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Q1 2004



- Open Ice Control

- Slap Shot and Wrist Shot on different controller buttons now

- Passing is more forgiving this year

- Lots of play modes



- Difficulty may be too high for some



Review: NHL Hitz 2003 (GC)

Review: NHL 2005 (GC)

Review: NHL Rivals 2004  (XB)



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NHL 2005

Score: 8.1/10


Itís another year, itís another edition in the NHL franchise from EA.  Making this yearís entry more poignant than previous installments is the fact that for many this title will act as a surrogate hockey season.  With the current NHL season in jeopardy, hockey fans are going to have to setting for playing videogames to get their fix.  This installment has a number of tweaks over last yearís that should make life a little easier for fans of the series, as well as tons of game modes to help ease the pain of a hockey season that may not be.


From a visual standpoint the game is as pretty as ever with nice crisp characters, and the frame rate stays solid throughout play.  Close-ups of the characters look quite true to life as well.  However, everything looks about the same as last yearís edition.  Outside of a handful of new animations there isnít much thatís new in the graphics department this year.


What most fans of the series will find useful are the nips and tucks made to the gameplay in NHL 2005.





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Firstly, there isnít as much clumping of players on offence and defense.  Players now fan out much more when on the attack, making it easier to set up plays, though they can be a bit on the hesitant side, making it difficult to put a strong push on the net.  Another nice touch this year is that slap shots and wrist shots are handled with separate buttons this year.  Doing things this way definitely make it much easier for people such as myself who can have a steel grip when things heat up in a game.  If the button 


scheme were to depend on light taps and holding down a button to differentiate between these two types of shots, it would be much more difficult for many to pull off their desired move.  One other tweak that is very welcomed this year is that passing has become a little bit more forgiving.  Last year we had to deal with passes that wound up being a little bit off the mark, ruining plays.  This year that sort of thing doesnít happen so much.  


Easily the nicest addition to this yearís edition of the NHL series, though, is what is being called Open Ice Control.  What this does is allow gamers to control players who arenít handling the puck while on offence.  So, if you happen to be making your charge down the ice, and an opponent is about to level you into the boards you can have your wingman come in and pummel him before he gets to you.  There are plenty of other options to, like setting up players deep in the zone, or anything else that you may think of with this new level of control.


nhl-2005-1.jpg (39524 bytes)          nhl-2005-2.jpg (28469 bytes)


As always, there are a small army of game modes for players to sink their teeth into such as Play Now, Season, Exhibition, Elite Leagues, World Cup of Hockey, Free-4-All, and Dynasty Mode.  Play Now and Exhibition are good for working out the controls for the game, or just some quick pick up and play fun, while Season mode is your standard run at the Stanley Cup.  If youíre looking for a change of pace, World Cup of Hockey adds some nice international flavor to the game, and Elite Leagues allows you to play in the European leagues with European rules.


nhl-2005-3.jpg (32314 bytes)          nhl-2005-4.jpg (35577 bytes)


The mode that most players will like if they crave the nitty-gritty aspects of hockey is Dynasty Mode.  It allows a player to control a team over a ten year period, controlling every aspect of the teamís operations, be it ticket prices, what kind of food is being sold in the stadium, which players to trade, which free agents to chase, you name it.  If you dream of being a hockey team owner, this mode is extremely satisfying, as you chase the dream of making your team a success both on the ice and in the ledger.


The one area that may frustrate some comes in how difficult this year's edition can be.  At higher difficulty settings, the opponent's goalie can be almost god-like, and the game can become very unforgiving to mistakes.  More casual gamers may be turned off by this, and as such are better off sticking to easier settings while playing.


With all of the tweaks that EA has made to gameplay this year, many fans of the series have a pleasant surprise in store for them with NHL 2005.  Open Ice Control in and of itself is more than enough to raise a few eyebrows among hockey fans.  That coupled with the other improvements to control, and countless game modes allow this edition in the NHL series to still hold its own on the shelves this year.


Mr. Nash

December 9, 2004  

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