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Platform

Xbox

 

Genre

Sports

 

Publisher

EA Sports

 

Developer

EA Canada

 

ESRB

E (Everyone)

 

Released

September 2006

 

 

- New use of right analog stick for precision passing really improves controls immensely

- More realistic player attributes that coincide nicely with the real-life attributes of the actual NHL players

- High quality production values in the arena environment with appropriate and lifelike fan interaction, especially fans chanting for the home team

 

 

- A lot of “cheap” goals scored for both you and A.I. opposition

- Most North American gamers won’t really care for the addition of newer European leagues

- Dynasty mode still nowhere near the quality of Madden’s similar mode

 

 

Review: NHL 06 (XB)

Review: NHL 2K6 (PS2)

Review: Gretzky NHL 06 (PS2)

 

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NHL 07

Score: 8.0 / 10

Electronic Arts’ storied NHL franchise laces up the virtual skates once again with NHL 07, and, in what’s becoming a theme for many of EA’s 07 sports titles, there’s not much new innovation to be found between the pipes. But fortunately, most of the EA sports franchises weren’t in desperate need of new gameplay advancements, and NHL 07 is no exception. What one new innovation it does bring to the virtual ice actually improves the game’s controls by using the right analog stick, resulting in a more precise and enjoyable game of video game hockey. While NHL 07 for the most part is essentially really just upgraded rosters from last year’s NHL 06, the newest NHL title from EA still is an excellent choice for those who are fans of hockey gaming.

nhl 07          nhl 07

It’s that new use of the right analog stick for more accurate passing and better one-timers at the net that really is a much better innovation than I anticipated. It will take some time to adjust to using both analog sticks (left for moving, the right for passing) at the same time while still needing to use both triggers and the control pad’s buttons (think first-person shooter-type of control) , but once you get acclimated, your ice time will be a much better experience. There’s more scoring opportunities, especially when you hit a wide-open teammate with a beauty of a pass and he takes a one-timer, usually one of the better bets for putting the biscuit in the basket.

What doesn’t come along with better controls is a better A.I. in NHL 07. Although there are plenty of moments, for both your A.I.-assisted players and the

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A.I.-controlled teams competing against you, when the A.I. displays perfectly accurate hockey acumen, there are still just as many frustrating examples of A.I. dimwittedness, especially for the men in goal. How an NHL-caliber goalie would allow goals on a regular basis from the blue line, the center-ice line, or even the opposite end’s blue line, I’ll never fathom.

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But you’ll see these types of “cheap” goals light the goal lamp with regularity if you play enough games, and that just shouldn’t be happening.

These same goalies give up too many wraparound and difficult side-angle goals, too, showing a glaring need in NHL 07 for tighter goalie A.I., to increase the game’s challenge level. Obviously, in a mention worthy of “No Duh!”-ness, playing against a human competitor is much more of a challenge that negates many (but not always all) of the A.I.’s deficiencies.

Another carryover from last year is the “same old, same old” graphical status of NHL 06. While it certainly is visually a very good-looking game, NHL 07 isn’t exactly sporting the best graphics that it could be. However, you won’t see me complaining about the excellent presentation values of both the accurateness of the arenas in their appearance and the aura of the arena crowds. Being a Philadelphia Flyers fan, there was nothing more hair-raisingly thrilling than hearing a “Let’s go Flyers! Let’s go Flyers!” chant break out during gameplay in home games at the Wachovia Center.

nhl 07          nhl 07

One slight visual modification is in the animation and behavior of the players on the ice. Many players have been given more lifelike attributes, so they are supposed to act more like their real-life counterparts more than ever before, but you won’t really notice that difference while in the heat of battling on the ice.

Speaking of battling, I once again love the fighting in NHL 07. Despite the actual game of NHL hockey basically eliminating the art of fighting from the game last year, you’ll be able to duke it out all you want in NHL 07. I still can’t believe there was ever a time when EA’s NHL franchise took fighting out. But it’s back now, and I love the occasional fisticuffs.

NHL 07’s only other really new feature is the broadening of the European Elite Leagues to include the Czech Elite League, while also expanding the game’s Dynasty mode onto European soil, too, although I’d be willing to bet not many North American gamers will even venture into the Dynasty mode using unfamiliar European teams. The Dynasty mode hasn’t seen a dramatic change from the past, and is nowhere near the high quality Dynasty-style mode as seen in the king of Dynasty modes in sports games, Madden NFL football. Nobody touches that amount of detail. NHL 07 also has an online mode once again, a good chance to skate against cyber-opponents to prove your puck prowess. There are also shootout mini-game, season, World Tournament and exhibition modes for gamers.

NHL 07 isn’t much of an upgrade, save for the updated NHL roster, over its predecessor. And it does still commit a few unforgivable penalties for gamers, particularly the maddening A.I., which at times can be brilliant while at the same time being frustratingly dumb (especially the goalies), allowing ridiculously easy goals from far distances to find their way into the back of the net twine. But with the newer passing controls via the right analog stick that really enhancing the on-ice control and the same usual brand of entertaining gameplay the franchise has almost always been known for, NHL 07 is once again a hockey game that will score big with the hockey fan.

- Lee Cieniawa

lcieniawa@armchairempire.com

(October 9, 2006)

 

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