NHL Breakaway 98 © 1998 Acclaim Entertainment, Incorporated.
The sporting squad at Iguana West rolls out NHL Breakaway 98, a feature-rich puckfest that comes down four-square for realistic simulation instead of glitzy arcade action.
Even before you select your team, you can configure a match according to a mind-boggling 26 options. There are three difficulty settings, five game-speed settings, three goalie difficulty settings, four referee settings and a choice of automatic or manual line changes. You can set the volume for four different audio tracks (announcer, SFX, music and organ), turn off injuries, fatigue and fighting, and accept or decline standard rules for icing and penalties. To make things easy, you can choose default settings for arcade or simulation mode.
Once you've selected your team, it's time to plow through a thick playbook. You can choose from two different offensive styles (carry puck and dump and choose) four defensive styles (one forechecker, two forecheckers, trap and backcheck), three levels of contact, defensive pinch on or off, two options for the power play (three men high or low), three options for killing penalties and three options for what to do when you are two men down. Non-fanatics can always default to the recommendations of 1996-1997 NHL goal-scoring leader Keith Tkachuk.
You can then edit your various lines, dedicating them to scoring, checking, defensive pairing, power play or penalty kill. Short descriptions are provided for each line, but you'll quickly notice that these tend to repeat themselves. Far more helpful are the charts rating each line player on 13 attributes, including skating, passing, shooting, shot power, stick handling and offensive and defensive awareness. Goalies are rated for nine attributes, including left and right glove and left and right stick. Sounds to us like the world's first hockey RPG.
NHL Breakaway '98 features up-to-date rosters for all 26 NHL teams, plus the Eastern and Western All-Stars. Full 1996-1997 stats are included. Iguana even tossed in top international teams and stocked them with NHL stars. You can play an exhibition game, a season or a nail-biting shootout, or skip the preliminaries and go straight to the playoffs. Select International Playoffs if you want to stage your own Olympic hockey tournament.
Budding general managers can sign and release players and swing blockbuster trades involving as many as six players. When you create a player, his name will appear on his jersey. Iguana even installed a feature it calls Total Team Management System, in which players receive points that improve their coaching options, play development, injury therapies and more.
NHL Breakaway '98 supports the N64's high-res mode, resulting in polygon-rich figures that are crisp and clean. Players' sizes are based on their actual heights and weights. The action takes place in brightly lit arenas.
Play control is as tight as you'd expect in a sim. While AI helps guide errant passes, you generally have to be facing the goal if you want any chance of getting off a scoring shot. The ebb and flow is much like that of an NHL game, with players jockeying for position even more than they jockey for the puck. Cheap goals are extremely rare unless you're manually controlling your goalie.
NHL Breakaway '98 offers eight different camera views, plus reverse cameras. When viewed from a sideline camera, the puck tends to vanish on the far side of the rink, even when the puck streak option is on. It's better to pick an overhead view, which tracks the puck much more closely.
Packed with more options than you can shake Keith Tkachuk's stick at, NHL Breakaway '98 boldly aims to be the gold standard in hockey sims.
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