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1-4 player offline or online
Dolby Digital
HDTV 480p
725 blocks

I happen to love hockey, so every year when the new slew of hockey games comes out I pay attention. My favorite hockey title of the past few years has been the "2K" series, originally developed by Visual Concepts and most recently done by Kush Games. Last years version melded the ESPN branding into the game giving it a television broadcast feel. 2K games also lowered the price to less than half of its major competitor (EA) and the game really solidified itself in the hearts and minds of sports gamers. However, as the 2K hockey series started to gather steam, Electronic Arts, being the mega-corporation they are, bought out the ESPN licence for 15 years and this left the 2K series having to go back and reinvent themselves under the new 2K Sports Network. Having loved the previous year's effort I hoped that with the ESPN licence gone that the game would still stand tall and any flaws that have plagued previous versions in the past would be fixed. After sitting down for some extended playtime I have to report that I came away with mixed emotions.

Graphics:

Upon firing up 2K6 I noticed very subtle changes in the graphics system but overall the game really has not changed too much in terms of graphics. If you ask my opinion it actually looks as if the developers have used the same, albeit modified game engine from 2 years ago. With this being the case one has to understand that the game looked fantastic a couple of years ago but it now looks a little outdated. The player models are adequate but do look a little bulky, almost square in shape. I also found quite a bit of slow down from time to time which actually surprised me. One example, and the worst offender of it all, was when the play shifted downward. When I was the home team and the play came into my zone the whole screen began to slowdown ever so slightly. I caught this right off the bat, but a newer player may not even notice it. I caught a few other instances of slowdown as well but they were nothing to really complain about, but it disturbed me that it was even there in the first place as this series has been improved upon each year and one would think something like this would be taken care of.

Another downer for me was the menus and options. It was not the lack of options, but the structure of the option menu themselves. Since the ESPN name has now been removed the menus had to be revamped and they definitely took a turn for the worse. I found them to be very confusing, overcrowded and cluttered. Add to this the use of multi colors and you have a recipe for confusion on the screen.

Although the game looks similar to NHL2K games of the past I think though I think the game still looks better than most of the hockey titles out there. The ice seems brighter and the fans and the rink details seem to stand out. Advertising banners adorn the outer rink wall giving an authentic feel and look to the game. I even noticed players' helmets popping off and being kicked around as the action shifted up and down the ice. If you look closely you can even pick out the helmet less player to, something I found pretty cool. Overall the game is good looking but I just hoped that it would be greatly improved upon from last years effort. I guess that with the impending release of the Xbox 360 I will have to wait for a big graphical jump.

Sound:

Sound in NHL 2K6 is quite an experience. The game employs Dolby Digital Surround Sound and for those with huge home theater systems are sure to turn this title up. Every sound in the rink is clearly audible and the gamer can customize how he or she wants the sound processing to be. In the options for presentation there are a series of sliders where one can manipulate settings just the way they may prefer.

The in game sounds are sometimes so real that you'd swear you were at the game. The cutting of ice with sharp skates, hitting the puck off the back of the boards and one of my favorites, ringing the puck off the post, all sound great. Even the body checks manage to thud with authority along the boards and during mid ice collisions. Not everyone has a fancy stereo system though, but that doesn't matter, as the game sounds great through the TV in simple stereo.

I do have one complaint with the games sound though and that is the commentary. The 2K sports series has gone back to Bob Cole and Harry Neale. These two guys are a Canadian staple of "Hockey Night in Canada" as they have been calling games for what seems like decades, and in Bob Coles case this is not an exaggeration. While 2K5's announcers added a breath of fresh air with the great gameplay calling, Bob and Harry slip a notch or two. Unfortunately the commentary, while good in some spots, lags behind in others and it actually sounds as if they re reading off a teleprompter. Also, to add injury to insult, they actually seem to repeat some of 2K5's lines word for word! Both of these guys and 2K sports are capable of much better.

Gameplay:

Graphics were not the solely responsible for my love affair for the 2K series. It has much more to do with how the game played and closely resembled the real on ice experience. NHL 2K6 does not disappoint in the realism and simulation aspect of the game of hockey. This year's game boasts a host of new or newly modified options and gameplay modes. The following list is some of the more prominent ones with a brief outline of what they are:

1. Pro control - Exploit your opponent's defence and take advantage of 2K's true NHL A.I. with encompassing give-and-go attacks, puck cycling and behind the net pressing passing plays.

