Review By: Nick Arvites
|# Of Players:||1-2 (2-8 online)|
|Accessories:||Xbox Live (online play, leaderboards, content DL), Custom Soundtracks, In-game Dolby Digital|
I’ll admit it, I’m an NHL fan. There’s something about the sport that I’ve always loved, be it the hits, the speed, or the thrill of a breakaway goal. Now, hockey and video games have been a mixed bag for me. EA’s NHL series was the only show in town for years, and its gameplay was a sped-up, gross over-exaggeration of the game. The 2K series hit when Sega launched the Dreamcast, and the NHL 2K series has routinely been the highest rated hockey game year after year. With the reemergence of the NHL (without a real TV contract…come on guys, get on a channel people actually have), NHL 2K7 brings the first true game after the strike and manages to provide a great next-gen sports title.
NHL 2K7 looks like a next-gen sports title. The rinks look great, and player models are for the most part good. There are a few exceptions. Darius Kasparaitis of the New York Rangers looks like a dead ringer for that crazy albino monk from The Da Vinci Code. Seriously. Outside of the occasional player that looks that bad, they do generally keep up with their real-life counterparts. The crowds look real and various cutaways show action in the crowds. Players go into locker-rooms and shout encouragements to each other on the ice. The commentary is great and is on par with a TV broadcast, as you get constant chatter from the announcers. The in-game soundtrack is pretty good and features a slew of lesser known and unknown artists that feel right when incorporated with the game.
One of the biggest strengths of 2K Sports' games (across all titles) are the sliders. The sliders control all aspects of the game, ranging from penalties to speeds to shot/hit power to player abilities. What does this mean to you, the player? Well, the first thing I suggest you do is go in and pick a preset slider. The default slider settings are too arcade-styled for my personal tastes and remind me too much of EA’s offering and all of the negatives associated with it. Let’s put it this way, if you think hockey should have 10-8 scores, everyone skating faster that Olympic speed skaters, and having a 5’8 forward able to routinely demolish a 6’4 defender, keep it on this setting.
Yes, changing sliders can be intimidating, but NHL 2K7 provides an easy-out for this. They have presets that shift all of the sliders to accommodate that style. I prefer the Sim preset. Under this one, you’re going to see realistic scores and players will hit and move realistically. Keep in mind that you should still go through and manually adjust the settings for period length, penalty frequency, and other options (wrap-arounds, enforcers, pro-control, etc), since the presets sometimes keep them off by default.
The features introduced in last year’s version return, and they’ve been tweaked to make them work better. Wrap-around goals, which were almost instant-scores last year, were brought back to earth. Now, the only way you can score on a wrap-around is if you manage to catch the goalie completely out of position. Enforcers are back, and they’ve also been tamed. It is much harder to intimidate an opposing player, and using the check-stick often draws a penalty.
NHL 2K7 brings a few new features to the party. The pressure control system allows you to target a player while you’re defending and get your team to apply pressure on him. While this will draw interference penalties (unless you have the penalty setting extremely low), it keeps players in line and enforcers can intimidate players. The Pro-Controls have been expanded, and the actual player movements have been tweaked to feel more realistic. The one feature I honestly have no clue about is the Cinemotion feature. It isn’t explained in the print manual or the in-game manual, and the best I can guess is it changes the way replays are shown.
I know, enough with the technical background stuff, how does this game actually play? It plays extremely well, although the true gameplay strength is evident when played with Sim settings. Skaters feel like they’re on ice and behave that way. Offense almost solely depends on your slider settings. If you’re on Sim, expect to average 2 or 3 goals per game unless you’re using a high-scoring line (Pittsburgh and Buffalo come to mind). If you put it on the default hockey settings, expect your goalies to get demolished by blueline slap-shots and one-timers all night. The skating controls assigned to the right stick are almost totally ineffective most of the time. When used by itself, the right stick performs a skating move that should dodge a player. However, it rarely works correctly. The stick-handling moves, however, can work like a charm. By holding the left-trigger and using the right stick, your player will move the stick and puck in the direction you point to in an attempt to fake the goalie out. Releasing the trigger shoots the puck. You no longer see players stopping at the red line to avoid the 2-line pass, and you no longer see goalies rushing out the net to field a puck (although it still happens).
The biggest problem I have is the glaring lack of anything other than minor penalties. You don’t get double-minors, majors, or game-misconducts. Just like last year’s game, you never get any major repercussions for being a dirty player. This may not mean much in an exhibition, but it effects the franchise mode because players won’t get suspended. Really though, even the most lenient referee will send someone to the showers after the third or fourth spear or boarding. A minor problem that I’ve always had with video game hockey is the ability to brain people after the play is blown dead. It is all too common to have some jerk on Xbox Live demolish your goalie after you freeze the puck and laugh at you because he’ll never get called. Seriously, the refs don’t stop when they blow the whistle, make some calls.
Posted: 2006-11-08 21:34:57 PST