Home | News | Reviews | Previews | Hardware
NHL 2005
Score: 88%
ESRB: Everyone
Publisher: EA Sports
Developer: EA Canada
Media: DVD/1
Players: 1 - 2 (2 - 8 Multitap)
Genre: Sports (Hockey)/ Online

Graphics & Sound:
While it seems hockey fans are a dying breed, you can bet the few that are out there are glad EA Sportsí motto isnít holding true this year. As the lockout rolls on for the 2004-2005 NHL season, the saying of ďIf itís in the game, itís in the gameĒ does not apply to NHL 2005. How so? Well, you can actually play hockey in this game.

Yep, the Bauers are laced up as another season of Ďcontact ballet on iceí begins. And this season is looking promising... literally. Facial features are spot on for your favorite foreign superstars (what, like there are a bunch of hockey icons that are American?). Facial expressions are made, mouths move, although you donít hear anything. Regardless, all of this really adds to the reality to the game. Plus, the animations for the players and goalies keep the goodness going. Nothing is overdone with unrealistic checks or anything; just hard-hitting, good ole fashioned hockey. Meantime, the fans in the stands have not been overlooked. The days of the paper-thin cutouts are gone, replaced by 3-dimensional hockey-crazed lunatics. My favorite part was that they wear jerseys appropriate to their team. Being the Minnesota boy that I am, I loved seeing some fans wearing both Minnesota Wild sweaters, along with old North Star jerseys. Big props EA!

Aurally, you can expect to hear thunderous checks, raucous crowds, and a great two-man commentary for NHL 2005. Thereís nothing better than hearing the crowd react to a big hit on the ice... although the deep blowing horn after the game-winning goal is pretty sweet. NHL 2005ís soundtrack features a mixture from MVP Baseball 2004 and Madden NFL 2005, along with some other songs I havenít heard this year.

NHL 2005 is following the tracks of the other EA Sports titles this year with a deep Dynasty mode. As General Manager, itís up to you to make sure players are getting enough ice time, whether youíre bringing in enough revenue, and ultimately, form a team worthy of hoisting Lord Stanleyís cup. Something that I really liked for NHL was that they put a big emphasis on the chemistry of each line. You canít just put your five best players on the ice at once, because they may not work well as a team. This forces you to mix and match players between your lines. As a result, if you have good chemistry, your playersí attributes will be enhanced. However, bad chemistry will have the opposite effect.

There are some other game modes worth mentioning as well. You can, as always, play right away with Play Now or Exhibition, or just play through one Season. Or you can take on Europeís elite in the Elite Leagues. This is where you play a season against teams from the Elitserien, SM-Liiga, and DEL leagues. New to 2005 are the World Cup of Hockey and EA Sports Free4All. Obviously, you play as a country and take on the worldís best in World Cup. The Free4All allows you and up to three of your friends to see who can score the most in a winner take all battle. This was a neat idea, but I was hoping you could include a computer player or players for those who donít have friends (sigh).

As for the hockey itself, the action is as fast-paced as itís ever been. New to NHL 2005 this year is the Open Ice Control. By pressing L2, you take control of another player while the computer mans the puck. This is supposed to allow you an opportunity to free up some space for a possible give-and-go. However, you really have to time this right. The computer player will only handle the puck for so long before he either passes it to you when youíre not ready, or he gets checked.

There are a total of four different degrees of difficulty: Beginner, Easy, Medium, and Difficult. Initially, I started out on Medium since Iíd played the series for some time, thinking I could hold my own. How wrong I was. EA jacked up the difficulty for all the levels, so donít even think Beginner will just be a simple skate on the pond, either. However, you can also increase or decrease the difficulty by changing a few variables like whether you want a manual or auto Shot Aim, or if you want Line changes on auto or manual as well. There are also some other sliders you can adjust for player and goalie advantages.

Game Mechanics:
The one problem I found with NHL 2005 was that the controller configuration seemed to be a bit overwhelming. Donít get me wrong, I know my way around the PS2 controller. But every button has a function, and with the addition of the Open Ice Control, and with the fast-paced action, there seemed to be a lot to get used to in a short amount of time. Therefore, I found I couldnít take full advantage of what the Open Ice Control had to offer. Nevertheless, some people may use it more than others, and thatís fine. As for the rest of the mechanics, the load time was very fast (especially for it being on PS2). However, a bigger portion of your memory card will be used when saving a Dynasty.

All in all, whether youíre a hockey fan or not, you owe it to yourself to give NHL 2005 a try. Fans of the series should enjoy the latest touch-ups, and others might find something theyíll enjoy. And hey, at least these guys wonít sit out for the season.

-Red Dawg, GameVortex Communications
AKA Alex Redmann

This site best viewed in Internet Explorer 6 or higher or Firefox.