2. On the Fly Coaching - You can adjust your own style of hockey at both ends of the ice by calling team strategy during the action. Crash the net, screen the goalie and pinch defensemen on offence then counter the attack by clearing the crease, clearing the zone or setting up a break out for an offensive rush. I'm thinking that this has replaced my beloved "manual strategy" where I was able to control my aggression and play formations. I miss the old system, but the new one has its merits, the best of which is being able to tinker totally on the fly and not having to stop and pause the game to adjust these kind of options this time around.

3. Enforcer

NHL 2K6

 

NHL 2K6

ESRB: Everyone - E
Platform: Xbox
Category: n/a
 
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Features 1-4 player offline or online Dolby Digital HDTV 480p 725 blocks I happen to love hockey, so every year when the new slew of hockey games comes out I pay attention. My favorite hockey title of the past few years has been the "2K" series, originally developed by Visual Concepts and most recently done by Kush Games. Last years version melded the ESPN branding into the game giving it a television broadcast feel. 2K games also lowered the price to less than half of its major competitor (EA) and the game really solidified itself in the hearts and minds of sports gamers. However, as the 2K hockey series started to gather steam, Electronic Arts, being the mega-corporation they are, bought out the ESPN licence for 15 years and this left the 2K series having to go back and reinvent themselves under the new 2K Sports Network. Having loved the previous year's effort I hoped that with the ESPN licence gone that the game would still stand tall and any flaws that have plagued previous versions in the past would be fixed. After sitting down for some extended playtime I have to report that I came away with mixed emotions. Graphics: Upon firing up 2K6 I noticed very subtle changes in the graphics system but overall the game really has not changed too much in terms of graphics. If you ask my opinion it actually looks as if the developers have used the same, albeit modified game engine from 2 years ago. With this being the case one has to understand that the game looked fantastic a couple of years ago but it now looks a little outdated. The player models are adequate but do look a little bulky, almost square in shape. I also found quite a bit of slow down from time to time which actually surprised me. One example, and the worst offender of it all, was when the play shifted downward. When I was the home team and the play came into my zone the whole screen began to slowdown ever so slightly. I caught this right off the bat, but a newer player may not even notice it. I caught a few other instances of slowdown as well but they were nothing to really complain about, but it disturbed me that it was even there in the first place as this series has been improved upon each year and one would think something like this would be taken care of. Another downer for me was the menus and options. It was not the lack of options, but the structure of the option menu themselves. Since the ESPN name has now been removed the menus had to be revamped and they definitely took a turn for the worse. I found them to be very confusing, overcrowded and cluttered. Add to this the use of multi colors and you have a recipe for confusion on the screen. Although the game looks similar to NHL2K games of the past I think though I think the game still looks better than most of the hockey titles out there. The ice seems brighter and the fans and the rink details seem to stand out. Advertising banners adorn the outer rink wall giving an authentic feel and look to the game. I even noticed players' helmets popping off and being kicked around as the action shifted up and down the ice. If you look closely you can even pick out the helmet less player to, something I found pretty cool. Overall the game is good looking but I just hoped that it would be greatly improved upon from last years effort. I guess that with the impending release of the Xbox 360 I will have to wait for a big graphical jump. Sound: Sound in NHL 2K6 is quite an experience. The game employs Dolby Digital Surround Sound and for those with huge home theater systems are sure to turn this title up. Every sound in the rink is clearly audible and the gamer can customize how he or she wants the sound processing to be. In the options for presentation there are a series of sliders where one can manipulate settings just the way they may prefer. The in game sounds are sometimes so real that you'd swear you were at the game. The cutting of ice with sharp skates, hitting the puck off the back of the boards and one of my favorites, ringing the puck off the post, all sound great. Even the body checks manage to thud with authority along the boards and during mid ice collisions. Not everyone has a fancy stereo system though, but that doesn't matter, as the game sounds great through the TV in simple stereo. I do have one complaint with the games sound though and that is the commentary. The 2K sports series has gone back to Bob Cole and Harry Neale. These two guys are a Canadian staple of "Hockey Night in Canada" as they have been calling games for what seems like decades, and in Bob Coles case this is not an exaggeration. While 2K5's announcers added a breath of fresh air with the great gameplay calling, Bob and Harry slip a notch or two. Unfortunately the commentary, while good in some spots, lags behind in others and it actually sounds as if they re reading off a teleprompter. Also, to add injury to insult, they actually seem to repeat some of 2K5's lines word for word! Both of these guys and 2K sports are capable of much better. Gameplay: Graphics were not the solely responsible for my love affair for the 2K series. It has much more to do with how the game played and closely resembled the real on ice experience. NHL 2K6 does not disappoint in the realism and simulation aspect of the game of hockey. This year's game boasts a host of new or newly modified options and gameplay modes. The following list is some of the more prominent ones with a brief outline of what they are: 1. Pro control - Exploit your opponent's defence and take advantage of 2K's true NHL A.I. with encompassing give-and-go attacks, puck cycling and behind the net pressing passing plays. 