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Platform

Playstation 2

 

Genre

Sports

 

Publisher

Electronic Arts

 

Developer

EA Canada

 

ESRB

E (Everyone)

 

Released

September 6, 2005

 

 

- Has old-school classic NHL 94 fully playable
- Deke control and skill stick helps get that one last move that can mean the difference between scoring or not
- Not only NHL hockey; also has World Championship and Elite European hockey

 

 

- Checks and defensive moves aren’t always effective as they should be
- Speed burst isn’t really speedy as might be desired

 

 

Review NHL 06 (XB)

Review: NHL 2K6 (PS2)

Review: Gretzky NHL 2005 (PS2)

Action Figure: NHL Legends Series 2

 

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NHL 06

Score: 9.1 / 10

 

The National Hockey League finally got its teams and players back on the ice again at the beginning of October, the first time there’s been NHL hockey since the league committed the ultimate Armageddon and wiped out a whole season due to a players’ strike/owners’ lockout.

 

nhl 06 review          nhl 06 review

 

Also returning to the virtual ice is the next rendition of EA’s NHL franchise with NHL 06. With a salary cap now in place in the “new” NHL, many, many players shifted teams (my Flyers lucked out with some great cap casualties of other teams, including Derian Hatcher and Peter “The Great” Forsberg, and as of the beginning of the season, are the odds-on favorite to win the Cup; what a great time to be a Flyers fan!) and NHL 06 reflects most of the early signings on its rosters. The same solid gameplay that has made NHL 06 a gamer favorite returns, too, and online play, some new features and even the inclusion of the full version of NHL 94, one of the best NHL versions ever, is here.

 

What’s really apparent from the first time that you play NHL 06 is that the game has really strong grasp on the control schematic that’s just perfect for NHL hockey. All the offensive moves, including slapshots, wrist shots, shot targeting, dekes and skill stick functions that can be the difference in scoring a goal or having the puck swept away by a defenseman, are generally fluid and give gamers a chance to operate a well-functioning offensive attack. Defensively, NHL 06 has a plethora of moves, including dives and checks that are able to be used to your team’s advantage, although the checking game doesn’t always seem as effective knocking players off the puck as it should. Go ahead, try and muscle a Peter Forsberg off the puck. It will typically be a lesson in not only futility but frustration as well.

 

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There are some good checks to throw around the ice, just not that many satisfying, smashing opponents over the boards and sprawling into the bench floor area as one would have been able to do in an NHL Hitz game. Another move, the speed burst, does seem to take a while to fully discharge before you need to reenergize, but the burst of speed you get doesn’t really seem to possess the desired level of quickness you would want, especially for bigger, hulking players such as defensemen or offensive players in the 

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mold of monstrous Keith Primeau. The weakest controls in NHL 06 appear in its least important aspect, the fights between players (it’s up to you if you even want to engage in fights, so you could avoid them altogether if you really wanted to).

 

As with all EA Sports games, there is the requisite Dynasty mode that makes you the general manager of your very own NHL franchise. Other modes include a Season, EA Sports World Tournament, Elite Leagues (featuring leagues from Germany, Finland, and Sweden) and the NHL Retro mode, which features one of the all-time classic NHL titles, the full version of NHL 94, which is a great treat for old-school gamers (fans of the movie Swingers will be able to make Gretzky’s head bleed, just like Trent did).

 

There is an online mode if you so desire to take to the ice of online play, and like all EA Sports titles, the improved online interface gives you a better method of connecting to other players and get playing a game of online hockey.

 

nhl 06 review          nhl 06 review

 

Visually, NHL 06 is again on top of its game. Graphically NHL 06 is more than acceptable, with smooth player animations, particularly the goalie animations while playing between the pipes. The other players besides the goalies aren’t too bad as far as their respective rendering goes, but you might get a bit of a chuckle when you see the disparity in the size of a big giant on the ice such as Ottawa’s Zdeno Chara compared to a diminutive player like Tampa Bay’s Martin St. Louis. But with so many authentic features and modes packed into NHL 06, you won’t be worried about what the game looks like.

 

Another round of the typical rocking and rollicking EA music tracks is in NHL 06. But what will impress in the sound department is the absolute perfection of NHL 06 capturing the aura of a real NHL game, from the pre-game home team introduction, to the crowd chanting for the home team, to the public address announcer, to the horn blowing and siren lighting when a goal is scored. NHL 06 will make you feel just as if you are sitting in one of those arena seats watching the game while waiting for the beer vendor to make his visit to your section.

 

Competitively, the game’s A.I. can be manipulated on one-timers, but NHL 06 still puts up a decent challenge to the single-player side of the game. Squaring off against another human player, the A.I. assists nicely on both defense and offensive rushes. Overall, a more than adequate A.I. laces up the skates.

 

NHL fans are finally able to cheer for their teams again, although there’s a whole roster full of new players in each NHL town. NHL gamers will cheer loud for NHL 06, which again proves to be the most playable and engrossing NHL game around, with a very good control scheme and better A.I. than ever along with online play that brings a new level of competitive gameplay to the forefront. If you like NHL hockey, NHL 06 has it all.

 

- Lee Cieniawa

lcieniawa@armchairempire.com

(October 16, 2005)

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