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» NHL 2K7 (Xbox 360)

VIDEOS: Cinemotion // Fast Paced Hockey // Traditional Broadcast
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Introduction

It’s easy to argue that NHL 2K6 was more of a quick-and-dirty port than a true Xbox 360 title because the developers wanted it to be ready for launch, and as a result that game wasn’t leaps and bounds ahead of the PS2 and Xbox versions. This year, however, is much different because NHL 2K7 combines enhanced gameplay features with the new Cinemotion presentation to undoubtedly improve on an already great series. As a result, it’s clear to see that NHL 2K7 360 is not just another port, but instead we see just how powerful the Xbox 360 can be.

Cinemotion in Motion

2K6’s graphics were fairly comparable across all platforms, which shouldn’t be true considering 360 owners had to pay a much heftier price. This year you can rest assured you’ll get your money’s worth because 2K7 was clearly built from the ground up for the 360. The revamped skater animations look much smoother, especially due to the precise momentum physics system, and each environment is overflowing with detail. The best feature of all is the new Cinemotion, which provides as an alternative to traditional broadcast-style gameplay. While you can still select to play in a standard manner, Cinemotion recreates the experience into what is basically an epic hockey film. The dynamic camera angles focus in on the action rather than staying in a fixed location. This increases the overall intensity of a game because you’re always immersed right into the heart of the action.

On the sound side of things, the Cinemotion also comes into affect here. Gamers have the option to listen to the regular commentators or to have their game accompanied by a suitable orchestra. If your team is trailing the music will be dreary and depressing, but if you start to make a comeback the orchestra chirps up to really get the adrenaline pumping. Furthermore, little touches like players yelling at each other and coaches making calls depending on different situations all contribute to a much more realistic experience. Although there are some points when the crowd settles down and the music gets relatively quiet, overall 2K7’s presentation definitely shows a significant amount of progression from previous years.

Face-off Time

Sports titles in general have a reputation for being similar to games of previous years. To help deny this rumor, 2K Sports incorporated tons of new control options and gameplay modes to make the changes from last year easily noticeable.

As far as player control goes, veterans will be able to pick up a controller and get right to work, but there are a few moves that are worth checking out as well. Abilities like crease control for goalies and icon passing for those heated breakaways can still be found, but there are even more techniques to give the gamer an unparalleled amount of control. The pressure system allows you to target a specific opponent that seems to be giving your team a lot of trouble. You can order your players to shadow him, play aggressively around him, and even check him hard in order to intimidate him. At the risk of obtaining a penalty, it’s great to see that you can break a cocky player’s confidence by putting him in his place.

Drop passes are now available, which allow you to pass the puck to a nearby teammate by tapping the right bumper. It isn’t much of a challenge to pull a few dekes and get a quick snap shot by the goalie on the novice difficulties, but on the harder levels there are other shot types you can perfect to keep your opponents guessing. Wrap around shots can easily be executed by having a skater with the puck swing around the net. Once you direct him all the way around and tap ‘X’ he will do his best to dump the puck in the net. This type of shot is great because it often confuses the goalie and can greatly reduce the usefulness of crease control. Other touches, such as being able to skate backwards by holding down the left trigger, really make you appreciate how much control you have over your players.

On top of the typical quick match and season modes, the franchise mode offers plenty of depth outside the rink. You'll receive plenty of trade offers, especially right before the deadline, but you'll have to deal with tighter salary caps due to the revised NHL Collective Bargaining Agreement. The rookie scouting system and free agent interface are intuitive and provide tons of detail if you're all about building a dream team. These features are fairly standard throughout most franchise modes though, so this game really shines with other additions.

The enhanced rivalry system offers bonuses or punishments depending on how your team performs against rival teams. Initially your rivals are determined solely on your team's history in real life, but as your franchise progresses new rivalries can be developed if a certain team robs you of glory. Another interesting add-on involves e-mails the owner receives regarding his team. By reading different messages, certain players on your team can either benefit or lose based on actions in their personal life. For example, if a player signs a new deal he will receive a stats boost, but if you find out that somebody has been up too late they reflect their lack of sleep in a game. You can avoid reading these e-mails entirely to avoid any penalties, but sometimes it can be worth the risk if it means your players could perform a lot better.

NHL 2K7 in the Long Run

The online play supports anywhere from two to eight players in any match with up to four players on one console. Online league play is back and better than ever with support for up to thirty teams. The amount of user interaction here involving scheduling, stats tracking, and tons of other factors show how innovative this title is compared to other hockey games. In addition, the party games and minirink modes can also be played online if you want a break from straightforward hockey. Minirinks provide a comical twist by having miniature sized rinks placed in the most absurd locations. The party games involve random objectives like scoring as many goals as possible or breaking as many items as you can, and while you certainly won't be spending a lot of your on minigames they are still a nice touch. With all of these options delivered in a virtually lag-free environment, there is plenty of opportunity for fun to be had online.

Conclusion

Compared to last year's release, NHL 2K7 raises the bar for all hockey games on the Xbox 360. The visuals are top notch, and the Cinemotion presentation delivers a legendary gameplay experience. With plenty of online modes to keep you busy as well as more depth in the single player field, NHL 2K7 unquestionably warrants a purchase if previous titles have left you looking for something more.

Gameplay 17/20
Graphics 18/20
Sound 18/20
Value 17/20
Preference 17/20
Overall 87/100

 



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