Ice hockey - it’s more than just having bulk and being able to skate; it’s about skill, speed, endurance and many other one-word descriptions that promoters throw out to describe a new release. This year another hockey season is upon the North along with the release of NHL 07, but will it be good enough to break the ice for new players?
At face value, NHL 07 consists of a number of modes, Dynasty, Exhibition, Season, World Tournament, Free 4 all and Shootout. There are enough modes to keep you pretty busy, but for those hardcore NHL fans the one that would be of most interest will be the Dynasty Mode. Dynasty mode gives you full control of the club right down to player morale.
Like other celebrities, sports stars too are demanding and toss their toys if they don’t get what they want. As the manager you have to maintain your team's morale. At the start the team is 100% focused, but if you leave players out or don’t give them enough game time then their morale declines, impacting performance. It’s all about balancing what you want while still meeting the team needs. Even the off-field events that occur will impact morale, so be careful where you put your money.
Speaking of dollars, you also have a salary cap that you will need to manage. Again it’s about balance and not throwing cash away on a great shooter or even a rookie. There are ways of getting around the salary cap, with some trading tricks and reshuffling between leagues, so dive around the options before doing anything that could cost you a season. With your rookies you can keep an eye out on their progress and snap them up once you think they are ready. Reports on the rookies are readily available so keep track of them to pick up some good players.
Dynasty Mode has many more additions and is said that you could possibly run into five or more seasons. Not that bad really, but will take a lot of time and commitment. See how good you really are and take your club to a level that even your owner did not expect. Reap all the rewards on the way, but just remember one bad season could cost you the lot.
Even though Dynasty Mode offers more in-depth gameplay, the strength in NHL 07 is more in the minigames - short, sharp and simple. Free 4 All is the one that appeals. One net, one goalie and everyone else. The aim is to either play to a set amount of goals or score the most in the time specified. The beauty of this is you don’t have to worry about penalties, subs or management. It is just shooting for goal, and a great multiplayer option and good for beginners to get a feel for shooting.
Although it seems relatively easy to know how the controls work and how to shoot, it is not as easy as it seems. You are better off trying to master your shooting and the rest will follow.
As for the actual matchplay, well, it’s not bad. NHL 07 has the 'Skill Stick' which is controlled by the right thumbstick. This is basically your passing mechanism. You flick the stick towards a player in your team and the puck gets passed. You can even pass to players out of view. On the side of the screen an arrow appears when a player is near but out of view . So if you think you are on your own, look first towards the sides for the arrow before trying to shoot from an impossible spot.
Sounds simple, yeah? Well it does have a catch. Although the side indicator is handy, it can also be a bit of a pain. The problem is that although the arrow tells you your man is out on the wing, you can’t tell if he is being closely marked. If the opposition is near enough they will intercept the puck and for some reason they seem a hell of a lot faster than your own team, so they close in on your goalie quicker and have a better opportunity at scoring.
Another downer is the inability to see the puck clearly. NHL 07 does have indicator to show who has the puck but it’s difficult to follow during a pass, sprint and especially when it goes to the back of the net. If you’re not quick enough to spot the puck in play, the opposition could swing around the back of the net and pass to an open shooter.
All in all this game is not fantastic. It offers a bit for all, beginners, followers and casual gamers. It has some depth in the Dynasty Mode, but apart from that it doesn’t really offer a lot more to ignite the fire. Maybe one of those games you dust off now and again when you have some time to kill.