Thursday, September 21, 2006

NHL 07 Review

Well, being an influential member of the new media, I got the whole week to play a copy of the EA Sports NHL 07 for the PS2 and I am here to review it for you all, my wonderful readers. I liked it and was impressed with the way the game series continues to grow. Since last year's edition was quite hard to relate to the real NHL situation, NHL 07 is everything that NHL 06 should have been. You will see game similar to last years edition, it is certainly hard to improve in areas where the potential has reached its peak.

First off, the EA Sports chose the disputed ROTY Alex Ovechkin to be this year's cover boy. That's okay. Let Ovechkin get the EA jinx. They start out the introduction to the game with a video montage of Ovechkin and NHL highlights. The funny thing is, they had to go through and blur out all the rink board advertisements. It was a good show of the action from last year. They also had a computer generated montage of Ovechkin, but, it was almost the same montage that Lecavalier was featured in last year.

The new stuff included in this game was really a great surprise. The NHL 07 rosters were well up to date than what I was expecting. For those like me who are all the time fixing up the rosters to keep them current, they took the time enough to have a majority of the players who switched teams at the July 1 FA free-for-all.

With that, I have to mention that I am glad that the blogger cult heroes of the NHL are also included in this new game. The Jaroslav Balastik Fan Club would be happy to know that Balastik is in the game with his skills ranking sitting at 80 of 99 possible. Also included in the blogger favorites, Gilbert Brule (81), Lee Stempniak (81), Zach Parise (82), Jaromir Jagr (97), my "binkie" Sidney Crosby (93), Alex Ovechkin (93), every bloggers favorite whipping boy Sean Avery (84), and for the Stanley Cup champs Eric Staal is rated 95 and Conn Smythe winner Cam Ward at 90.

Speaking of the roster updates, it should also be mentioned that the new game has added a new feature to allow teams to slot their players into a minor league. That way the players who are currently active can be easily sorted into the best lines. (I am still waiting for EA to get the AHL license to use their jerseys and logos in the game.)

The really pleasant surprise to the game was the inclusion of the Czech Extraliga teams to play in a season just as the Finnish, Swedish, and German leagues had been previously included as an added bonus for flavor.

Not in the game is the now infamous "Buffaslug" sweaters as they were widely criticized and deemed ugly. It should also be noted that EA purged many of the legendary players who retired over the past two years. Also not in the game is Russian star Evgeni Malkin.

They have also made a lot of changes to the actual gameplay as EA Sports put more emphasis on stickhandling and puck dynamics. The right analog stick is key to move the stick handling skills making it easier to deke and fake shots. Shooting and passing have been outsourced to the right and left buttons. L2 is the pass and R1 will launch your shot. If you are used to the previous format, you can reset the controllers to match what you are used to, but leaving the controls the way they are will take some time to get used to. (I recommend that you use a crappy or unfavorable team to start out with your first couple of games to get used to the new controls so you won't be disappointed when you lose.)

Also a new feature is a mini-game shootout for those gamers who want to test their one-on-one skills.

If you are a serious CBA wonk, you will be in bliss as the NHL season modes have integrated the salary cap rules.

Few of the disappointing things to the game is the way that the create-a-player mode was handled. Their new features and selectable equipment were a real step up after being reinstated, but there is no difference from the 06 game. Could the equipment be colored by a color bar meter in future editions? For example, you see a goalie helmet you want to use, but it does not match your teams colors. Simply change the color of the helmet by scrolling up and down the color bar prism, it could greatly expand the options for a more realistic game.

Overall, I would have to say that I am very satisfied with the game and its new components. It will no doubt bring me hours of endless entertainment.
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