Visual Concepts
Sega/Take-Two
Sports
1-4
08.31.04

ESPN NHL 2K5


Although we had a chance to see some hard hitting from the NFL, there is another league that gets fans jumping out of their seats. Unfortunately, we didn't have the chance to see our favorite NHL teams do their thing this year. The NHL may be striking, but this didn't stop Visual Concepts from making the best, up-to-date hockey video game of the year. Visual Concepts, being one of my favorite developers, broke out with another dominant sports game. If you can't watch hockey on ESPN, then you can play it on Xbox with ESPN NHL 2K5.

Graphics

Modern technology has enabled us to come a long way in terms of lively looking games. I am surprised to see this many sports games this year that make me feel like I am controlling a live sports event right on my television set. This is what NHL 2K5 brings to you. Many other hockey games you may have played had glitches in them. Meaning, you could score a goal from the same spot every time or score using the same favorite move you believed you had mastered. In NHL 2K5, there is no more of these foolish loop-holes. You have to earn the goals you score. The players look life-like. Especially when you decide to create a player, such as yourself. You will be astonished to see how close of a replica you can create. The fans in this game go crazy and will pump you for game play. They are noisy and similar to the fans you would see out at your local teams arena. The only fan scenes I didn't like was whenever a puck would go into the stands, 2 or 3 fans would attempt to fight for the puck. All the other fans would just sit there, when we know in reality, everyone wants to bring the official puck back home with them. Other shots that interested me, were the blasts that break the glass. The graphics are tight and the hitting is off the hook. I enjoy laying out a player on defense more than I do scoring (haha).

As far as the fighting and penalties in this game, you need to lower them a bit. The fighting is cool the first 10 games you will play, but then you will find yourself getting frustrated that you couldn't take a breakaway shot because some idiot decided to get in a fight. There are tons of replays to watch, therefore you will be able to see your game winning deke, slap-shot, or one-timer. You will find that all the arenas look exactly like they do outside the video game.

Gameplay

As far as the gameplay goes, you won't find a better game out there. This game offers complete control of your skater on the ice. You can pass the puck precisely, manipulate the amount of power you want to put into a shot, and (by using the L trigger) have complete control on both offense and defense. When in control of the puck (by using the L trigger) you can master your stick handling and protect the puck where as (by using the L trigger) on defense, you can turn your body fully towards the play. Some other key controls to know are the sidestep (black button), offensive pass and go and defensive call for a pass (white button), stopping on the dime with intense contact controls (right thumbstick), and changing your aggression levels (directional pad + right trigger increases and directional pad + the left trigger decreases).

Being that there are too many controls to go over and you can look them up in the book, I will give you some of the basics. For instance, when being held against the boards, you can kick the puck, elbow your opponent in the head, or switch to another skater to blast him off you. When the goalie has the puck, he can drop the puck where he is, clear the puck, or cover up the puck from defenders. As for the fighting, you can duck punches, shake off your opponent when he grabs you, punch, uppercut, grab him, taunt him, or fake punch him. The better you get, the more you will find what you can do with the extensive controlling options.

There are many modes this game has to offer. If you're lazy, you can play a Quick game. Otherwise, you can simply scroll down to Game Modes and start a Season, play Exhibition, enter Playoffs, start a Franchise, enter a Tournament, or test out your Skills. The most fun is to completely control a team in the franchise mode. In the franchise mode, there are many new features that will give you a feel as if you actually are running your favorite hockey team. You can scout world-wide to find a standout prospect for your team. There is an enhanced minor league management system, where you can decide who is making the cut, or who is going to have to prove themselves. If you want to keep an eye on a prospect, you can check out their talents by running practice drills to learn more about their attributes. To top off the full effect of a genuine franchise experience, Visual Concepts added a full coaching staff.

There is also a party mode. In party mode you can invite your friends over and challenge one another to decide who the true champ of the game is. This mode consists of dozens of multi-player mini games and challenges (such as playing 2-on-2, 3-on-3, and so on). Other than the party mode, you have the NHL's elite. The Dream Team Challenge matches you against a ladder of all-star player teams. These teams are hand-picked by some of hockey's most familiar personalities. In depth and more interactive than before, the expanded Skybox features more than 150 unlockables. This includes more retro jerseys, remote outdoor locations, and tons more.

After you think you are the man and have proven to be amongst the most elite, then you can accept the ultimate challenge by signing up for online play. ESPN once again sets the standard for the online NHL experience. This includes intense online leagues and tournaments. You can view other game scores as they are happening in the online community with the real time sports ticker. In the online mode, there is an advanced messaging system coupled with a buddy list you may modify at any time. The buddy list enables you to contact or keep up on anybody you have previously played or plan to play.

Sound

As for the sound, there isn't much you can say about any games. This game, continuing to satisfy me, offers custom soundtracks to be used right in the arena. This can be found under options, then arena music. The music that is played in the background gives you that feeling of being at a hockey game. Every other sound in the game is realistic. When I take a shot, skate on the ice, deflect a shot off the net post, or simply hear the siren going off after scoring a goal, the game comes alive in my room. They have them goofy announcers that you typically hear in all the sports games making jokes and talking up players. Even after the goal, if you listen closely in the background, you can hear the names of the goal scorer and players that assisted him on the loud speaker within the arena. There isn't anything lacking quality in terms of the commentary, music, or sound effects.

Replay Value

The game is worth every penny spent. It can be found for a miniscule $20. This is the type of game that you can invite all your friends over and have tournaments with. This is a game that is fun to practice and get real good at. You'll want to play this game over and over. Especially now that hockey isn't on television for this season, you're going to want to pop this game in frequently. I may be done writing this review, but I'm going to put a lot of wear into this game. There is an abundance of gameplay left for me, being that I have a franchise going on with some created players. Another reason why this game is a great addition to the collection is because you won't find a better hockey game. This game is definitely a game in my top list of Xbox game necessities.

Bottom Line:

As I was saying, it's on the top of my list. If you're a sports fan, especially a hockey fan, then you need to add this game to your collection. Even if you're new to Xbox, then this should be one of your first few games to buy. The way I see it, everyone loves hockey. Another way I see it, is how often do you play a game where the chances are great that it will be able to pronounce your name and recognize who you are on the ice (after creating yourself in create-a-player)? This game is insanely addicting. Since I have added it to my collection, I play it 5 days a week. Remember, just because the players are on strike, doesn't mean that you have to be. Get the #1 rated NHL game and strengthen your collection of games with a valuable one. Let it bring you some of the best NHL experiences of your life. ESPN is the leader of sports and ESPN NHL 2K5 is the leader of all hockey games.

Related Links:

Official 2K Sports Website

-Bobby Bernauer




9.4
9.6
9.5
9.7
9.5