The year is 1998. Before EA Sports bought the rights to everything and nobody could make any sports games. Acclaim tried their hand at a hockey game, to compete in the competitive hockey video game market. It’s poster boy was Phoenix Coyotes Captain, Keith Tkachuk. The game was NHL Breakaway ’98
Based around the 1996-97 NHL season, NHL Breakaway ’98 was released on the Playstation, Nintendo 64 and SEGA Dreamcast consoles. This review will be based around the PSX version.
The reason I chose this game, as my first input into Bad Hockey Media, was because it was the first hockey game I played since Ice Hockey for the Atari 2600, and the first hockey game since I started my following of the National Hockey League.
This game wasn’t the best graphically. Real-life player modelling wasn’t used, and the jerseys look like the cheap knock-off Stars jersey I have laying around. But this game isn’t about the graphics. Nor is it about there being only one song in the menu, or any other screen that wasn’t the actual game. It was about the gameplay..
The game is fast. Arcadey and fast. Especially if you play it like I do, with offsides and two-line passes turned off, then it’s fast. This game isnt designed to be a defensive struggle between two teams vying for that one goal. It’s fast paced, in your face, goal frenzy action. No room for dekes and spins. It’s about skating from one end of the ice to the other, and trying to score past the goalie. Which can be rather difficult, unless you find the loop hole and it’s a case of how many can you score before the end. The goal celebrations also are a sight to behold. How often do you see a skater with a backflip after scoring a goal?
Defense, in my recent opinion, is pretty much non existant. There is no poke checking as such, it’s more just check and hope you don’t get penalized, or trigger a fight sequence. You may as well let the offense get the shot on net, hope it doesn’t go in, and then pick up the rebound. Or, you can go the check, and hope you don’t miss and end up so out of position that you’re lining up for a faceoff.
The game includes all 26 teams of the NHL, as well as International and All-Star teams, and bonus hidden teams which can be entered via button combinations at the team selection screen. You can also import your team from season mode, for use in exhibition. The bonus with the latter being the ability to override trades in season mode, allowing you to create your own All-Star team to challenge the NHL’s finest.
With plenty of hockey games to choose from in 1997. NHL Breakaway ’98 provides a realistic momentum based checking system, which means that a player like Eric Lindros can check harder at speed, then what Wayne Gretzky can. A season mode where you not only play the 82 game season, but you can sign coaches and doctors, and most importantly, the option to have eight players on the ice at once, so you and your friends can all jump in and enjoy the Breakaway experience.