The goalie play is equally inconsistent. While the save animations are drastically better than in the past and the goalie seems less likely to let in the easier goals, there are still a large number of pucks that shouldn’t go in but do. I can’t count the number of goals I’ve scored that have gone in off the goalies mask, blocker, shoulder, or even the top of the goalie pads that really shouldn’t have. In fact, there have been goals scored when the goalie is lying prone on the ice on top of the puck but the AI forward somehow magically forces the puck from under the goalie and into the net.
One last thing long time NHL franchise players will notice is that they won’t find a turbo boost anywhere in the game. While missing turbo boost would be the death knell to a Knight Rider title, it’s fitting that it doesn’t have a home in NHL 07. EA has clearly opted more toward simulation than arcade, and removing the turbo only makes that much more sense.
While there are a few complaints that can be made about the defensive AI, anyone who complains about the graphics deserves a Dwayne Roloson “cup check”. From the opening sequence through the menu screens and onto the ice, this game is beautiful. Ok, for a hockey game, maybe beautiful isn’t the word, but on either HD or SD TV’s, you’re sure to notice graphical improvements over any previous EA NHL title. Especially outstanding is the shoot-out mini-game, for which the camera angle is basically at ice level, and the players are as big as your TV will allow. Everyone who owns the game has to try the shootout, if for nothing other than sheer looks.
In terms of audio, the game doesn’t really offer anything new. The on ice sounds might be a bit better than years past, but the commentary basically sounds like every other version of the game. There do seem to be audio clips that are specific to individual players as opposed to the role based audio of years past, where every goal scorer got the same comments about they lit them lamp.
The one troubling thing is that after the regular hockey, the shootout and a few other mini games, there really isn’t much depth to this title. Much like Madden 06, most of the feature set has been stripped away, likely in preparation for major changes in NHL 08. The dynasty mode still exists, but with limited General Manager functions including poorly implemented budgeting and free-agent systems. If you really feel the need to micromanage your teams’ finances in preparation for your shot at a real life NHL Assistant GM gig, you may want to look elsewhere.
In conclusion while NHL 07 certainly isn’t perfect, the core of any hockey game is still the on ice play, and that is where this game shines, outdoing the competition. Again, if it’s depth you want, you may want to also pick up 2K’s NHL offering, but in terms of hockey, EA NHL 07 is the clear choice.
More On:NHL 07
NHL 07 for 360 is the hockey game to own this year. The skill stick is the most innovative sports game control short of anything to be offered on the Wii, and while it has a steep learning curve; it’s absolutely worth the effort. Sadly, while the controls and game play have improved, the games secondary features have dramatically thinned to the point of being a shell of the previous version. But the skill stick makes it all worth it.
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