With the NHL making its return to the ice this year, you can see that the few fans that the NHL has are very excited to see its return. But I think a lot are skeptical on some of these new rule changes that have occurred in the process of this strike. Well for those of you who want to see how these new rule changes works, or if you just feel like you want to start the hockey season now, the first game out of the gate is EA Sport’s NHL 06 for the Xbox. So is this the best hockey game of 2005? Read our full review to find out!
EA has been very smooth in the past few years with some of the best sports game out on the market. It has been a long time since I have seen an EA Sports title that hasn’t at least been an average, and most of them have been the best of that particular sport. EA’s NHL series has really been a great series and has been competing strongly with 2K Sports NHL series. Let’s just say this is an extremely tough battle that has been going back and forth each year. So who will be crowned the best NHL game in 2005?
The first thing I noticed with NHL 06 was that it didn’t provide any overly new features like last year, which debuts a new shooting and wrap around features to the franchise. All of those newer controls are back in this game, as well as some more additions to the analog stick, which offers some better pass mechanics. Most importantly the new skill stick is here, and this allows you to do some really nifty tricks, and of course to have a better chance of tricking the goalie and scoring an easy goal.
Last year’s game had an extremely aggressive defensive AI that was very into checking and making sure you didn’t get down the ice. The thing about the old defensive AI was that it really never allowed for many breakaways, and as most hockey fans know, these are some of the best parts of any hockey game. This year the defensive AI in NHL 06 was improved dramatically with a much more balanced defense that seems a lot more realistic this year. This made the game plays more like a normal hockey game in real life rather then a free for all wrestling match that happens to include a hockey puck.
Of course this is an EA Sports game and that means the game has an extensive dynasty mode, which hasn’t been changed all that much from last year’s game. They did add some extra incentives to jump in a game while you simulate it and try and accomplish certain objective, which was a neat feature. To be honest the menus look nicer and are easier to navigate, but the dynasty mode as a whole really doesn’t feel all that changed from last year. The dynasty mode of course is still extremely deep and includes a ton of different options, but don’t expect any new overwhelming features.
This is the first time with this NHL series that I felt like EA did not bring enough innovation to the table. For example, like I just mentioned, the Dynasty Mode is really the same as it was a year ago. The really only new features comes in the way of improved controls, better defensive AI, and that is about it. There are some other little additions but the overall game just feels like a patched version of last year’s game, with the new rule changes and the updated rosters. Of course NHL 06 is not a bad playing game, but it would have been much better if the game had a standout new feature or mode that would have helped make this game different from last year’s game.
The presentation of NHL 06 is by far the best aspect that the game has going for it, and you can see this right from the beginning of the game. One of the first things that stood out to me was all of the lighting and shadow effects that the developers used in the game. Although sometimes the effects may seems a little too much, to me it show just a little glimpse of what the next generation of consoles are going to look like.
The one thing that you can see does need a bit more work is the character models, which are still quite impressive with a good amount of detail. But in the end they just still feel a bit blocky and just needing a little bit more to stand out. The overall presentation of NHL 06 is amazing, and although not perfect, really stands out as the best looking hockey game of the year.
I have been a huge fan of what EA has done with this series, and I really admire all of the great additions that have been made to the series of the years. But this game is one that just leaves me wishing they had worked on giving more new features this year rather then feeling comfortable with sending out a game that is extremely similar to last year’s game. There are some new features and the Xbox Live support is solid, but you can’t help but lose a little bit of fun value knowing that NHL 06 is not all that different from last year’s game.
I don’t want to give the total wrong impression that NHL 06 is totally the same game as last year; there have been improvements in this game. However there really wasn’t that stand out feature that we have been getting the past ten years that makes me feel like I should recommend running out and purchasing this game. If you want to see how the new rules work, and play a game with the updated rosters, then this is a great choice as it has solid gameplay, fabulous visuals, and a great overall feel to it. Just be warned that there isn’t anything overly new with this game.
The owner and editor-in-chief of Darkstation.com. I've been apart of the website since 2002 and purchased the website in 2010. Owning and running Darkstation is a dream come true. I love video games and I love writing and talking about them even more.