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NHL Breakaway '98

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Ratings (0.0-10.0): -Controls: 8.5 -Graphics: 9.4 -Sound: 8.0 -Fun factor: 9.6 -Replay factor: 9.5 -Overall: 9.2

To stake its claim in the video game hockey world, Acclaim's first Nintendo 64 effort has two competitors: Midway's Wayne Gretzky's 3-D Hockey '98 for the N64 cup and, down the road, Electronics Arts' NHL '98 for the all-console title. The organ chimes, the anthem plays and NHL Breakaway '98 takes the ice... the result? NHL Breakaway annihilates Wayne Gretzky in nearly every area by offering both sim and arcade modes, more realistic graphics and many more options. However, EA's NHL '98 for the PlayStation slips by Breakaway with tighter controls, far superior stereo sound, both ambient and commentary, and tighter player movement. How can NHL '98 take the crown? Well, Breakaway '98 has two problems: Player movement and control configuration. For some reason, your skaters don't always move according to the laws of physics-- they have a tendency to slide sideways, especially in the faster, arcade-oriented modes. And, try as you might, there's no way to configure your controller to use the trigger button to shoot. Speaking of shooting, it's an odd interface that requires you to hold the button to shoot harder, but a second tap results in a fake-- as a result, there's a delay in shooting quick dump shots that can cost you when the goalies distracted for just an instant. Breakaway '98 offers all the standard options we've come to expect from an NHL Hockey title: exhibition, variable-length season, playoff and even international playoff modes, player creation and trading, adjustable game speeds, camera control and, of course, all 26 NHL teams and over 600 NHLPA players with their '97 stats. Some of the great bells and whistles include momentum-based checking, which takes your speed and weight into account when collisions occur, and a bonus point system which allows you to improve your team during the course of a season. Simply put, this is the most complete NHL title ever. NHL Breakaway '98 is a fantastic hockey game, the best to date for the N64. Clearly, the gauntlet has been dropped and EA has their work cut out for them next year when they enter the 64-bit rink. Hockey fans love a good, bloody fight, and we've got a great one to look forward to, thanks to Acclaim's efforts.

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