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Platform

Playstation 2

 

Genre

Sports

 

Publisher

2K Games

 

Developer

Kush Games

 

ESRB

E +10 (Everyone)

 

Released

September 7, 2005

 

 

- Excellent hockey engine

- On-the-fly adjustments definitely improve gameplay

- Love addition of tie-ups along boards

 

 

- Rosters not up to date: neither signings nor draft

- Soft AI at times

- Menus will drive you insane

- Weak create-a-player

 

 

Review: ESPN NHL Hockey (PS2)

Review: NHL 2005 (GC)

Review: Gretzky NHL 2005 (PS2)

 

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NHL 2K6

Score: 8.0 / 10

 

The return of on-ice violenó I mean, hockey has been heralded with much excitement in my home nation, that I can now put my beloved Habs jerseys back into my everyday clothing rotation. With the return of professional hockey, we now donít feel so weird playing hockey console games, hence my review of NHL 2K6. Bringing a more economical alternative to the EA Sports version, NHL 2K6 does a decent job of simulating the on-ice product of the NHL and creating a pretty fun game to play.

 

nhl 2k6 review          nhl 2k6 review

 

Much as weíve been experiencing over the last few years, the entire gameís play-by-play has been included and this time, itís done by the CBC broadcast duo of Bob Cole and Harry Neal who are very familiar to anyone whoís watched a Hockey Night In Canada telecast in the last decade. The pair flow seamlessly over most aspects of the game, and even yammer when you pause the game with the in-game menu. Itís not perfect, and you will get a few pregnant pauses or just plain wrong announcing mistakes (much like the actual product) but itís pretty darn close to the real thing. When not playing the actual game, the in-game soundtrack does an adequate job Ė not great, not terrible but you can easily change songs with a quick button push.

 

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The in game action is quite good, the individual player control is excellent and the controls that allow you to change the teamís direction on the fly is quite cool. You can direct assistance to weak positions, or change up the type of power-play strategy with a quick directional push Ė itís a good way to change up a power play if you canít quite seem to score. The passing system is great for in close camera angles, a quick push and you can see the relative location of every player on the ice (and the corresponding button to pass to them). Also 

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nicely filling out the simulation method is the tie up along the boards. Now when a man is near the boards with the puck, a defender can pin him against the boards and he now has to battle free or move the puck; itís never really been done before and it certainly helps the realism aspect of the game. The controller layout demonstrates the amount of detail that the designers were trying to incorporate Ė in-game there is a specific control for every action, but it can be a little overwhelming for beginners. There are settings to reduce the number of controls (which I quickly experimented with after I kept drop passing every time I entered the neutral zone instead of outlet passing) which make the game much more accessible to beginners.

 

The graphics are quite good, but they do suffer from pixilated boundaries and a black line that seems to be really noticeable on close up angles. For the most part, it isnít that noticeable and only aggravates the particularly anal. Player animation is excellent for offensive players, from crossovers to dekes every move looks textbook; but on defense, the animation just doesnít impress. Defensemen donít change over from back-pedaling anywhere near as often as NHL 2K6 would have you believe; I especially hate it when my own players do that and open up ice for the attackers. Goaltender animations bring their own specific hate Ė for some reason, the goalie is able to pounce on the puck and hold on to it for up to 30 seconds without drawing a whistle. Itís a really dirty trick to eat the clock against your friends, but just plain sucks when the AI is doing it against you when youíre trailing.

 

nhl 2k6 review          nhl 2k6 review

 

Single player AI is definitely schizophrenic, on the Easy difficulty settings you might get an equivalent challenge against a patient recovering from a massive coronary or an unplugged controller. You can pretty much score at will from anywhere inside the blue line, and the opposing defense wonít provide much more than token competition. At the middle and higher difficulty settings, the skill level jumps quite significantly and you are going to get a hard opponent, and one that is quite vicious at running up the score no matter how much youíre struggling (I think the computer takes note when I run up the score and takes itsí revenge just to see if it can make me throw the controller). Despite the difficulty setting, there are still some easily exposed weaknesses Ė  I can always sucker the defense into following the puck carrier like a locust; they still havenít quite nailed down the holding position system.

 

Well, time for the flaws: the rosters are completely wrong; the shipped rosters  look like a quick adjustment from the pre-lockout rosters with a giant free agent market. They left a bunch of players on their teams for no apparent reason. I figure that it took about an hour to get the major players on the right teams; it might have gone quicker if working through the menu system wasnít such a chore. The menu system is confusing at best, and I canít recall having to look at manual to try to figure out how to manipulate a menu before Ė itís not only counter-intuitive but the descriptions donít exist.

 

As for completing the rosters, Iím not insane enough to try and create characters for all of the up and coming rookies that made the teams under the new financial system, even super-rookie Sidney Crosby. Speaking about creating characters, that interface lacks the depth that weíve come to expect from other brands. The lack of choices is disheartening and really donít give you much reason to want to create a whole team that way.

 

All things considered, NHL 2K6 is a pretty darn good hockey game that could have used a few tweaks to clean up some issues. Itís still an excellent gaming engine, I sincerely enjoyed playing the game and I will look forward to the version that is released next season.

 

- Tazman

(October 9, 2006)

 

ďI'd do anything for you honey, especially if it's easy.Ē

- Homer (The Simpsons)

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