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February 16, 2005
ESPN NHL 2K5 - Review
Release Date Distributor Developer Players Rating Difficulty
7/2/2005Take TwoKush Games1-8G8+Medium
Save Size Sound Format Vibration 60Hz Mode 50Hz Border Widescreen
785KBDolby Pro Logic IIYesNoNoneNo

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Graphically it looks nice enough.
As a sport Ice Hockey can be brutal. Players get decked, gloves come off and there's quite often a bit of biff on the ice. But the NHL is struggling. As I write this listening to World Sport on SBS the presenter has just mentioned that the 2005 season may be canceled due to a labor dispute with an announcement expected within days. But nothing has stopped this game coming out, even with EA grabbing the ESPN license from later this year. Ice Hockey, unlike NFL, isn't a hard sport to get to grips with. Sure there are a couple of rules to follow however the main aim is the get the puck into the goal and that's it. For that reason ESPN NHL 2K5 is a little easier to get to grips with as it's a lot easier to pick up and play.

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It's time for gloves off!
Ice Hockey, while simple to get to grips with ESPN NHL 2K5 isn't an easy game to master, either in real life or video game form. Fortunately the developers have included a variable difficultly which actually turns the game from a very simulation to very arcade styled. In any difficulty gone are the days when you could take a shot at goal from some distance and score a majority of the time. That, as in real life, is almost impossible. Indeed you will have to use your skill and move the puck around the ice to have a chance of scoring. What I really like, however, is the way that in this game the goalie doesn’t have a magic catching glove. If you watch a real game the goalie is much more likely to deflect a shot. The defensive team has an all new Intense Contact Control which allows you to lay the big hits. It's impressive, but the total stick control is what, in my opinion makes this game. While skating in one direction, by pressing down the left button you can then use the right analogue stick to move your players stick around in any direction.

As you expect game modes include exhibition matches, tournaments and a wonderful franchise mode which includes a Live Scouting System so you can see potential recruits in action before signing them on. One of the great new features in this game is the Party Mode. This mode features fifteen small mini-games and challenges which are fairly entertaining and, with several friends around, could keep you entertained for hour on end. As an addition to the main game its a nice inclusion.

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The Gold Rush mini-game.
As in real life NHL matches if you get bored with the Ice Hockey it's possible to start clobbering your opposition in a fight. The developers recognise this as an integral part of the sport and have added in a complete fighting engine that lest you grapple, dodge, grab and punch. It's no Fight Night or Tekken but isn't too bad a system.

So everything comes together well and the price point of $49.95 is extremely generous. Having said that there are a couple of niggles and disappointments with this title. Easily the biggest disappointment with this title is the lack of online options. While EA's NHL 2005 managed to include online gameplay in PAL territories this title has had all online content removed. It's a shame as the rankings and online leagues in America are apparently set up extremely well for ESPN NHL 2K5. I'll admit I'm not a massive NHL watcher, but from the games I've seen on TV the players typically spend a lot more time along the outside of the ring, up against the walls, but in this game the action seems to take place along the center.

In-game graphics are certainly impressive. The arenas are wonderful and the reflections and look of the rinks are excellent. The player models, while not quite as detailed as the NFL players are fantastic with very fluid animation. Unfortunately the game has some very occasional spots of slowdown, but they are infrequent and don't detract from the overall experience. Another strange things is that this game doesn't seem to have as much ESPN styled presentation or flare as ESPN NFL 2K5 which we just reviewed earlier today. Perhaps it was due to a different development team, or perhaps ESPN's real life coverage of NHL isn't the same as NFL either.

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He's on a breakaway.
Audio in ESPN NHL 2K5 upholds benchmarks set by the other ESPN releases this year. The highlight yet again is the commentary from Garry Thorne and Bill Clement which is not only insightful and humorous but also fairly accurate to the information on screen. Occasionally it can get repetitive, but it never reaches annoyance. The sound effects are terrific as the skaters tear up and down the ice while the hits sound terrific - and quite painful.

Yet another quality title ESPN NHL 2K5 is a great purchase at under $50. Once again the lack of online options is disappointing with the big difference being that EA's NHL 2005 includes online gameplay in PAL territories. Still if online gameplay doesn't concern you then this is a purchase you won't be disappointed with.

Review By: Dave Warner

Order your copy now from Gameswarehouse (PAL version) or Amazon (NTSC version)
GRAPHICSWhile impressive it lacks the ESPN visual flare of the NFL title.
SOUNDGreat commentary highlights bone crunching sound effects and music.
GAMEPLAYIt's your option to set the arcade or simulation level. Excellent.
VALUENo online gameplay but at under $50 NHL 2K5 is still great value.
OVERALLESPN NHL 2K5 is a great hockey title that has enough mini-games and depth to keep you coming back time and time again.

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