Phil Larsen
06 Nov, 2006

NHL 2K7 Review

360 Review | What's cooler than being cool? Ice cold.
Fans of sports games may already know what to expect from their latest FIFA/Madden/NHL installment. Updated players, tweaked gameplay, extra teams etc. This review for NHL 2K7 will somewhat serve as a beginner’s guide; a review to explain whether or not sports (or at least NHL) games are worth trying for some extra gaming goodness. I myself haven’t played that many sports games, and despite the fact I am lousy at most sports in their original format (is real life considered a format now?), I was always interested in trying some sports action to determine whether or not I would actually enjoy the game digitalised. NHL isn’t especially common in most PAL territories, despite being a rather badass game.

The best part about NHL 2K7 is the accessibility. It’s very easy to pick up and play – and play for a long time. Once the simple move, pass, shoot controls are mastered, you are all set to go. Perhaps some beginners should tweak the difficulty for starters, but it still provides a great game of hockey from the start. By the end of my very first quick-play game, I was winning 7 – 2, and executing smooth and cool skating theatrics on the ice; quick passing and executing plays like the best of them. Well, perhaps not the best of them, but therein lies the fundamental excellence – despite being only a beginner, it was easy to have a great time and actually look like I knew what I was doing. It’s like the replays on Gran Turismo – always making you look like Schumacher, when in actual fact you are coming dead last.

A solid brick of icy offence.

A solid brick of icy offence.
Did someone say replays? They are excellent. Not only do they provide cool cinematic angles, but actually show via slow-motion the complexity and fluidity of the animations. After one particular goal, I was pleasantly surprised to see the shooter had actually changed speed and direction of the puck several times to avoid the defence while shooting. In fact, the presentation of the game is uniformly excellent. A stylish menu system, excellent in-game theatrics and suitable soundtrack are all featured. In fact, one can even choose whether to display the matches through differing aesthetic modes – one provides a more authentic experience with detailed commentary and statistics, while the other adds music to make it far more cinematic. It becomes like watching a Mighty Ducks movie, but without the whiny little kids. Awesome.

The modes of play are many. As mentioned, it’s always good to jump straight into a quick game for starters – I chose to be the Pittsburgh Penguins, if only because I remember playing them way back when on the Mega Drive. After the first game, you can explore everything NHL 2K7 has to offer. Hit the Ice! let’s you practice various plays and techniques with your favourite team, and a Free Skate mode is available for those having a difficult first time on the ice. The Skybox is a lounge for you to track all your achievements, trophies and unlockabes, and even play some air hockey. However, the real depth to NHL 2K7 comes with the Franchise mode.

I can do that but I don't wanna.

I can do that but I don't wanna.
Franchise has you assume the top job for any team of your choice. From there, you receive emails, messages, and information to get started taking your team to the top of the NHL world. It’s surprisingly simple to get oriented, and some assistance is available for those who can’t handle quite as deep an experience. For example, one of the first tasks is to hire staff – coaches, scouts etc – but if you are unsure of what to do, the CPU can pick them for you. You have access to all player information, and it is your job to keep them happy, as well as trade or train anyone if need be. The calendar schedule keeps you on track, and shows upcoming games and important events. In fact, Franchise mode can be played strictly as a management game – matches can be simulated if desired, instead of played manually. For serious hockey fans this may be a good way to play, but for beginners such as myself, the real enjoyment comes from the games themselves. Overall, Franchise mode is a very deep experience that takes some getting used to, but can keep any committed player occupied for dozens of hours.

After playing for a while, one desires a deeper experience and far more control. It could be said that NHL 2K7 is easy to learn, hard to master. There are new additions to 2K7 which add a little more control over the entire team. Pro control, activated by clicking the right thumbstick, will assign one of the coloured buttons to each player, and passing can then be achieved in rapid succession as you storm up the rink. The right stick can also be used to highlight a player from an opposing team, and by using double-click (and other combinations) of the left shoulder button, you can command you teammates to put pressure on the highlighted player. Sometimes this pressure means checking them into a wall and leaving them writhing in pain – but whatever works for the current situation.

I don't like where this is headed.

I don't like where this is headed.
The deeper control modes are a welcome addition, but sometimes the Xbox 360 controller isn’t very well-equipped to handle it. It actually became less enjoyable when trying to master the added functionality, and I simply wanted to go back to a friendly match with small risks and small rewards. Sports games are too easy to jump in and out of – if you aren’t a fan of the sport. There are other problems also. The training mode objectives are very vague, and despite your confidence you pulled the maneuver off flawlessly, it won’t register as completed. The text seems a little difficult to read on an SD TV – but thankfully the problem is still superior than the literary disaster that was Dead Rising.

NHL 2K7 plays a pretty decent game of hockey. For a gamer with little sports experience, I was eager to try NHL as it seemed to be the most accessible. Turns out it is – and the involvement can become as simple or intricate as one desires. Fans of the sport should probably pick it up, because the technical superiority leaves little room for doubt that this is a damn fine translation of a real world sport. For all others looking to venture into the sports genre, NHL 2K7 may not be as engrossing as hoped – but anyone after a fun, friendly, and literally endless blast of icy goodness should pick it up or at least rent, because NHL 2K7 has exactly that.
The Score
Solid game of ice hockey that shines brightly in some regards - but it isn't the Holy Grail of universal accessibility we would have liked. It's worth giving this pucker a lengthy chance.
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

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