still way too cartoony for my tastes, and don't even begin to compare to ESPN in most regards... and hell if I could find that precious camera slider that was missing from ESPN (autozoom doesn't count), although the classic cam is in a better position than ESPN's 3/4 cam.

    So we have new controls this year, and they were smart enough to add a modifier button... but they didn't do it properly, half the buttons modify to the same thing. I have no clue as to why EA is so stubborn in not giving us a seperate button for wrist and slap shots, yet see fit to give use 2 pass buttons!!

    The only thing that impressed me was that the players seemed to play their positions quite well, which they haven't really in the past, and some (but not all) of the presentation aspects were a bit better than ESPN... but in the end there was absolutly no contest in my mind which is the better game.... but I'll have to give NHL04 a bit more of a shot soon.

     
  8. NickC

    NickC Second Unit

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    Graeme I totally agree with the controls, they took a step forward in some areas and then took two steps back in others, hopefully they will fix the controls for next year and make the modifier useful for something besides diveing poke checks and blocked shots..

    the player control definatly needs to be improved in tight areas and short distances, but in full speed open ice i feel that it is much better then segas, but sega kills ea with the boards and ease of moving the player exactly where you want him..

    which animations are you speaking of?
     
  9. Rob Varto

    Rob Varto Supporting Actor

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    Picture #6 is freaking me out man. How many of the same dudes can you fit in a stadium? Where are the babes, cause they're all over Hockeytown.
     
  10. NickC

    NickC Second Unit

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    Graeme if you get the chance can you check out how the stats of a simmed season look? I have been hearing some ridiculous player stats with the xbox version...
     
  11. Graeme Clark

    Graeme Clark Cinematographer

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    I don't own the game, I was just playing it at work. I've heard the same thing though. I'll probably borrow the game for a few days in the next little while to get a better feel for the game.

    Anyway, I disagree with the open ice comment. In 2004 I was rushing down the ice, and I move the stick left to try and skate around someone, and the guy hardly moves at all. It's a good thing there isn't puck handling skills competition in 2004 because it would be damn near impossible.

    Sega's is just silky smooth all round for the most part. The only real issue I have with the game is some of the puck jockeying between players (I've got it, no you've got it, no I've got it, no you've got, now I have it again... cya!).
     
  12. NickC

    NickC Second Unit

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    I think people finally realized the stat problem was with the periods being set to ten minutes instead of 5, so all the numbers were twice what they should be...

    The checking animation isnt a favorite of mine either, the cross check, I like ENH's more natural shoulder check...

    I am not sure what to do at this point, I will probably buy it because I love the skill moves, shooting and skating, I am stuck in the middle right now, there are things I love and things that just annoy me with 2004, same with ENH, hopefully these problems will be fixed by next year, two passing buttons, why!?!?!?!?! There are a lot of hits, I think its more a problem that that players tend to overreact when getting hit, it doesnt look or feel natural all the time, and hooking seems to be a little bit too effective...
     
  13. Jeff Adams

    Jeff Adams Screenwriter

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    So are there anymore thoughts on this game now that it is out?
     
  14. NickC

    NickC Second Unit

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    my thoughts are that its a decent game, better then last year, but I am not happy with some things, and that is why i am not getting it...

    I am think I am going to pick up hitz pro...
     
  15. Damien

    Damien Supporting Actor

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    I find ESPN Hockey unplayable, since on allstar the supergoalies are as bad as ever and the camera doesn't let you see what your doing.. So contrary to my plan, I will be giving this game a long rent
     
  16. Jeff Adams

    Jeff Adams Screenwriter

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    Yeah, I am just going to hold off on all the 2004 hockey games this year. I am still enjoying 2k3.
     
  17. Jeff Adams

    Jeff Adams Screenwriter

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    I just rented NHL 2004 last night and wanted to let you know what I thought of it. EA has took a giant step in redeeming their name in the hockey game world. It was a lot different than 02 and 03.The gameplay is so much better and more realistic. Graphics are also better. I didn't like all the different buttons you had to use but I guess you can get used to it. The fighting engine is also pretty neat, I have NEVER liked fighting in hockey games, it was just so boring and unrealistic, but this game is a lot more fun and you can actually choose to fight or let it go. There are some areas that are better than ESPN hockey and some areas that are not as good. All in all I still think that ESPN is a better hockey game than EA's but EA can hold their heads high and say that they are finally back in the hockey game world. Neither title this year is going to make me spend $50 on it. I really enjoy NHL 2k3 and am going to hold off until next year. Next years versions should be outstanding.
     
  18. NickC

    NickC Second Unit

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    I picked up NHL Hitz 2004 and I love it, very cool and fun game to play...
     
  19. Brian J Dupuis

    Brian J Dupuis Second Unit

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    I rented Hitz but simply couldn't get into it. I didn't feel as in-control of the play and players as I do in ESPN NHL Hockey. I have EA's game next in my rental queue, so I'm curius to see how that fares.
     

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