I’m a huge fan of the National Hockey League. I am a season
ticket holder, am the president of the booster club for our local NHL team, and
play recreational hockey, poorly. So it’s fair to say that I get a little
psyched when the new hockey games come out. With the end of the NHL lockout and
the beginning of a new look NHL, I was even more excited to play EA Sports NHL
EA has been producing NHL Hockey video games since 1992,
originally under the Electronic Arts Sports Network (EASN) NHL Hockey logo.
This 14 year franchise has become the most popular hockey video game franchise.
NHL Hockey has been produced for every major platform since the “16 bit” era,
and the 2006 version is available for Playstation 2, X-Box, GameCube, and PC.
As the game has evolved over the past 14 years, game modes
have been created to fit nearly every gamers taste. “Exhibition” mode allows
for instant play against the IA or a human opponent. “Season” mode allows the
gamer to play through an NHL season and the Stanley Cup playoffs, if their team
qualifies. “Dynasty” takes season mode and adds the duties of a General Manager
both during and between seasons.
If the NHL season options become tedious, there are the
“World Tournament” and “International Elite Leagues” modes as well. In the
“World Tournament”, the best players from each country take each other on in
what is comparable to the World Cup of Hockey. The “International Elite
Leagues” expands upon the previously included European leagues, while including
the NHL players who ventured to Europe during
the NHL lockout.
Two major changes have been added to the controls, the skill
stick and classic deking control. Gamers utilize the skill stick to perform
special moves with top offensive players. Moving in on net, a quick tap of the
analog stick will move the puck between the stickhandlers legs before roofing a
shot over the goaltender. Classic deking control allows the user to control the
puckhandler in a way similar to the early days of the NHL series.
Graphically, NHL 06
falls a bit short of expectations. The NHL series has had roughly the same
quality for the past few years, mixing 2D and 3D graphics between the fans in
the stands and the action on the ice. Small improvements can be seen, but in
general the graphic engine in the game appears to be nearing its limits.
Hopefully, the move to the Xbox 360 in NHL 07 will force the developers to move
to a new engine for all platforms.
In terms of audio, this game is still near the top of the
class amongst sports titles. The sounds of the game, the in-arena
announcements, and the game commentary are all improved over previous versions.
Key players throughout the league have unique audio segments that are played
when they produce during the game. Sadly, the announcers remain the same
mediocre talent from the previous versions. With the redistribution of NHL
announcers and the new NHL national TV deal, hopefully this will change in NHL
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