For many, old-school video game hockey is the pinnacle of sports video games. Pick-up-and-play gameplay mixed with the sports' aggression is a hallmark of those titles, making them resonate with gamers of all stripes. Old Time Hockey by V7 Entertainment harks back to the days of Blades of Steel and NHL '94, and dips back even further by recalling the '70s era of rough and tumble hockey captured by the classic sports movie Slapshot. No helmets, few teeth, beautiful flow, and a wicked two-handed chop: this was video game hockey before video games.
Old Time Hockey is out on March 28 for PS4 and PC (later on Switch and Xbox One), and with a final copy of the game in our hands, we thought it would be cool to play it with someone who's actually played in the NHL and lived the life. Former Minnesota Wild and New York Islanders forward Mark Parrish stopped by with some friends to play the game with Game Informer's Matt Bertz, putting the title's local four-player multiplayer to the test.
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Multiplayer is the game's best facet as the video above demonstrates, but equally apparent is that the A.I. – the goalies in particular – don't do anyone any favors. From weak shot stopping to the inability to handle the puck except to dump it into the corner (you can't control the goalie) your goalie hangs you out to dry rather than the other way around. Elsewhere in the gameplay department, the two-button fighting lacks depth, players don't seem to have a backhand, and players feel stiff to control. In short, Old Time Hockey puts up various annoyances in your way, obscuring what I was hoping would be the kind of primal experience that matches our best memories of the video game sport's fabled past.
Even though multiplayer is the game's sole prospect, it's not for a lack of trying. It's evident that V7 put a lot of thought and work into all aspects of the game, from the presentation to the single-player. From the menu songs to the team names (and even backstories), the developer's love of the sport and this era comes through loud and clear. The single-player puts you on the struggling Schuylkill Hinto Brews, where the town's river gives the local beer its distinctive cloudy look. The prospects for the Hinto Brews is no clearer, as the team has been forced to put rookies on the ice in a desperate attempt to save the season. This first year is basically a tutorial gating progress via objectives that unlock more advanced controls such as dekes, slashes, puck dumps, and more. It's a curious choice that handcuffs you as you try and win games to stay afloat.
As it currently stands, Old Time Hockey isn't the immediate hit that I hoped it would be, but whenever you can take the ice with a competitive group of friends to hammer the puck and throw some elbows, that's always a good time.
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