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NHL 2005 Package Art
††EA Canada
††Electronic Arts

NHL 2005

While hockey fans around the globe, or at least around Canada and the north-western United States, mourn the temporary loss of the National Hockey League, EA Sports never fails to disappoint. This year, theyíve strapped in a few new aspects to their yearly series. Going on lucky thirteen, EA Sports may know how to treat the fans, but since this is the only NHL title on the Nintendo GameCube this year, itís easy enough to close this review early. This is the best hockey game on the Nintendo GameCube this year. If youíre still interested in reading on, youíre commended. The fact is, after Visual Conceptsí NHL 2K series started racing after EA Sportsí franchise, things havenít been the same. While NHL 2K5 is a slightly better game overall than NHL 2005, thatís rather irrelevant here. Although developer EA Canada has focused more on the action rather than the strategy and finesse of the sport, NHL 2005 is still a fun game of hockey. Just donít expect anything as crazy as the always fun multiplayer madness that is NHL Hitz Pro.


Even if you donít care for the arcade-based play mechanics in this game, at least you could agree that it looks amazing. The character models are extremely detailed and animate very nicely. EA actually did five-player motion captures in order to capture authentic details within the sport. Thanks to this, even the smallest movements look sharp and realistic. The playersí faces look eerily reminiscent of the players they portray within the game. The faces even animate themselves during the hardest checks or the celebratory ďWoooooĒs after scoring a goal. Even the stadiums look amazing. It feels as if you could just walk up the steps to get a beer and a hot dog at a concession stand. Of course, they donít actually show that. In fact, the audience still looks as bland as ever, but at least they get a bit more into the game. Weíre still waiting for some quality hockey hooligans ala NCAA Football 2005.


Honestly, what happened here? Letís start off with the commentary. Craig Simpson and Jim Hughson provide their boring, monotone voices to a commentary completely devoid of any sort of fun. The soundtrack contains an excellent selection of music, even if itís limited to only nine songs. That being said, why is it on an NHL title? Honestly, I could think of a dozen more songs right now that would be better while skating than anything by Chronic Future. Thankfully, the sound effects are top notch, so if it all comes down to it, at least you can turn the music and commentary off and listen to some bone-crushing ice hockey. All in all, the production value here is very disappointing and itís easily one of the least impressive areas within the game.


This yearís game feels a bit more different than the last. Remember the simplistic days when EA Sports was all about the simulation? Well, NHL 2005 feels a lot more like an update to Midwayís extreme take on the league. This is a good thing for casual fans, but for the hardcore hooligans, it may be a little bit too much to grasp. In this game, itís all about the checking. Itís crazy. It doesnít help that the defense is so ridiculously difficult. When thereís a penalty called after one out of a hundred checks, you just have to laugh when they call off-sides for the eighteenth time that minute. Thankfully, the artificial intelligence has been tweaked and your teammates support your actions well enough to not get you killed. Unfortunately, the offensive AI doesnít know how to check. They missed out on practice with that one. The opponents, on the other hand, treat checking like theyíre getting a piece of candy for each. On the brighter side, passing feels comfortable, providing accurate paths and proper AI response.

Speaking of which, one of the biggest improvements to this game is the ďopen-iceĒ mechanics. You can control anyone who isnít in control of the puck. Be forewarned, though, as the camera seems to enjoy the view of the puck rather than your playerís ugly mug. Keep a keen watch on where youíre going on the ice, otherwise the use of this option is easily wasted. Thereís also a two-button system implemented. The player can perform a slap shot or a wrist shot using two separate pressure sensitive buttons. This is much better than second guessing while using just the one button. A wrap around shot is also included, which is fun to play around with, but can easily dominate a game if youíve been raking up the checks.

The Dynasty mode is easily one of the best. The system works great and the amount of customization is huge. However, the downside is the objective system. Itís a great idea, but it can be a little unfair to ask one of the worst teams in the league to make it to the finals. Seeing as how the system is required, fans of a team who wouldnít be able to get anywhere near the playoffs may have a harder time with the game. Exclusive to NHL 2005 is the World Cup series, where you can take the roll of a nationís team such as the USA, Canada, or Germany, and play through the entire series. Itís a very cool feature, especially considering that itís only available in this game. Of course, youíve also got the Play Now mode, which is good for a quick game of hockey.


No sports game would be complete without some multiplayer mayhem. Although the GameCube doesnít support online capabilities, at least you can break out the wavebirds and kick back for some fantasy hockey.


To be honest, if youíve already own last yearís game, there isnít that much of a point to check this game out. Why? Lockout. There wonít even be a season this year. There just arenít enough improvements here to ensure your interest. In fact, most of you have probably picked up NHL 2K5 on another system. If you find it hard to drop down fifty bucks on this game, you arenít alone. NHL 2005 is a very good, solid game of hockey and if youíre crazy about the sport, youíll obviously want to pick this one up. If you only own a GameCube, you really have no choice.

final score 8.0/10

Staff Avatar Austin Starr
Staff Profile | Email
"If life's not beautiful without the pain / well I'd just rather never ever even see beauty again"

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