2K sports and EA have been at each others throats since the dawn of time, well at least since the dawn of the next-gen console and now both EA and 2K have their own respective Ice Hockey titles, NHL 07 from EA and NHL 2K7 from 2K sports. So we are asking the question which one’s the better of the two, NHL 07 with its next to perfect visuals, unbelievably detailed rinks or 2K7 with its perfect gameplay, polished graphics and its hundreds of extra mini-games.
2K decided to put most of its work into the presentation of the new game which was most certainly lacking in 2K6. Of course that’s not all, they have given the entire menu system an overhaul, instant replays and stat counters to. What has to be considered as one of the best features this game has to offer is the all new ‘Cinemotion’ system.
You may now be wondering what in the world Cinemotion is, well its Kush Games take on turning the game of Ice Hockey into a fully fledged mini movie. You will have multiple music scores which will change depending on the momentum of the game, who has possession and things get really intense when you play a rivalry game. The new and more dynamic camera angles also help give the effect that you’re fighting for your life.
I thought when reading up on Cinemotion that it would be nothing more than a gimmick, but it is most surely more than that, trust me go to unlockables buy the Mighty Ducks old kit and play a game in cinemotion, you actually start to feel like your making your own ‘Mighty Ducks’ movie! One nagging thought is that maybe at times the music goes a bit overboard and starts to feel like you’re no longer playing an Ice Hockey game but instead trying to defuse a bomb with the puck before it explodes and destroys the world (sounds weird but you’ll understand once you play a game with cinemotion).
Once you get onto the ice you realise just why Kush Games are so good at ice hockey titles. The game is as free flowing as ever, it’s smooth, easy and responsive. Shooting, passing, face-offs, checks – you name it, they are all back and once you get hold of the controller within seconds you will know what buttons to mash to get the desired result. Sadly like most games there are flaws, firstly checking seems to be far to easy, even on the higher difficulty settings you can bring in a defender from the other side of the rink with nothing but checking on his mind and yet the others team player won’t make any attempts to dodge the impending body hit. Sure checking is great fun, watching as your players flattens the opponent to the floor and you go onto score as a result of it; but it’s simply not realistic. Watching a real game of ice hockey, players will perform split second dodges to avoid a hit, but there’s no sign of that happening in 2K7.
Another flaw with the game is the One-Timer shots. This is simply where one of your players on the wing passes it into the centre and due to the opponent’s keeper taking so long to adjust his position you have an open shot on goal as it were. Again if you simply watch a game of Hockey you will realise that One-Timers don’t work as often as they do in the game. Luckily all is not lost as there are sliders for everything in NHL 2K7 so things like easy body checking and One-Timers can be toned down, but I noticed even with the help of the sliders; pulling off One-Timers was still a little too easy.
Now we must not forget the Defence who also have a few new tricks up their sleeve the main one being Pressure Control. It will take a little bit of getting used to but to pull it off you need to hold down the left bumper then aim at one of the opposing players, if you click the bumper twice you will notice your player starting to rough the opponent up a little bit more and three clicks will bring in another of your defenders to finish the job and help strip the puck and get it up field quickly. Also on Defence you can use your right analog stick to pull of 360 degree poke checks which can really help when you have multiple opposition bearing down on your goalie.
Difficulty wise you will need to up the difficulty as on the easier levels you will put away eight or nine goals without facing much of challenge. To get games ending at 2-1 or 3-2 and have games which actually feel like tense end-to-end games of hockey then you will really need put the game at either of the two highest difficulty modes. Even in online games I found that the difficulty of the computer controlled players was simply to low and found that games regularly broke eight scores. That now brings me onto the online portion of the game which is pretty self explanatory; you have ranked and unranked matches not forgetting tournaments for those in search of a little bit more competition. Lag isn’t usually that bad but at times you will get a lag spike while in the middle of a game and it can be annoying, but on the whole I would say online play is practically flawless. The best bit is if all that wasn’t enough, you can join 30 player leagues with complete stat tracking, I mean awesome or what?
Visually this game has had a HUGE overhaul compared to 2K6. While 2K6 looked like an old Xbox game, 2K7 really does look like a next-gen hockey game. EA’s NHL’07 is slightly better visually, but EA’s game are always better but it’s not by much that’s for sure. Another major improvement is the animation, in the old title you would see the puck suddenly change directions, go through hockey sticks and players, but in this one the game is perfect. Your players will slide across the ice with such ease, the puck moves and reacts just as it should and the big body checks just look awesome, especially when you see helmets flying off left right and centre. The biggest improvement though is without doubt the camera which now has such a huge array of angles from behind the keeper for one on one situations to zooming in on the offence as they zone in on the opposition goalie.
One other note is the games various mini-games which include games of tag, body checking and general games of hockey madness do add to this games lifespan as it really is good fun plying around with a few mates offline. In total there are 15 game modes to wet your appetite, not forgetting the games mini-rinks and the Franchise mode which will keep you busy for many, many weeks.
On the whole the game is a tremendous upgrade from 2K6 with all new features like the impressive cinemotion, updated graphics and even slicker gameplay, this is surely the hockey game to consider. Online this game will have you playing endlessly for weeks on end with thirty player leagues, tournaments and one on one ranked matches. Offline you have fifteen mini-games to keep you and your mates busy and a Franchise mode for you to live out your team’s dreams. So if I had to choose NHL’07 or NHL 2K7, well there’s no contest; 2K7 wins hands down.
Originally Written By: Lee Matthews