If I’ve been harsh on the title thus far, that’s because I
am such a fan of the franchise and want to see the few areas it’s lacking
improved. After fooling around with “Exhibition” mode, I launched into
“Dynasty” mode like an Ilya Kovalchuk one-timer.
It was really enjoyable at first setting rosters and
negotiating contracts between seasons. While the game has minor league teams,
assignment of non-roster players is generic to the “minors” and doesn’t allow
the player to be assigned to a specific league. Additionally, none of the new
rules regarding contracts, trades, waivers, or even the salary cap are included.
There are some settings in “Dynasty” mode, such as changing the cost of tickets
or the percentage of profit on concessions that look to be a compromise on not
including a salary cap. This was likely due to time constraints and should be
fixed in NHL 07.
On the ice, this game is tough to beat when it comes to fun
factor. I’ve played hundreds of games from all different genres and on several
different platforms, and to me there’s nothing quite like racing into the zone
with the puck and backing off the defender right as you saucer pass the puck
across the zone to a streaking winger who one-times the puck over the goalies
shoulder. While I’m a proponent of skill over grit in the real NHL, fighting
will always have its place in the EA NHL. Beating down the opponents goon with
your teams own tough guy doesn’t just give you the reward of dishing out a
whoopin’, but it also gives your teams momentum a boost, and that certainly
doesn’t hurt in a close game.
If I have any complaints about the on-ice experience, it’s
to do with the difficulty settings of the game. “Easy” is so easy, within an
hour of game time, even novices will be racking up 8 to 10 goals in a game.
When the user moves up from “Easy”, the difficulty goes up so much so fast that
even advanced users will have trouble keeping control of the puck in the
offensive zone for more than a few seconds. This is likely due to the increased
skill of the computer AI, which was surely a necessary upgrade from the
previous offerings. Adjusting the specific settings of each difficulty rating
allowed me to find a level of play that I found both rewarding and challenging.
EA made a big deal of emphasizing the customer player
creation in the NHL 06. While this
“EA Creation Zone” allows for customization of a player from head to toe, these
customer player features have never appealed to me. If EA wants to find a way
to include more flexibility in the game, they should acquire licensing from the
Canadian Major Junior Hockey leagues in order to offer more “real” players for
the “Dynasty” mode drafts.
As with prior versions, multiplayer can be accomplished at
the console level or via Xbox Live. Even with the advances to the AI, the best
hockey comes from a live opponent. Xbox Live offers a terrific option for those
who can’t find a worthy local opponent. I may have to go the Xbox Live route
myself, as dominating my editor at console hockey has become ho-hum.(editors note: when your opponent takes the Red Wings against the Blue Jackets you tend to win most of the time)
In conclusion, NHL 06
improves upon NHL 05, and provides some advances that point towards what could
be an amazing title in NHL 07,
especially on the Xbox 360.
More On:NHL 06
Decent gameplay, a solid dynasty mode, and an improved physics engine more than make up for poor team creation and few major enhancements as NHL 06 goes â€œfive holeâ€ on the competition.
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