NHL 2K7 Review
|Release Date:||November 3rd, 2006 (UK)|
|Reviewer:||Matthew Irvin (hobgoblin)|
In the world of ice hockey gaming there is a war being waged for dominance of the marketplace between two rival companies, namely EA sports and 2k sports. It's become a closely fought battle, with neither company pulling any punches in its bid to gain market superiority. The question you as the consumer have to ask yourself is whether you will side with EA Sports' rather lacklustre game which boasts the revolutionary skill stick, or 2K Sports' very complete package, which makes me think of energizer because it just keeps going and going. The stage is set and the battle has begun. Who will emerge victorious?
Now I'm a big fan of the age old adage 'If it ain't broken, don't fix it' and developers Kush have done just that. Now it's not that they haven't offered us anything new at all - there have been numerous improvements over last year's version of this game - it's just that last year we were treated to a rushed and barely upgraded port from the Xbox to the Xbox 360 with a much higher price tag to boot.
Presentation is the name of the game this year, with a new feature called Cinemotion. This is basically an optional feature strips away the normal game-time TV broadcast setup and audio commentary in favour of a more dramatic interpretation. A rousing cinematic score pipes up from the moment the game begins, with the coach delivering his opening pep-talk to the team. From there it moves to the ice, changing distinctly in tone depending on what happens. If you're well behind in the game, the tone is more sombre. If you're on the comeback, the music kicks in to higher gear. And if you win, you get the sort of happy, inspirational score you'd expect from the end of a good hockey movie. The best way to describe this would be for you all to go and watch the film Miracle, which stars Kurt Russell leading the 1980 U.S. hockey team to Olympic gold and overcoming the seemingly invincible Russian team.
Cinemotion has a new camera angle called parametric, which works better than those found in any other sports game. Simply put it's like a smart cam which zooms and pans around and lets you get closer to the ice and action without sacrificing the camera angle you need to make those important passes. It's odd at first, but after a while you get used to it - and find yourself wondering how you ever played without it.
The physics of the game are also vastly improved. Skaters no longer just zoom off like they've had an injection of nitrous oxide up their rear-end, but gradually build up to full speed, and then only stay that fast for a little while before they start to noticeably tire and slow down. It's only a small change but it really does make a difference. The players also skate and fall a lot more realistically. I just love skating in and cross-checking some poor sap and watching him tumble across the ice and slowly get up. Crease control has made a return again this year which allows you to take control of the goalie from a behind the back perspective and attempt to save your team, or - if you're like me - single-handedly lose the game.
Of course if you're going to lose you might as well do it stylishly, and NHL 2K7's graphics are superb to say the least. There's plenty of eye-candy like reflections in the glass barriers around the rink, and trails following behind you in the ice as you skate. I really feel the crowd could be better though. 2K seems to have put too many of the same likeness into one frame, it's like being at a clone convention. I also have to ask the question, 'where are all the women in the crowd?' they are all but non-existent. The coaches also all look identical, and exactly the same as last year's version too.
Audio wise NHL 2K7 is decent. The orchestral bombast of the Cinemotion feature notwithstanding, there is a reasonably decent indie soundtrack, and while I freely admit I don't know any of the bands playing, I do really like it. Another little feature that I like is that you can insert your own music into the Cinemotion feature, so if classical doesn't rouse your spirits then try a little bit of rock, metal, or whatever tickles you're fancy.
Sports games live and die by their range of features and modes, and in NHL 2K7 we are offered everything you could possibly want; with season mode, franchise mode in which you get to manage your squad and go through the whole NHL draft, cup play, mini hockey (which is a fast paced 3 man game in a miniature rink) and even pond hockey. These modes are all played using officially sanctioned NHL teams and squads. There are also mini games like trivia and air hockey in the skybox. The skybox also offers you comprehensive stat tracking and goals to complete in order to earn credits. These then unlock everything from classic teams, to new kits to wear while playing the game. This just adds that little bit extra to keep you playing the game, not forgetting a robust and exciting online mode via Xbox Live.
NHL 2K7's online mode really comes into a league of its own, literally - with everything from leagues to fantasy drafting, if that's your thing. For the statistics nuts out there, it also has comprehensive stat tracking and rankings. One thing I must say is that I'm so glad 2K Sports seem to have fixed all the online bugs that persistently bugged me with last year's game; like not being able to connect to a game when I had my headset plugged in and the connection just dropping halfway through a game.
Overall NHL 2K7 is a much improved game over last year's iteration, and while it lacks innovation in the gaming controls, it's a very, very complete package. Visually it harnesses the power of the 360, and the end result is excellent animations, great frame rates and lovely cut scenes. The new Cinemotion is not a giant leap forward but is great touch that gives you a break from TV commentary, and makes the game feel more like a movie. The crowds could be better and 2K could have spent a little extra time attending to little details to give it that extra kick. Online 2K Sports moves forward in leaps and bounds with their leagues and stat tracking. As far as I'm concerned NHL 2K7 is the complete ice hockey package.
- Great visuals
- Beyond deep
- Much improved AI
- Cinemotion and parametric camera angle
- Online leagues and stat tracking
Not so good stuff
- Poor crowds
- Lack of innovative controls like EA's skill stick
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