Although I am not an avid viewer of real life hockey games, I do appreciate the sport and all that it entails. When I think back at all the hockey games I have played in the past, the EA series of NHL games always had a big impact due to the magnificent presentation; however my all time favourite has to be NHL Rivals on the original Xbox. With this standard set in my mind, I knew it would be difficult for NHL 2K6 to compete; however with next generation hardware to play with, there is still plenty of head room to create something special for our new system.
So with NHL Rivals in mind, I placed NHL 2K6 in the drive tray and away we went. The game speed feels very fast, which is no bad thing at all. The game is a solid gameplay experience, although it just doesn’t feel as satisfying as NHL Rivals. One thing I love above anything else in a good hockey game is that sensation you get when you collide with another player. The ‘thud’ when you chase down that attacker with one of your enforces, pounding him into the sides. Unfortunately this feeling is seriously lacking. There is fun to be had though, but the overall presentation really does make you question the realism. You can quite easily get sucked into the action itself, but it all feels so hollow as you dart from one end to the other.
Gameplay can be heavily influenced by so many factors and if any of these are poor, it has a dramatic effect on your whole experience of the game. This is one of those titles which has this major flaw. As good as the gameplay can be at times, the poor presentation from music to information pop ups on screen, just take away any sense of impact and joy. Maybe I am being very hard, but I always take so much from attention to detail and NHL 2K6 has really let itself down.
There are some features though that add something a little different, such as the new goalie control. If you wish you can control your goalie viewing from very close up, allowing you to stop any shots that come your way, however this is nothing more than a novelty factor rather than an important addition.
Actual game action feels alright, although you’re not going to write home about your exploits on the ice. It is an acceptable ice hockey experience with the usual twists and turns you would expect from this sport, but you can’t point out a single area where you are overly impressed and this is really the problem with NHL 2K6.
As you would expect, there is a season mode among many, and I mean ‘many’ modes. This is a good deal of fun and will entice you for quite some time as you progress. The main problem has to be the fact that overall the gameplay feels just above average. The game isn’t terrible, in fact far from it, but the missed opportunities annoy you both in the graphics and gameplay departments. Much more could have and should have been done!
Other than the Franchise Mode, you do have a selection of mini games available, but again you find yourself glancing over these less than spectacular additions in a hurry.
The first thing that slaps you in the face with a wet kipper has to be the abysmal presentation. High definition has certainly been left behind when they created this title, as horrible edges on menus and overall presentation is quite frankly laughable even on the original Xbox never mind the Xbox 360. Having seen the original Xbox version and also taking into consideration the power of the Xbox 360, one thing sticks out more than anything and that is the game is an obvious port.
Games that are ported from one system to another can cause quite a disappointing title and it is no different here either. This is made worse when a game has been ported from far less powerful hardware and this really shows. Well let’s try to be fair for a moment, the graphics have been enhanced. That is enhanced player models, enhanced ice (which does look very nice), but overall the game is very similar to its Xbox 1 incarnation and without a high definition display to at least get the higher resolutions, what is the point?
I really expect so much more from any Xbox 360 game graphically, especially with all that power and high definition displays, but NHL 2K6 has made minimal efforts in really taking the challenge and has certainly taken the easy road of ‘enhancement’ over all out reworking.
The commentary is very serious compared to its Electronics Art counterpart, which is actually a relief as the comedy soon wears thin. It is not perfect, but is enough to help immerse you in the action, for a little while at least. The music within the game is featured from MP3.com, however it couldn’t be more cheesy. The menu music harks back to years gone by when naff satire was all the rage.
The crowds are fairly unspectacular as well and could do with some serious overhauling to really push our adrenaline further with our 5.1 systems with much more variation and build up in excitement levels.
There are certainly plenty of mini games to help extend the titles lifetime, but you just cannot ignore the dreadful presentation no matter what mode you eventually decide on. Playing shuffle board is certainly an interesting addition, but with poor execution it is nothing more than a gimmick, rather than a serious incentive to play the game for many more hours.
The achievements are also a bizarre installment. Rather than focusing on the many modes available, attention instead has been paid to the difficulty settings. This unfortunately is a complete joke as you can seriously customize the difficulty on any settings to help you easily unlock all of the achievements. It really puzzled me how some games get achievements so incredibly wrong. Achievements can add a lot of longevity to an otherwise average game and yet again this opportunity has been missed (you see a pattern?).
The presentation has really let NHL 2K6 down and has really damaged the enjoyment factor for me. A chance has been missed to create a true next generation hockey game and instead we have been left with an original Xbox port with minimal incentives to spend our extra cash on the next generation version.
If you are looking for NHL heaven, you are going to have to wait for a future title, however if you are inpatient, there is fun to be had, just don’t expect the ultimate ice hockey experience or you will be disappointed!