I don’t understand why they have to make “new” editions of sports series annually, especially when the previous version was already very good. So, EA took last year’s hockey code, added some new features, changed the 2004 into 2005 but is that really enough? What if I would take my review of NHL 2004 and added some new elements to it, would that be tolerated? I don’t know but I don’t plan to find out either. However, do we allow EA to make use of such a method? I will try to provide you with an answer.
Probably the most import innovation what concerns gameplay is the fact that you can take control of a player that hasn’t got the puck. So, now you can grab the puck, rush to the front and then change players so that you don’t give, but receive the pass. That makes it a lot more fun as you can both create and take advantage of the opportunity. Of course, you won’t simply pull that off the first time you try it, ice-hockey is very fast and now you even have to do more.
Luckily, there are more options to work with as now you can completely choose for yourself if you want to play a wrist or slap shot (respectively square or circle on the ps2) where as in the past, the computer decided how he would execute your scoring attempt. Definitely a necessary and good addition.
Believe it or not but there is more, if you skate behind the goal and push one of the shot buttons at the right time and place, your player will execute a wraparound. That is a method of scoring where the player quickly comes from behind the goal and tries to push the puck in next to the goal’s edge, very amusing. Once again a very good new feature which allows you to differ your attacks or to get a quick second chance.
Also defense and A.I. improved aswell as the tactical system you can use. Therefore I find that the game isn’t simply the same game as last year wherein only the teams and leagues are updated.
Another luxury with which EA spoils its fans, is music and every single time they manage to add decent and appropriate songs to their games. I can listen to all kinds of music but my disc-man always plays trance. However, after playing the game for a few hours I want to get the music. It is a completely different style as you can image but the game completely changed the connotation. Therefore, listening to these songs just brings back the magical atmosphere of the game. Professional as they are, the sound-effects and commentary are very decent but generally they didn’t improve noticeable.
Like I said last year, graphics are superb in every aspect, from player models to cut-scenes to clear menu’s and in-game action but those aspects did not improve that dramatically either. Also the Dynasty mode is back but I doubt that European players will care much about that. Other classical stuff, like championships, quick match and tournament are present too. The one mode which is particularly fun for me is the one-on-one: you play on one half of the field with only one goalie. Up to four players can try to score or prevent someone from scoring. Perhaps this incredibly fun spin-off doesn’t appeal much to the hardcore fans. However, it certainly is good fun to play against friends who are not that familiar with the techniques and tactics of ice-hockey.
Ice-hockey is not the most popular sport in this region so some of the thorough aspects of this game won’t have any use for the occasional gamer. Luckily, NHL 2005 isn’t only accessible for professionals who seek to replace the lack of a championship this season. Newbies can start playing and have fun with this game too, although I recommend not to set the A.I. higher than easy, which is the lowest difficulty setting possible, as facing better trained opponents requires a lot of practise.
Conclusion: This is a solid game with plenty of modes to keep you busy and it adds some nice possibilities to last year’s gameplay which was definitely necessary to keep up with the competition. However, did it improve enough? If you are looking forward to a new game yes, but if you just want to start with playing hockey on a PS2, I don’t see enough reasons to pay sixty euros in stead of thirty for last year game.