2. On the Fly Coaching - You can adjust your own style of hockey at both ends of the ice by calling team strategy during the action. Crash the net, screen the goalie and pinch defensemen on offence then counter the attack by clearing the crease, clearing the zone or setting up a break out for an offensive rush. I'm thinking that this has replaced my beloved "manual strategy" where I was able to control my aggression and play formations. I miss the old system, but the new one has its merits, the best of which is being able to tinker totally on the fly and not having to stop and pause the game to adjust these kind of options this time around. 3. Enforcer – You can throw opponents off their game by bringing out your checking line. This time around they are now bigger and more aggressive players that weigh into the outcome of a game as much as your leading goal scorers, as physical play will lower opponents' performance ratings. This is really beginning to mirror the NHL and is an excellent feature. 4. Maximum goaltending - Take matters into your own hands by utilizing your right analog stick to make quick, intuitive saves when it counts the most. Although this is a tough option to utilize, as switching from and offensive position to a very defensive one can be frustrating, it takes a little getting used to but it can be done. 5. Franchise perfection - An unsurpassed franchise experience hinges a team's success on your ability to schedule workouts, scrimmages and manage team chemistry. This mode really puts you in the GM's seat, and boosts the overall gameplay experience. Controlling your own team through a season and beyond is quite cool. Of course the real big draw for me is the online component and 2K Sports continues to lead the online gaming revolution as NHL 2K6 delivers online play and the most comprehensive online feature set anywhere, including complete online stat tracking, buddy lists management, and online leagues. Although these online features do exist, they are not readily accessed. I found much to my dismay that challenging another opponent, as well as answering a challenge, was quite difficult. The once slick menu and streamlined online area is now very busy and very confusing. I had a heck of a time trying different options just to get to play online. While on the topic of online play, I found the goalies (both on or offline) were way smarter. They tended to cover angles better and were rarely caught out of position or were able to recover quickly. This flies in the face of the online cheaters who consistently use ‘gimmie goals' to score. NHL2K5 was plagued with easy goal glitches, which, as a purist player at heart, really made me angry to say the least. I think that swoop goal manoeuvres and bouncing the puck off the back of goalies heads into the net may be a thing of the past. Only time will tell on that one and of course cheaters always find a way to cheat. The game has many more options to unlock and skills discover but I think I will leave this up to you gamers to unearth. For those wondering how this game controls the button placements are very similar to previous games in the series as they are well placed and quite intuitive. I do have to mention though that although some of the new moves and options will take a bit of getting used to once you do this the game plays even better. Players in 2K6 are also easy to control and have the same flow that I have come to love in the 2K series as a whole. I did find that the players at times seemed to glide longer in their turns but I attributed this to a more realistic skating motion then other some of the other hockey games I have played in the past. Conclusion: I would class NHL 2K6 as more of an NHL 2K5.5, as this game does not improve on last year's version as much as I hoped. The looks are good but they are not a huge step up in terms of graphics and presentation. 2K6 does slip here and there as the menu has taken a step back and at times the commentary is very poor. All is not bad though, as the fun sim orientated gameplay that many have come to love is still intact. New options such as Pro Control and On the Fly Coaching really spice up this latest effort. The sounds that are included in this game are also excellent. Sure, the hardcore fans of the 2K series maybe disappointed at first but after a little time with this game they will soon settle in. My only hope is that Visual Concepts and Kush Games are tweaking the new Xbox 360 version that is due out around the 360's launch. Oh, for those wondering, as an added bonus the price is also an attractive selling point as it is the same as last years costing less then any of its rivals. Overall, even with the hiccups this game presents, NHL 2K6 still out performs the other hockey games out there.






 
 

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