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Platform

Xbox 360

 

Genre

Sports

 

Publisher

Electronic Arts (NHL 07)

2K Games (NHL 2K7)

 

Developer

EA Canada (NHL 07)

Kush (NHL 2K7)

 

ESRB

E +10 (Everyone)

 

Released

September 2006

 

 

- Sorry, no summary you've got to read the review!

 

 

- Dude, didn't you read "The Good"?  You have to read the review!

 

 

Review: NHL 07 (XB)

Review: NHL 2K6 (PS2)

Review: NHL Hitz 2003 (GC)

 

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NHL 07 vs. NHL 2K7

 

With only two options for videogame hockey on the Xbox 360 -- both released within days of each other -- it only makes sense to review NHL 07 and NHL 2K7 together.  Maybe this year more than any other year, gamers have really be interested in how the two games match-up.  And now, after many hours of both games, it's time to drop the puck, but first...

 

Pre-Game Show: The Manual

This one is absolutely no contest.  NHL 2K7 obliterates NHL 07.  Electronic Arts has adopted a Spartan philosophy for its recent game manuals and NHL 07 is no different.  NHL 07 has a grand total of 7 pages that covers the barest of the bare bones essentials. NHL 2K7 weighs in at 46 pages and goes into almost every detail of the game, including the menus and the incredible number of settings that can be adjusted.

 

nhl 07           nhl 2k7

NHL 07 (left); NHL 2K7 (right)

 

1st Period: How They Look

NHL 07 definitely benefits from the ESPN tie-in and a presentation that revolves around re-creating a television experience (with no commercials!) and shows off some very polishes visuals, including hi-res images of each player.  NHL 2K7 although looking just fine, just doesn't look as good as EA's hockey game, and lacks the kind of pizazz of a big-budget sports title.  I, and almost every other commentator out there, must comment on the crowds.  NHL 07 has a slight edge over NHL 2K7, but only an edge -- both still suck; neither lives up to the crowd that was present in (the now ancient) NHL Hitz 2003 from Midway.

 

How They Skate: Physics

NHL 07 has dropped the "turbo" button so your skaters lope around the rink at a steady pace.  There's really no chance for a burst of speed; adrenaline plays an important part in any game, but particularly hockey because it is such a fast sport, so its exclusion is missed.  NHL 2K7 provides it.  There are marked differences between the on-ice movements though, particularly when it comes to pucks bouncing off goalies.  Most of these strange bounces can only really be seen 

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when reviewed in instant replay (both games) but NHL 2K7 demonstrates some extremely bouncy pucks -- I've seen them ricochet off the goalie's stick only to wind up in his glove!  NHL 07 is quite a bit better in this regard, but there are way too many instances of the puck dropping behind the goalie then the goalie flops on his back to cover up the puck.  But like I said, the only way you'll see some of this stuff happen is in the  

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replay. However, there is one very obvious problem with NHL 07.  Almost once a game, a player taking the face-off will "freeze."  For whatever reason and at random, if you don't win the face-off that player will remain in the crouched position, unable to move, until you can get him the puck.  Until I started to pay attention to this after every face-off, I would often get into the offensive zone to find I was short-handed because my center man was frozen.

 

This category is kind of tie, but I'd give the lead to NHL 2K7 -- frozen players at least once per game is just too friggin' annoying.

 

Period 2: Stick-Handling in the Corner

EA's touted feature for NHL 07 this year was the addition of Skill Stick, which essentially makes the right control stick responsible for stick handling.  This means that different "flick combinations", as I call them, are used to shoot on offense and check players on defense, while the trigger buttons become your passing options.  For example, holding back then snapping it forward will perform a slap shot.  Surprisingly, after only a few games, it started to become more comfortable.  It's neat to see this bit of innovation, but it's even better that EA included a "classic" control scheme for those that prefer the more traditional controls.  NHL 2K7 doesn't really freshen things up for control, but it's tight (just as NHL 07).  That said, I didn't find the fight mechanics of either one very satisfying.

 

Head-to-Head

Though I can't really complain about the AI in either single-player game (even if they sometimes come from behind to pull out a tie, or worse, a win), nothing beats playing against other people.  But if you don't have buddies handy, I'd choose NHL 2K7 over NHL 07.  NHL 07 seems to suffer an inordinate amount of lag and I only managed to finish about three games; players often dropped out, sometimes even when they were winning so I know it wasn't out of spite.  It was my experience that NHL 2K7 provided a far better online game.  Whether I was playing against three other opponents (!) or just battling a single foe, I always had a better time with NHL 2K7.

 

nhl 07          nhl 2k7

NHL 07 (left); NHL 2K7 (right)

 

Period 3: Options

NHL 2K7 is packed full of options and adjustable sliders to really customize the game to suit your taste.  And unlike NHL 07, which forces you into Dynasty Mode to play a season, where you have to play GM and figure out how experience points actually count toward anything (unless there's a way to turn it off, like I said, the manual is awful), NHL 2K7 has far more flexibility because the play modes are separated more distinctly.  However, NHL 2K7 has an extremely unintuitive save system, where there are different types of saves, which must all be manually selected.  NHL 07's save system is largely automatic.

 

How Does it Sound

This category is a wash between the two, as far as I'm concerned, even if NHL 2K7's commentary seems to repeat very quickly.  Crowd noises, sound effects, like slapshots or the puck hitting the glass, and other ambient effects come together nicely for both titles.

 

Achievements

Hands down, NHL 07's achievements are much easier to unlock.  Most of this can be traced to the number of achievements.  There are 26 achievements in NHL 07 compared to NHL 2K7's 16.  It makes it easier to pad your gamerscore.  NHL 2K7 has challenges such as "Miracle! Beat USSR 80 with the USA 80 on Pro difficulty" for 25 points or "Score a penalty shot on All-Star difficulty or higher in a single-player game" for 50 points.  I've played both games for nearly a month and I've never even come close to even being in this situation to even attempt this in either game.  If you want the challenge, NHL 2K7 is your choice.

 

Overtime: Which One am I Still Playing?

Short answer, NHL 2K7, mainly for the smooth multiplayer experience but also because the pace feels faster (when compared using the default settings).  It doesn't have the same flash as EA's NHL 07, which I'll admit looks and plays well in its first next-gen appearance (aside from the the "frozen center" phenomenon).  Also, the Skill Stick innovation provides a bit of learning curve, but it's a viable alternative to the stand controls.

 

Still all things considered, I'd choose NHL 2K7 as the "champ" this year for hockey on the Xbox 360.  But NHL 07 is close behind.

 

Final Score in Overtime:

NHL 2K7 - 8.5

NHL 07 - 7.5

 

- Omni

(October 25, 2006)

 

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