If you long for the sights, sounds and action of hockey in a big-league arena, why wait for the next home game? It's possible to experience the same prolonged adrenalin rush that builds over three periods of fast-paced hockey by loading a game into your PlayStation 2.
But EA decks Sony's 989 label with superb graphics.
Both NHL-licensed games offer the basics: capacity for one to two players without a multi-tap adapter (but up to eight with the adapter), force feedback through the dual shock controller, analog control and memory card. Both provide choices for gameplay such as full or partial seasons or tournaments.
If you're feeling homesick for a favorite arena, both games offer a psuedo visit. NHL 200l relies mostly on its exterior photos, FaceOff on its simulation within. For instance, the interior of Reunion Arena in Dallas looks very much like the real thing.
For front-office or coaching wannabes, both games allow editing lines, trading players and drafting. If you can't find the ideal player on last season's NHL rosters, create one. Pick international teams if you prefer.
Twitchy-fingered veterans and novices alike can adapt either game to their playing styles through the options menus. Pick the pro level for a puck-blurring pace. But choose the fighting option only if you want a break and a big laugh -- the figures might as well be mimes mimicking a punchout except for the hokey thump-thump sound effects.
If you're playing "FaceOff," you need go no further than the unadorned options mentioned before suspecting the sad truth -- the game is essentially an upgrade of the original PlayStation game with little improvement.
The quick start mode is the simplest option.
Or you can select among six types of play including exhibition, practice, season, playoffs, tournament, and shootout.
The interface in all modes is boring.
In exhibition mode, you can select your teams but not uniform styles. One thing "FaceOff" has over "NHL 2001" is a legends squad filled with past and present greats. Otherwise, the tournament, playoff, and shootout modes are executed as expected.
Among the few features that make play interesting is a snappy passing system, using icons under the players to represent buttons on the controller.
On the ice, though, "FaceOff" comes up short as choppy animation chills the in-game experience. Players appear to be a bunch of stiff-jointed robots blundering around a rink.
By contrast, prepare to be blown away by the graphics-intense opening of "NHL 2001," which is eerily realistic.
Players empty out of the tunnel and skate on the ice looking so lifelike that it seems like a TV broadcast.
The in-game analysis by Jim Houston and Bill Clement sounds real and helps you keep track. When the action starts, the pace is far quicker than anything on TV.
As soon as the referee drops the puck, you welcome the play-by-play comments, the easy-to-read player labeling and visual guides that help stay abreast.