Whether NHL 07 is the x-th version of the z-th sports game, is something I’ll leave to you. In this review we’ll be looking at whether the new control scheme can compensate the lack of new options or possibilities, as like in so many other sports games on the 360, also this title has a bad case of famine when it comes to features.
First the good news, your hockeystick is completely controllable with your thumb sticks. It’s a bit getting used to, but after the first hour of testing you’ll want nothing else. Everything can perfectly be done with a tick against the thumb stick and it even feels natural and satisfying. After all, you’ll have to do your best a lot more to be able to put the goalie on the wrong leg and make the puck end up in the goal in a split second.
Sole downpoint, certainly in the beginning, is the fact that you need to pass with your right trigger, something new normally never had to do. So don’t immediately loose your patience in the beginning if not everything goes as planned. For those that really don’t want to invest some time (I can only suggest you do) there’s always the possibility to play the oldfashioned way through the setup.
The rest of the gameplay received little changes. Defense is still getting hurt and there’s no subtlety. The opponent AI doesn’t disappoint, a victory as such. Only the goalies tend to be a bummer now and then, but since you have to try quite a few times before you can score, we didn’t get bothered too much by that.
What did irritate is that the 360-version has a lot less modes to offer than previous versions of the game. You do get online possibilities (ranked and unranked, stats and leaderboards), World Tournament and the known and extensive Franchise-mode, but that’s about it. The shootout is crap and only fun to play with your friends for a short while. Electronic Arts could have done a lot more here, especially when seeing what 2K Games has to offer as online possibilities, like tournaments.
In exchange for the lack of content we do get an excellent and impressive packaging. Without a doubt one of the most beautiful sports games up to now, with very realistic player models and accompanying believeable animations. Also the faces, which you get to see in replays or cut-scenes, are a show-off for what’s graphically possible on the Xbox360.
The same praise can be given towards the commentary by Gary Thorne and Bill Clement. They’re not so known over here but appear to be ex-ESPN and succeed not only to give relevant and well-timed commentary but also tend to work well together. Of course we would have liked some more different sentences but that’s splitting hairs. Also the reactions of the audience are as they should be.
NHL 07 clearly has weak and strong points. Graphically and control-wise it’s a big jump forward but strangely enough the makers didn’t succeed to integrate all features and possibilities of the previous versions in this Xbox360 version. Who doesn’t mind that, and just wants to have a good hockey game is at the right address with NHL 07.