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NHL 07 Xbox 360

Published by EA Sports
Developed by EA Sports
Release Date: Out Now
Price: £49.99

NHL 07, an introduction.

When the Xbox 360 launched last December it was great to see such a wide selection of EA Sports titles. One series that was noticeable by its absence was the NHL series. This was rather unfortunate given that the NHL series is one of the better titles that EA Sports offer. This year though, the NHL series has come to the Xbox 360 and it’s quite an impressive next generation console debut. It’s not just a graphically superior NHL game as a major change to the control scheme adds a new twist to this long running series.

What modes are on offer?

NHL 07 comes with a Dynasty mode, an EA Sports World Tournament mode and a Dodge Shootout mode in addition to a Play Now (quick game) mode. Online multiplayer options are a Ranked Quick Match and a Quick Match. Most of those modes are pretty self explanatory. The EA Sports World Tournament mode allows you to have an 8 or 16 team World Tournament for one to four players.

What’s good about the game?

Whilst NHL 07 is a very enjoyable ice hockey game there are a couple of aspects that really stand out. The first thing you’re going to notice is the graphics and they do look very impressive. Whether you’re going to playing on a HD display or a standard TV, there’s no denying it’s the finest looking ice hockey game to date. Looks aside, for the moment, what you’ll also notice is the new Skill Stick controls that’s quite unlike anything you’ll have experienced in an ice hockey game before. Essentially the right analogue stick is used to simulate the hockey stick. The left analogue stick controls player movement and shot directions. The RB and RT buttons are used for passes but the primary buttons (A, B, X, and Y) are barely used. Slap shots, wrist shots, one-timers, protecting the puck, dekes and much more can all be done with the right analogue stick in a way that feels very intuitive. It’s easily the most natural control system seen in an ice hockey game to date and probably represents one of the best uses of the right analogue stick in a sports game. Naturally some will probably not like the Skill Stick control scheme and for those who don’t like it, you’ll be pleased to learn that you can revert to a classic control scheme if you wish.

What’s bad about the game?

One of the problems with the EA Sports titles that appeared on the Xbox 360 launch day was that they were streamline versions of the games that appeared on the PC and other consoles. Unfortunately this is also the case with NHL 07 on the Xbox 360. The only single-player modes that are going to have you coming back for more are the Dynasty and World Tournament modes. There aren’t any mini-game modes or anything else to add variety to the game. Even the Dynasty mode isn’t as comprehensive as the ones found in previous NHL titles. There aren’t any online leagues to participate in which is disappointing and would have added some longevity to game.  The keepers aren’t as good as they could be and are prone to some rather strange blunders from time to time such as deflecting the puck into their own goal. Thankfully it doesn’t happen too often though.

How does it look?

As we mentioned earlier the game looks very impressive, regardless of the type of display you’re playing the game on. The arenas, the players and the spectators all look much better than in any previous title in the series. As you might expect the game has the usual EA Sports top-notch presentation and everything from the slick game menus to the details on the players’ shirts is first class. The player models are outstanding, as are their animations. In short the game looks stunning on just about any display you can connect the console to.

How deaf gamer friendly is the game?

As per usual with sports games, whilst there are omissions in NHL 07 there is no real cause for concern. The game commentary isn’t subtitled, which is unfortunate but hardly surprising given that virtually all sports titles have unsubtitled commentary. Rather more disappointing is that the Skill Stick tutorial is unsubtitled. This is a shame as it’s a rather useful way of seeing exactly what can be done with the control system. In every other sense there are no problems though. Messages you’ll receive in Dynasty mode are all in text and all important information in the other modes in shown in text too.

Final thoughts.

NHL 07 is the first of two ice hockey games to arrive on the Xbox 360 this year, with NHL 2K7 still a few weeks away, but regardless of how NHL 2K7 turns out NHL 07 is recommended to fans of the series. The Skill Stick control system really adds a lot to the experience and when coupled with the superb graphics it makes the game an essential for all Xbox 360 owning ice hockey fans. The lack of modes is a disappointment though and does take the shine off the game to a certain degree. Thankfully NHL 07 still manages to be truly worthwhile despite the lack of modes.

Overall Game Rating: 8.0/10

Deaf Gamers Classification:

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NHL 07 impresses with it's superb Skill Stick control scheme and wonderful 'next-gen' graphics but it also disappoints with its lack of game modes.