previews\ Sep 7, 2006 at 8:00 pm

NHL 07 - 360 - Preview

Hockey has been a video-game staple since the old days of gaming. It seems that almost every platform has enjoyed bringing the game to life, in one way or another – whether it was simplistic sprites or the more intense animations and graphics of the current-gen systems.

Well, video gaming is progressing into the next generation and EA Sports is keeping pace with the next iteration of its NHL franchise – this time the code was for NHL 07 for the 360. This was not a retail build, but still showcased some of the new schemes that EA Sports has put into the game while also showing off the graphics of the 360 version.

In regards to the latter, NHL 07 is a powerhouse with stellar player animations and great renders for the various arenas.

New to the franchise is the Skill Stick. You use the left thumbstick to control your stick and the right thumbstick controls the hockey stick. A quick shot is a quick up on the stick, a slapshot is down and then up; wrist shots and backhands require going to the left or right with the thumbstick and then moving it upward. You can deke while skating with the puck. When shooting, you use the other thumbstick to aim the puck. Sound complex?

It takes some practice but the game includes a Dodge Shootout, which is a penalty shootout, and enables gamers to understand the control scheme.

NHL 07 Xbox 360 screenshots

Other game modes include Dynasty mode (you can adjust your skill level, period lengths, rosters used, if the salary cap is used or not, the way season ties are broken). There is also an EA Sports World Tournament.

Regardless of whether you indulge in the Dynasty mode or take on some of the world’s top national representatives, the game pretty much plays out as a cerebral and reflexive exercise. You have to see what is going on, anticipate and take advantage of your oppositions mistakes.

The Dynasty mode is rather deep and once you take over the role of GM, you trade players, sign free agents to build a top-tier franchise, deal with scouting reports and finances, upgrade the staff and make roster moves.

In many ways, despite the new shooting mechanics, NHL plays much like other hockey titles. The game is fast paced up and down the arena ice, with passing, switching characters on the fly, dumping the puck in the zone and then chasing into the corners while setting up shooters at angles to the net.

NHL 07 Xbox 360 screenshots

Graphically, the game is very strong. Sure, there are the overhead camera angles, but when the camera gets down onto field level, you will see a big step up in the way the character animations are handled and how closely some of these players represent their real-life counterparts.

The sound of the game is rather good, from the announcing to the on-ice game sounds.

NHL 07 is a fast-paced title that really is a treat in many regards. Hitting store shelves on Sept. 12, this is a title that should entreat hockey video-game fans.

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