Your Season Isn't Over

John Chandler
Jun 14, 2006

Just because the 2005-06 NHL season is almost over doesn't mean that you have to wait until September for a dose of hockey. This season's crop of video games is the best yet and there are more ways to play than ever before. John Chandler helps guide you through the selection process.

NHL 06

Available for: PS2, Xbox, GameCube, PC
Online Play: Yes

Features:

- EA SPORTS Skill Stick: A quick tap of the right analog stick allows you to perform dazzling dekes and moves that will fool the opposing goalie and put the puck in the back of the net.
- EA SPORTS R.P.M. Physics: All-new physics mean that coming in contact with the puck will have effects - shots can injure defensemen or knock the goalie's water bottle off of the top of the net.
- Classic Deking Control: Allows you to create space on the ice by performing eye-opening dekes that will fake out defensemen and allow you to fly up ice.
- Momentum Skating: The size and speed of a certain player will affect how fast they move up ice. Generating momentum before you go for a speed burst will allow you to move down ice quicker than ever before.
- Creation Zone: The Creation Zone is back and better than ever before. Facial Sculpting controls allow you to put your own face into the game. Other features include player editor and create-a-team.

Developer Site

Metacritic Scores: PS2, Xbox, GameCube, PC

My Review (PS2 version):

EA SPORTS NHL 06 is revamped and ready to get fans back on the ice. The game has a ton of new features that will entice new gamers and keep the veterans interested.

This year, the game features The Creation Zone, which sports create-a-player, create-a-team, and a player editor. The player editor is probably the best new feature that EA added this season, it allows the user to tweak players to the exact way in which they want them to perform. The create-a-player and create-a-team features were expanded and provide more options than ever before.

The gameplay is different than last year's game; the A.I. has been revamped and provides a much more difficult challenge. The graphics are still decent and the controls seem to be more responsive than ever. The presentation is very sharp and clean. Online play is better than ever before, providing gamers with daily events and multiple options in terms of competition.

Overall, I give this game an 8 out of 10. I would recommend it for any gamer who hasn't recently purchased a hockey video game. The game is good but not perfect: The ridiculously dominate A.I. sometimes plagues the game by frustrating the gamer to the extent of forcing them to stop playing the game; Animation flaws are present throughout the game. If you are looking for a more simulation-like video game, than go for NHL 06.

NHL Eastside Hockey Manager 2005

Available for: PC
Online Play: Yes

Features:

- The Hockey World - Gamers are able to manage their franchise in one of over 20 playable leagues from around the world. Over 32,000 players and 3,000 teams are able to be moved around in professional, minor, and junior leagues alike. International tournaments is just another realm that you can take your management expertise to...
- Manage Your Team - New and improved depth charts give you the ability to view your entire organization from a whole new level. New features give you the ability to monitor your player's performance, both physically and mentally.
- Scouting - New player biographies give a detailed breakdown of how certain players have performed over the course of their careers. Information on new acquisitions and draft picks will help find the exact spot for that player in your organization.

Developer Site

Metacritic Scores: PC

My Review:

NHL Eastside Hockey Manager 2005 is simply the most realistic hockey management experience out on the market today. It completely blows away any franchise or simulation mode that has been available on any other gaming console to date.

It is a challenging but fun and exciting game to play. There are many different factors that affect your team in various ways such as the happiness of players to how much money your organization is generating.

The A.I. is extremely intelligent - it will be very difficult for you to dupe it into completing a trade that isn't fair for both sides. The display is very colorful and easy on the eyes.

The only problem that I found with the game was the inability to adjust player's names or ratings, something that I'm sure would bother many other people than just me. Overall, this game is a must-buy for any sports or hockey management enthusiast.

NHL 5-on-5 2006

Available for: Capable Cell Phones
Online Play: You can't play against other users, but the results of your completed seasons are ranked among other players.

Features:

- Just like the NHL - NHL 5-on-5 2006 introduces to you to a style of gameplay that is very similar to those of the old console days in the early 90's. All 30 NHL teams are represented with a variety of real-life players from each time. All of the players sport ratings and play the way that they would in real life.
- All-New Gameplay - You are able to shoot, pass, and deke your way through opponents with all new simplified controls. The vibration feature will let you feel the contact every time you go into the boards. The A.I. is new and improved, giving the user a unique challenge every time they step out on the ice.
- The Road to the Stanley Cup - An all-new season mode lets you guide your favorite team through a grueling season, to the playoffs, and all the way to the Stanley Cup. You can also play in the All-Star game that is held midway through the season.

Developer Site

Metacritic Scores: Metacritic does not review cell phone games

My Review:

NHL 5-on-5 2006 is the most realistic cell phone hockey game that I have played to date. The season mode and the ability to save the game exactly where you left off makes the fun level that much higher.

