NHL 07 Preview
NHL 07 box art
System: X360, PS2, X, PC, PSP Review Rating Legend
Dev: EA Canada 1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid 4.0 - 4.4 = Great
Pub: Electronic Arts 2.0 - 2.4 = Poor 4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy
Released: Sept 2006 2.5 - 2.9 = Average 5.0 = The Best
Players: 1- 2 3.0 - 3.4 = Fair
Preview by Patrick 3.5 - 3.9 = Good
EA delivers Reason #129 as to why you shouldn't leave the house this Fall.
by Patrick Evans

Hockey television ratings have taken a serious hit in the past year. The league-wide lockout has taken a lot of steam out of the NHL, spending much of its television time on cable-network OLN. For gamers that are hockey fans, however, there is still plenty of opportunity to enjoy their favorite sport in their living rooms. And with new analog-player controls, NHL 07 is hoping to keep hockey fans firmly planted on their sofas.

NHL 07 screenshot

EA Canada is pulling all the stops in an attempt to reach the most authentic hockey experience without freezing rink-side. For '07, they are revamping the skating mechanics and animations, the shooting engine, and puck physics. More than that, the Goalie AI will also be refined, ensuring that games become neither low-score bores nor barnburners.

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Individual players will also be given specific designations with AI scripts to match. Every player will fall into one of seven categories: Playmakers, Snipers, Danglers, Grinders, Power Forwards, Offensive Defensemen, and Defensive Defensemen. Players that would be designated as a sniper, for instance, would be looking for the puck near the blue line in anticipation of launching a screamer towards the goal. Defensive Defensemen would focus on what their name implies, ensuring that they are the closest man to their goal on a breakaway and doing their best to prevent an easy goal.

While all of this designating is great, the most innovative addition to NHL 07 is the new Skill Stick. Controlling the player with the left analog stick, gamers will be able to perform a variety of stick moves and shots without ever taking their thumb of the right stick. Players can swing around the backside, looking for the open shot, and snapping the control stick up at just the right time for a quick backhand. Likewise, deking your opponent is as simple as wiggling the control stick left and right. If you are setting up for the big shot, winding up is as simple as pulling back on the stick and shoving it forward for the laser shot. I haven't heard if there is a move combo to flip the puck up on the stick blade and dump in behind the goalie, but one can only hope for something that cool.

NHL 07 screenshot

All of the action that takes place on the ice translates into work for the front-office, and NHL 07 will put you in the position of the General Manager. Since the inception of the Salary Cap in the NHL, intelligent trading and sensible free-agent signings are now vital to the success of a hockey franchise. Keeping track of the free-agent carousel may be more important than ever, but developing the players that you have on roster is even more important. When gaining experience on the ice, young players will advance their ratings, while veteran players will maintain their high level of play for a few more years.

These improvements to both the on-ice and front-office action are only bolstered when you consider the visual upgrades that are bound to come. EA Canada promises to sport the most realistic player and puck graphics ever seen. From the screenshots, its tough to argue. While we will have to wait for game time to see that for sure, what we can be excited about is the ability to shift the camera angle while working the puck. By simply holding the right trigger, players can shift their vision up the ice to look for the open man or catch the defense off-guard.

NHL 07 screenshot

With hockey making its resurgence after the lock-out, EA hopes to do its part by providing an excellent game worthy of its licensing. Shifting the presentation to a television-style, EA has brought in Gary Thorne and Bill Clement to make the play-by-play calls. By focusing on the storylines and providing an new level of player control, NHL 07 aims to conquer the hockey world when it hits stores this September.

Features:

  • Join the Revolution—Experience a realistic sense of team control on the ice. Command every movement and make precise passes with controlled velocity and accuracy—all with the analog sticks.
  • All-New Player-Specific Models—NHL 07 players act like their real-life counterparts more than ever with six different player types, including Danglers, Playmakers, Snipers, Power Forwards, Offensive Defensemen, and Defensive Defensemen.
  • Live the Life of a GM—Build team chemistry, sign and trade players, and negotiate contracts under the new salary cap to meet an owner’s expectations. Earn trust points with every positive move then purchase upgrades for the team.
  • Shootout Returns—Become an instant hero with the most exciting play in sports. With the game on the line, all eyes are on you. Skate down the ice, read the goalie, and see if you can score the momentum-swinging goal.
  • Elite League Expansion—European Elite Leagues return with the addition of the Czech Elite League and an all-new Elite League Dynasty Mode that clearly distinguishes the differences between European and NHL hockey.
  • EA SPORTS™ Free-4-All—Online or in the same room, it’s every man for himself in an all-out hockey Free-4-All. Using only one side of the rink, challenge up to three friends and see who can score the most goals in your fight to dominate the hockey world.

By Patrick Evans
CCC Staff Writer

Screenshots / Images

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