Forget Italian plumbers, grand racing games and polygons whopping polygon ass kung fu style. If I was the top dog at the biggest software company in the world and would want to launch my own video game system, there is one thing that I would prioritize more than anything else. To get my sport line up right. Luckily Uncle Bill thought so as well and XSNSports was born. After Amped 2 and not to mention what was maybe the best sport game of 2003, not that I played them all I’m just being biased here, but Top Spin is just such a ****** blast to play ok. So my expectations were high to say the least when the latest sport game from Microsoft game studios arrived. The last Hockey game I had played was NHL Face Off for the PS1, which can mean two things, or maybe both I don’t know. One, I have not yet fallen in love with another Hockey series which means this review is totally unbiased, or that I have no clue what I am talking about. That choice I will leave up to you, but here are my thoughts on NHL Rivals 2004.
To me sport games have for most always had boring presentations, some video playing in the beginning showing highlights, while lame rock music is pumping in the background. The menu layout hasn’t changed since the 16 bit days, not that this is necessarily a bad thing, but it’s not a good thing either I think. So I was not surprised to find out that NHL Rivals was nothing more or nothing less on this department. But as EA would have said it, “It’s in the game”, so my expectations were still high.
Unfortunately if it is one place Rivals falls short it’s in the game. Not that it’s like terrible or anything, but the game has some serious issues that prevent this from being the enjoyable experience it should have been. One being that I could never get the game to flow because the computer would always block my passes, this is also the case when playing your mate. The other being that the goalies have a reaction time that even Spiderman would envy. At least for me who don’t have a virtual hockey career behind me, this was more than a little frustrating. Compared to games like Top Spin where anybody will feel like a pro after just 5 minutes of play, still an experienced player will easily beat you, Rivals even after many days of playing will still make you feel that you’d be better off without the skates. On a more positive note I can mention that the in game graphics looks great, everything from the skaters themselves to the ice is all very well done. It also supports online play being an XSN game, which is a big plus for any sport game, so from a technical stand point it’s not all that bad.
But the fact is that it’s gonna take more than slick graphics to save this one from being a disappointment to most gamers out there. I feel a bit sad about this review to be honest because I really wanted this game to be great. I was really looking forward to some fun on the ice, instead I just ended up feeling funny.
Note: There are more than a few games out there that have started out just like this but with enough play and practice actually turned out to be quite good. If this is the case with Rivals 2004 I don’t know yet, but I would say it could be possible.