Thursday, November 11, 2004

Long awaited review of NHL 2005

Well, I finally got my hands on a copy of NHL 2005 for EA Sports. So, after a week of exploring all of it's new options, gameplay, and simulations, I am prepared to give my review and endorsement.

The first things that I noticed up front about this years version of the game is the updated realism. No doubt, the EA Sports company canvassed the hockey fan gamers' opinions and did their best to accommodate their requests.

The first new addition to the game is the upgrade to the arenas. The design team licensed 28 out of the 30 NHL arenas along with several European sites. The game's programmers did their best to capture the realism of each arena. For whatever copyrighted reason, the Fleet Center in Boston and the on the Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, NY aren't named. Also, the efforts for realism is found in the 600 players' images scanned in the game. The players actually look like the players! Also, If that wasn't cutting edge realism, they updated the season and dynasty modes. As a GM, you get all the updates via a special e-mail screen and league news in a fax wire. The last thing they issued was the mini-game mode called "free 4 all". You can play as your favorite NHL all-star against 3 others in a time limit mode or quickest player to x number of goals. It's a silly little challenge especially when they use the "big head" option. It looks like a bunch of bobble heads playing hockey.

Of the new additions to the game this year that I like, I am glad they did something more with the International teams. You can now play a season in World Cup 2004. They did a great job using the World Cup logo and incorporated the on-ice design in the game. Secondly, the rosters are very well updated, but a few adjustments were needed to reflect the off-season free agent signings. Also updated were the team jerseys. While playing the game, you can't help but notice the detail in each player. I guess they struck a deal with Nike, the manufacturer of the international team jersey's. There is an unprecedented detail in the international team jerseys. They have the nice Columbus third jersey that is completely purged of that cartoonish yellow jacket mascot. Speaking of cartoonish, they have the Dallas Stars "Taurus constellation" third jersey. But if you cycle through the choice of Stars team jerseys, you can also select the Cleveland Barons and two versions of the Oakland Seals jerseys.

There is a few things in this game that I don't like, starting with the choice of the music. I was disappointed to hear a collection of punk-alternative songs instead of a harder edged modern rock sound. The second thing I didn't like was the choice of jerseys for the all-star game exhibition. I wasn't too keen on the choice of fashion design that the all-stars wore last season in Minnesota. Unless there are more jersey choices hidden to be unlocked later, the only choice jersey are the uninspired last years. Thirdly, though there aren't very many changes to the game's menu, you'll need some time to get used to the roster changes page. Don't expect the instructions booklet to help you either in that regard. The booklet only explains the gameplay. Lastly, the only one really big disappointment is the discontinuation of the create a character mode. In earlier versions of the game, I was glad I could update the rosters with the new first year rookies that weren't included. Also, I enjoyed creating my own identity into the game and joining the roster of my favorite teams. Now, I can't do that. I hope the 2006 version corrects that mistake.

With all that said, I guess I should tell you about some of the other new things that help make a gaming experience as real as possible. When playing the NHL teams in exhibition mode, the teams that have elaborate entrances like San Jose, Nashville, Colorado, or Dallas now animated skating on the ice through their canopy. That's exciting! Also, instead of a music video introduction to the game, NHL 2005 uses a analytical comparison for the two teams. The two broadcasters for the game weigh the strengths of the teams for hype.

I believe that a lot of people who are saying that the NHL 2K5 is better are wrong and I would disagree. EA Sports continues to be the leader in sports name brand as long as they continue to improve on their quality products.
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