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Sneak Preview: NHL 2K7
SI.com
8/01/2006 05:23:00 PM


Posted by Jacob Luft

I gave up on hockey video games years ago. Somewhere along the line, console hockey gaming stopped being fun. Even though new features were added every year and the ice kept getting shinier and the polygon count expanded exponentially, the gameplay was always more complex than it was engaging. Too many buttons doing too many things.

If you were to trace the arc of hockey video game history, you would find it is a lot like the popular band U2: The early stuff was the best. Boy represented U2 in its natural, punk form. October and War were honest efforts, too. Everything since has been an exercise in pomposity and selling out. (Yeah, I said it.) A similar case is Pearl Jam, seeing as how Ten was one of the handful of best albums ever recorded and Vs. was a great follow-up, but I had to check out after Vitalogy.

The best video puck action ever may very well have been the first one many of us remember playing: Ice Hockey for the NES. There were only six teams and no real players, which is what made it fun because you could construct your own team from the three stock characters: skinny guy, medium guy and fat guy. The glory years followed with the EA series on the Sega Genesis: NHL Hockey 94, NHL 95, NHL 96, etc. I believe the fact that the Genesis had only three buttons to choose from is a big part of what made these titles so addictive.

Every once in a while I get the hankering to play a hockey game, but then I remember I left my NES at home when I went away to college and my Genesis is probably in a landfill somewhere. But maybe that won't be the case for too much longer: Later this fall, 2K Sports is coming out with the NHL 2K7, and it's a lot different from anything I've played in the past decade or so.

A couple of days ago, 2K Sports invited myself and Adam Levine, our assistant managing editor here at SI.com and my silent partner in Game Room, to their offices in downtown New York to play a demo of this title for the XBOX 360 as well NBA 2K7. (Check back here tomorrow for my early thoughts on that one.) At this point, you are probably thinking, "Lucky bastards! They get to play these games way before us and will land free copies while we have to pay $60!" or something to that affect, to which my only response is, Yes, that's basically true. Hey, somebody has to do this job, why not us? Did I mention they fed us pizza, too?

Anyways, here are some quick bullet points NHL 2K7:

Say goodbye the tired old top-down camera angle. Instead, this game brings you down lower to the ice and gives you a panoramic view of the action. Whereever you are on the ice, you'll be able to see much more of the rink than ever before.

The skating is tight. Plus, if you pull down the left trigger you can skate backwards!

The commentators have a lot to say and are pretty spot on, but I've never cared much for talking heads. NHL 2K7 offers an alternative: Cinemotion. Instead of commentators droning on, click on Cinemotion and you'll get a musical score that plays to the momentum of your game.

Hey, maybe I just had puck goggles from the 60 inch, wall-mounted plasma HDTV they allowed us to play on, but I'm hopeful that this is the hockey game that old schoolers have been waiting for.
 
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