Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Retro Wednesday - NHL 2004

This retro Wednesday is near and dear to my heart with a gaming series that I grew up on.  In fact the first ever PlayStation game I ever got was NHL 96 for the PS1.  I woke up Christmas morning to my PS1 and NHL 96 and never looked back.  That game was awesome with great presentation, which makes me laugh at what they offer today.  NHL 2004 is the subject of this Retro Wednesday due to getting a large back log of NHL games when I got my backwards compatible PS3.  I currently have 2003-2007 on PS2 and only fired up 2004 due to my favorite player being on the cover: Joe Sakic.  Some people may remember the Danny Heatley was originally on the cover, however the summer before the game was released Heatley was in a car accident that killed a teammate due to speeding.  Heatley was charged with vehicular homicide and after the verdict EA decided to change covers to Joe Sakic.  However, due to production of the game already the Heatley cover was still released and available to the public.  I was happy to find a Sakic cover since when I originally owned the game I had a Heatley cover.

As for the game play itself, I found the game very hard to get used to.  I started out on the hardest difficulty and was thrashed 3-0 in my first game.  shots were 70-25 me and not once was a really able to get a good scoring chance.  The computer hooked and slashed the hell out of me making it impossible to enter the zone, and every time I made a pass, my teammates would skate away from the puck after I had passed it, which was frustrating.  The three goals were all tap ins on one timers which I now remember was the only way you could really score before the skill stick was introduced in 2007.  The next game I set the difficulty to Medium, the next step down.  Lost 4-3 in OT after getting a 3-0 lead.  A lot better but the hooking and slashing was still bad.  Upped the penalties and a majority of the game was played with specialty teams.  The game really had no balance. 

As for the game modes, the franchise was great as you created a virtual GM and had news stories released after bad losses or good wins.  Was a cool feature at the time that today's games don't have either.  the rest of the usual suspects are here with play now and all that, but this was also the first game to feature online mode with head to head games.  Of course I could not play this since servers are long gone and I am sure there would be no one else playing it.  

Overall I enjoyed my stroll down memory lane and the best part about it was looking at rosters and player ratings and asking myself if that player ever lived up to their rating or what happened to certain players.  My Avalanche was stacked this year in what many had labeled us Cup favorites with a roster consisting of Joe Sakic, Peter Forsberg, Rob Blake, Paul Kariya, and Teemu Selanne.  Ultimately injuries and bad goaltending lead to the teams failure and the beginning of the end in Colorado.  It is always fun to see how sports games hold up over time and what features they had that today's games don't or are touting as "new".  It is fitting that I would use NHL 2004 for Retro Wednesday when EA is planning on shedding more light on NHL 15 next gen today.  Make sure to stay tuned for my impressions on what they release later today!