It has been a long wait for hockey fans. After struggling through a slew of rule changes that reduced the game to a slug?s pace, and then topping it off with a bitter strike, the NHL has returned, better than ever, and has a great game to match it. Once again, 2K Sports has put out a top-tier hockey title, which will keep gamers returning all the way until next season.
NHL 2k6 has a few tweaks to its gameplay that really set it apart from the EA Sports NHL titles, which really make it an all-around excellent game. The chief difference between 2k6 and others is the sheer amount of control given to the gamer over the players. This aspect is pretty much unrivaled in any other hockey title. The skating system has been refined to allow for increased precision; particularly in the ability to control the way the selected player is going (as in skating backwards or forwards). Poke checking is much more free-form, allowing the player much more accuracy when on the defense. When on offense, the player can deke effectively using the right control stick, best used for passing around defenders and throwing off the goalie. The main addition is a new one-timer setup; by pressing down on the right control stick, a button corresponding to each man on the ice appears next to their name. Pressing the button will pass it to that player, sending the puck to them with pinpoint accuracy. If the button is pressed twice, the AI will take over for that player and do a perfect one-timer. This fits perfectly into the new rink specifications with the shortened neutral zone, and is really a decisive factor between good gamers and great ones. This really makes 2k6 play much better than any other hockey game on the market now. On the other hand, the Franchise Mode doesn?t really have any noteworthy differences that set it apart from 2k5. While this isn?t bad, since 2k5 still offered an engaging, lasting experience in managing a team and making it an unstoppable juggernaut, it doesn?t match the depth found in the EA NHL titles. However, the core handling of 2k6 keep it as the better NHL title.
To be blunt, NHL 2k6 looks spectacular. It has some of the slickest graphics of any sports game in this generation. The shadowing on the jerseys and ice looks flawless on the Xbox. The ice reflections of the players, boards and even the scoreboard are beautifully done. Even the player?s skates carve marks into rink. Simply put, the graphics here are the best available in a sports game on the Xbox. The sound, on the other hand, leaves things to be wished for. The music is the standard rock/pop score. If that isn?t favorable, then either deal with it or take advantage of the Custom Soundtrack options (it?s especially funny hearing some Super Mario Bros. tunes playing during the game). Coming from someone who cracked down on last year?s ESPN video game commentary, let it be said that the commentary in this is no worse than last year, despite losing the #1 sports network in the world. Bobby Cole and Harry Neale were brought on for the in-game babbling, and while it isn?t bad, the one-liners and poor jokes wear thin very quickly. Also, the two of them are comically stereotypical Canadians, though it won?t be that amusing for everyone.
NHL 2k6 puts 2k Sports back on top of hockey this year. Its excellent gameplay distant it from the other hockey games and the great level of control over the players separates it from the past years of the series, and offers an immensely improved experience. The sheer level of detail sets this game apart from almost any other sports game in the current generation. 2k6 is definitely the best hockey game of this year, and at the low price of $20, even mild hockey fans should pick this one up.