The graphics are great for a cell phone video game and the players move along without any real prominent glitches. The controls are simple - allowing the user to easily move the puck up ice and score. Each difficulty level presents a new challenge to the user, something that other cell phone games have failed to do in the past.

The player ratings are pretty accurate for the most part. If I'm playing with the Flyers, I certainly can't fly down the ice with Derian Hatcher as I would be able to with Simon Gagne. The hard hits and vibration mode made physical play another important and exciting part of the gameplay.

Season mode is a very difficult challenge. If you are able to reach the playoffs and win the Stanley Cup, you might be able to become ranked with other users in the overall standings. It's a great concept and it's very cool to see exactly where you rank with other people who are playing the same game as you.

I would recommend this game for anyone who is a fan of console-type hockey and has time on their hands coming home from work or in between classes.

Gretzky NHL 2006

Available for: PS2, PSP
Online Play: Yes

Features:

- Skate with Gretzky: Rack up enough points to be able to add a sixth player on the ice to help your team in the form of Gretzky himself. Get enough points and skate with five Wayne Gretzky on the ice at the same time.
- Team Chemistry: Keeping a good team chemistry is one of the most important factors in real-life and in the game. How you perform on the ice and during the offseason will either raise or lower your team's collective chemistry and feelings.
- Say Hello to the AHL: Play the game with the most advanced minor league playing system on the market. All 27 AHL teams with over 500 players are available for use.

Developer Site

Metacritic Scores: PS2, PSP

My Review (PS2 version):

Compared to the other two major hockey games out there (NHL 06, NHL 2K6), Gretzky NHL 06 comes in a distant third. The game isn't absolutely horrible, but its arcade-like play makes it less enticing then what is offered by its counterparts.

The graphics are just like all of the other Gretzky video games, blocky and lacking detail. The gameplay is decent, but sometimes the players show weird movements. The passing is pretty difficult, it seems that you have to pass the puck way ahead of your teammates in order to get it on his stick. One of the biggest problems with the game is the bugs, which are visible throughout.

There are two bright spots in this game - the music and interface are good and easy to move through. The features are also extremely fun and addicting. The franchise mode is deep and takes away at least from some of the arcade-feel of the game. Wayne vs Wayne is very fun, especially when you get enough points to fill your entire line with Gretzky's.

Overall, the game is decent, but not enough to keep up with the elite of the hockey video game world. If you are a fan of the Gretzky games from the Nintendo 64 era, then this is probably another one to add to your collection.

Singer's Review (PSP version):

If your preferred gaming system is the PSP, Gretzky NHL is your only option. Luckily Sony comes through with a solid game that's perfectly in-between your cell phone and a full-blown console game.

The graphics are good, and there's a noticeable improvement from the 2005 version. Gameplay is exactly what you'd expect and if you don't feel like picking up the manual, it should only take a minute or two to figure out the controls.

Loading times are issues on many PSP games, but Gretzky NHL has no loading in-game. Once you have it going, there's little chance the continuous flow will let you put it down. Where you'll suffer here is obvious: achy hands.

While some of the in-depth elements of the console game didn't make it to the PSP, if all you're looking for is a hockey game, and maybe a season mode, Gretzky NHL 2006 PSP is not only something portable, but a real alternative to your console game.

NHL 2K6

Available for: PS2, Xbox, Xbox 360
Online Play: Yes

Features:

- On-The-Fly Coaching - Have complete control on how you want your team to play with the ability to be able to coach on the rush. Have your team clear the puck around the boards, set up for a rush, and then crash the net all with the push of a button.
- Enforcer System - The most revolutionized aspect involving physical play in a hockey game to date. Use hard hits and fisticuffs to be able to shift momentum to your side. Multiple body checks will lower your opponent's player ratings, causing them to move slower and be prone to turn over the puck more often.
- Maximum Goaltending - Maximum Goaltending gives the user the ability to go inside of the goalie's mask and see the puck from a first-person point of view. The analog stick allows the user to make the big saves when they count the most.

Developer Site

Metacritic Scores: PS2, Xbox, Xbox 360

My Review (PS2 version):

The more simulation-like game between the two powerhouses (2K Sports and EA), this game is worth more than what its price tag reads.

NHL 2k6 sports the perfect balance between an arcade and simulation feel of a video game. A crisp flow and non-stop action backed up by an A.I. that is neither too-easy nor too-challenging makes this game one of the best on the market.

The controls are smooth and easy to use and the sound is nothing short of amazing with the broadcasting comments being so deep, it actually feels like you are listening to a live televised game. The lack of an ESPN presentation doesn't bring this game down at all, as the design team was able to come up with a just as impressive layout that is feeble to venture through.

The developers of the game still seem to not be able to get a solid grasp on the graphics as they are still blocky and overall sub-par compared to its rival NHL 06. The online mode is a little dry and the loading times can be a bit longer than expected at times, but getting past these few minor flaws allows you to experience an awesome video game first hand.

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