NHL Faceoff

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I will admit that last year I didn't really have much of a care about the NHL, despite my loyalty to the league since 1990. The season ending lockout was the main reason. By screwing over the fans for a whole season, interest in general took a nosedive.

The ratings on NBC for the Stanley Cup finals last year could easily show that. Still there were some key moments that brought me back to the game, namely Alexander Ovechkin's unbelievable "slide on my back and shoot the puck" goal against Phoenix; a goal so amazing that even Wayne Gretzky had to stare in awe.

Still it wasn't enough for me to bring back my DIRECTV subscription to NHL Center Ice.

Last year wasn't that great for NHL games either. While I favored NHL 2K6, it wasn't enough to pique my interest, and there wasn't even an NHL 06 for Xbox 360. But this year is supposed to be different.

Both EA and 2K sports are releasing hockey titles this year, and from what I have seen they can be no more different from each other. In its sophomore effort, 2K is concentrating on changing the overall presentation. Instead of doing the standard television broadcast and coming up with what they call Cinemotion, the whole game is designed to play like a movie, featuring a constant theatrical score in the background.

What the heck? Am I supposed to be playing an NHL game or am I playing the game version of the Miracle on Ice movie? Aside from that, the game plays almost identical to that of NHL 2K6.

As for EA, their first NHL title on 360 is changing the way we play hockey forever. Gone are the simple days of using buttons to pass, wrist shot, and slap shot. While a button (in this case, the right trigger) is used for passing, it is the right analog stick where the control really takes off. Tapping up causes a simple wrist shot, and pulling back and then forward gives a powerful slap shots. Backhands and snap shots can also be done, as well as deking the goalie with a quick right-left motion. Over the last few years, hockey games were becoming tedious with the same controls over and over again, but it looks like now there is finally a change from the norm.

Each game plays in their own unique manner too. 2K7, due to the use of its Cinemotion feature, favors a much faster, more arcade like hockey experience, while EA's 07 feels more authentic. It's a slower, more realistic game of hockey, and for someone who is a sports purist, like myself, 07 easily gets the nod.

I have mentioned that previous EA Sports titles on the 360 (maybe excluding Fight Night Round 3) have felt a bit incomplete. Even Madden 07 does at times. But NHL 07 finally feels like a complete EA Sports 360 game. The only problem is good luck in trying to find a copy, especially if you go to GameStop or EB Games. Claiming that they were short supplied, both stores did not have enough to meet demand. I was lucky enough to find one at a GameStop in Leesburg, Virginia but it might be a better bet to go to Circuit City or Best Buy to pick them up.

But still, it's not going to be enough for me to renew my NHL Center Ice subscription.

CURRENTLY PLAYING: NHL 07 (XBOX 360), SAINTS ROW (XBOX 360)

WAITING FOR: GEARS OF WAR (XBOX 360)

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