By: Nicholas ďbapenguinĒ Puleo
After missing a full year of NHL Action, hockey is back and better than everÖI think. At least, thatís probably what the NHL would want me to say. Hockey is
back, and itís very different this year with a bunch of rule changes. Gone is the way of tie games and in its place are shootouts. The game has opened up
with more scoring chances and higher scoring games.
NHL2k6 on the Xbox 360 is one of the first hockey games to fully utilize all the rules and changes of the NHL. The problem with the Xbox and PS2 hockey games from both EA and 2k had to do with the limited time developers had to implement all the rules. With the rules being finalized sometime around May or June, this gave developers 2-3 months tops to implement those changes. AI routines would have to be adjusted accordingly and it just never seemed to click.
NHL2k6 fixes a lot of the problems that plagued its little brother Xbox version. Players are now fully aware of how to play a game with no red line. Referees call icing much more realistically, and hooking and grabbing is almost automatically a penalty. Goalies know their roles, and line changes function properly.
The graphics of the game at times are really well done. At other times, you can tell the game took the Xbox version as a base and simply tacked on layers of graphical goodness. While player models seem improved and show more detail from the default playing view, the close-up view of players is somewhat disappointing. A lot of player faces have lost their accuracy and there is a weird lighting glitch in which the uniforms have a white highlight instead of a shadow on them. It almost makes them appear to glow, especially on darker colored uniforms. I also ran into a glitch where a player on my team didnít have a helmet on; or at least, his helmet was invisible. You could still see his chin straps just fine, but you could also see his hair.
The ice surface is downright perfect as skates leaves trails in the ice. The entire arena subtly reflects off the surface, things like scrolling marquees and jumbotrons can be seen in the reflection. It really is the best looking and most realistic ice to date. The glass around the surface now reflects the players as well, and helmets and visors reflect images and light more realistically. Overall the reflections are a nice touch, and really add to the realism.
While the commentary itself isnít changed much, if at all, the on ice audio seems to be of higher quality. The crowd packs more punch and goal horns will rattle the walls of your living room on a nice 5.1 surround sound system. Overall it seems to be a better mixed 5.1 system than on the original Xbox version.
The music selection hasnít changed, but custom soundtracks are still in place. You are able to import your music from the hard drive or a PC (and probably Mp3 player, though I didnít try this) via play lists which is a nice feature. This is different than the dashboard overlay custom soundtracks as you can choose specific tracks for specific events. There is a glitch where sometimes the music doesnít stop for the event and continues to play until another event is triggered.
The game plays nearly identical to the previous version with a few tweaks and bug fixes as well as an entirely new feature.
The annoying line change bug is gone from the previous versions and you can change lines with ease at the correct times. The game doesnít get stuck before a cut scene while you wait for the ref to take a puck to the face-off circle like before. Itís nice to see these 2 annoying bugs fixed.
One thing I really like that they changed is the ability to map the coaching controls and line changes back to the more traditional settings. Before you had to hold the left trigger and press the d-pad to make a line change, while the d-pad alone would be for coaching control. Now 2k6 gives you the option to choose which you would like to use the left trigger for. The gameplay has also been tweaked up to reduce the hitting a bit, and the game speeds have been adjusted here and there to give an overall better feel out of the box.
New to 2k6 is Crease Control which gives you more control over your goalie and making saves. Basically the way it works is you click in the right analog stick and your goalie gets this Eye of Sauron
type thing. You maneuver the cone to look at the puck at all times. When a player shoots, you are given a little icon to show where the puck is coming, and you have to move a target over this to save the shot. If your cone was red when the shot was taken, your chances of saving the shot are much smaller than if it was green. It really is a neat feature overall and I found it a lot of fun to be the goalie on the power play. The problem with this feature is it really breaks the flow of the game. Itís not a required thing to use though, so no harm done.
I tried a few games online, the gameplay seemed a bit laggy. Itís hit or miss and itís really ashame because a hockey game really needs speed and flow with no lag. I donít understand what the issue is here because Iíve yet to run into another Xbox 360 title that has this kind of stutter/lag. The original title on Xbox has the same issue and itís ashame they didnít try to improve their network code at all.
Overall NHL2k6 is sort of disappointing. After seeing what 2k Sports did with the NBA game, NHL just didnít look next-gen enough for me. And while a lot of bugs were fixed for the 360 version, a few new bugs were introduced. Donít get me wrong, NHL 2k6 is still a solid hockey title. But when you consider the Xbox version can be had for 1/3 the cost; itís kind of hard to justify the $60 purchase for so few upgrades. Hereís hoping to 2k7!
- Still the best hockey game out there
- Best looking ice to date
- Lots of Bug fixes
- Graphics not all that
- New bugs
- $60 bucks for what?
- Not next-gen enough
3 out of 5 EvilEyes