NHL 2K7 - PS3 Review
Note: As at April 16 it seems that the Australian NHL 2K7 online servers are no longer operational - they were a couple of weeks ago when we first started playing the game for review. We have asked 2K Sports to comment on the situation and will update this review as required.
Living in Australia we don't have much opportunity to play Ice Hockey. Hell, where I live on the Gold Coast we have one Ice Skating rink to service the current population of almost 500,000 people! For one reason or another I've always loved Ice Hockey games - perhaps it's the fast paced nature, or the brutality, or even the simplicity of the game which unlike NFL or NBA you can pretty much pick up and play without any knowledge of the rules. With no sight of an Electronic Arts PS3 NHL title on the horizon fans of the sport have to turn to 2K Sports' title, NHL 2K7 - and it's a turn that you certainly won't dislike as this is one of the most impressive sports games we've seen in some time.
|The Ice all looks wonderful.|
While action games last 8-12 hours, and RPG's perhaps 20-40, this game could literally take up hundreds of hours of your life. This is due to the absolutely enormous Franchise Mode which is the best way to play the game. Sure you have Quick Matches, and Online Gameplay (which we'll get to soon), but it's the monster Franchise Mode that will provide the bulk of your game time in NHL 2K7. In this mode you have full control of your team including team lineups, trading players, managing fatigue, handling contracts and much more. After you have selected your team the game will highlight major and minor rivals for those 'key' matches. Fortunately rather then playing through nearly 100 games if you're short on time the game can 'simulate' games to help you get through the season quicker if you desire.
As with any Ice Hockey game the gameplay has to be fast and fluid in order to convey the real sport - and this PS3 title delivers in spades. Every single button on the PS3 Sixaxis performs a different function and it will take you a fair amount of time to get the most out of the game. But that's not saying it's inaccessible to newcomers to the franchise, or gaming. Even with the most basic face button shots you can put together a decent game which, whether you're in offense or defense, is always entertaining. There are several camera angles to suit your game style as well and a replay gives you full control over the camera so you can see those brilliant goals of saves from any angle.
|Player detail is pretty good.|
The developers have made use of the Sixaxis' tilt controls which allow you to take over in net with the crease control. Essentially by pressing the R3 button you switch to an over the shoulder view of the goalie that can then be controlled with the tilt mechanism. It's also possible to use the tilt functionality to lay down the big hits (or checks as they're called in the sport) on the opposition.
Online multi-player also plays a major part in the game with support for up to 8-players in a single match (which is surprisingly down on the 10-players supported in the PS2 game - reviewed here). The developers have put plenty of effort into the online aspect of NBA 2K7 with leagues, tournaments, mini-games, and leader boards all present to keep you occupied. In the few games we played online there was very little lag which was great to see given the speed of the sport.
|Preparing to block the shot.|
The biggest problem with this game is that the puck is too easily picked up or intercepted. In real games the number of times the puck misses the target, or they miss picking it up only to have it skittle across the other side of the rink. Still I can see how the developers didn't want to upset gamers by not making the puck stick with the intended target. Another disappointment is that despite the PS3 capable of handling 7 controls at once, the game is only capable of 4-players in offline modes. It would have been nice to fill an entire team with human players.
Overall NHL 2K7 looks quite spectacular. The stadiums and rinks look wonderful with some beautiful reflections off the ice. Not only that but the ice in each of the stadiums looks different, and we (given we don't get much Ice Hockey coverage here) can only assume that these are accurately modeled on the real locations. We must also applaud the silky smooth frame rate which is perfect no matter the amount of action happening in the game. Menu presentation is slick as well.
|The crowds are pretty nice.|
Where the game is let down is the player models. From a distance away and during the main game they look wonderful, but when the game switches to close-up shots, be it for players entering the rink, or in the change rooms they look quite lifeless and dull with average textures and a lack of realism. It's not a complete disaster, but there are certainly a lot of other games with better looking sportsmen (including 2K Sportsí other title NBA 2K7 which is due out very soon).
One thing that I really loved about NHL 2K7 was the audio. With the inclusion of Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound the game is extremely immersive. Effects both on and off the ice are also impressive. When a home goal is scored you really know about it as the stadiums siren blares through your sound system. The first time we heard it we almost had a heart attack!
|The graphics are sensational.|
The developers have also introduced the idea of Cinemotion which ups the effect of the music to new levels. If you're playing well then the orchestral music will up the tempo and take on a light tone, if you're playing poorly it will take on a slower, somber tone. It works quite well overall. If though, music isn't your thing then you'll be able to turn on the commentary from Bob Cole and Harry Neale and turn the music down, or off entirely. The game also includes a wide range of rock based music from a variety of (unknown to us at least) bands to fill out the menus and cut scenes.
NHL 2K7 is not only one of the best next-gen sports titles on the market, but quite possibly the best NHL based title of all time. As a first generation title on the PS3 Ice Hockey fans have no reason not to pick up this title. Excellent stuff.
Review By: Dave WarnerOrder your copy now from Gameswarehouse.
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|GRAPHICS||While models could be better, but arenas and animation are superb.||78%|
|SOUND||The orchestral music is great. Effects, commentary and rock music.||84%|
|GAMEPLAY||Some great gameplay on the ice, engrossing franchise as well.||86%|
|VALUE||The franchise mode is massive, and there's solid online play too!||92%|
|OVERALL||NHL 2K7 is one of the best Ice Hockey games we've ever played. PS3 owners would do well to pick up this monster title.||85%|