EA NHL '07 - Stick Performance
I admit I'm a sucker. Every year I buy the new electronics hockey game, and I've been doing it since the mid 90s. It's become one of the highlights of autumn and the new hockey season.
Electronic Art's NHL hockey games have been the mainstay, but in recent years I've been turning to the new NHL 2K franchise by Sega. I appreciated Sega's return to serious hockey simulation after EA started getting too silly around 2003 with skaters with big bobble heads and completely out of control hits. EA seemed to be making fun of the sport, or maybe they're simply bored of making new hockey games.
With NHL 2007, EA has returned to groundbreaking, serious hockey with a new version specifically optimized to be used with the Xbox 360. The biggest single change for 2007 is the stick control. The left thumbstick on your Xbox360 controller handles your player's feet and the right thumbstick controls his hockey stick. The triggers and bumpers are employed for various actions like pass, change player, hold, poke check etc. The buttons are almost never used. The controls end up being rather simple and straightforward. This is a break for me, because Sega's controls seemed to have a Mortal Kombat-like complexity. There are no complex button combos required to hook, dive or block a shot - all you need to do is simply tap either a trigger or bumper on the Xbox 360 controller. But it's your use of the stick that adds finesse to your play. And therein lies the reason I believe EA has returned as king of the NHL Hockey hill.
Sega has made moderate use of the "stick" for dekes, and even EA has used the left stick in the past to aim your shot. But the way EA's new 2007 uses the right thumbstick for total stick control takes it further than Sega ever did. Using analog precision you're actually winding up slapshots only as far as you want, and the speed at which the player can perform the move depends on individual skill. Sega's NHL 2K series is a very good one but this year I am sticking with EA (bad pun intended).
I've only had one night with the game so I am no expert. I cleaned up a bunch of teams in Pro skill level, which is too easy, but have yet to test my mettle in All Star. Using the stick seems to make face offs a little difficult but I believe I was simply overcompensating. I was waving it around like a lunatic when I only needed a subtle twitch of the right thumbstick to have my way at the face off circle. Subtle taps in one direction in face offs have proven more successful for me, but I'm open to suggestions. Please help! EA has bumped up the graphics in '07 to true "next gen" levels. You'll really appreciate this during the cut scenes, the detail is hyper-real. You'll see player's bloodshot eyes and sweat glistening on whiskers. It's a good thing that back in the old days of the Hab's last dynasty they didn't have HD video hockey, or we might have actually seen a little residual powder under the nostrils of some of Les Habitants.
You may see me on Live looking for a merciless pummeling from a 12-year-old with a potty mouth and an Xbox360 controller permanently attached to his fingertips. Or wait, nahh! Maybe I'll just play people I know in person.