STAFF REVIEW of ESPN NHL 2K5 (Xbox)


Wednesday, September 15, 2004.
by Chr0nik

ESPN NHL 2K5 Box art The latest installment of Sega and Kush games is ESPN NHL 2K5. Building on the past two releases (NHL 2K3 and NHL 2K4, a lot was expected from this upcoming title.

The ESPN series of hockey games are known for their dedication to sim style hockey, and appeal to the hardcore hockey fan. Being a hardcore fan myself, my expectations for this release were very high.

Many nice little improvements, but I feel a lot more time could have been spent polishing up the game instead of adding pretty useless features.

You can\'t beat the price of the game, but more time and effort is need to bring this game up to par with it\'s cousin NFL2K5


So far out of the ESPN NHL series, my favorite release has been the NHL 2K3 series. Being a traditional EA sports fan boy, I got used to EA\'s brand of hockey games that had been veering away from the sim style of hockey over the years. Playing NHL 2K3 for the first time was a pleasant change.

The overall game play of NHL2K5 is very similar to the past games, but has been tweaked and many annoying glitches were fixed and/or improved. The main fix I noticed was the problem of players skating right over the puck on dump-ins or icing calls. It was almost like an invisible force field existed around the puck. This has been corrected in NHL2K5. Players do not overstate the puck. Another improvement is the play at the blueline. In previous releases, defensemen would never keep the puck in play at the blue line. If the puck came near the blue line, you knew it would be an automatic offside because youre player would be unable to keep the puck in play. This years addition has done a good job with this aspect of play. Players are good at pinching in at the boards to keep pucks inside the zone. Lob passes are batted down by players and kept alive. Also positioning of the player for one-timer slap shots has been modified to keep the puck in the zone. The Right analog stick-deking feature has also been improved. Depending on the buttons you press in combination with the right analog stick movements will determine the deke move you pull off. So far I have managed to pull off some pretty spectacular moves and highlight reel goals.

Fighting has been overhauled. Although it still does not match up to EA NHL2004, it is a big improvement from the past ESPN releases. The only problem is that both players always fall down after a fight, regardless of who takes a beating. It sort of takes away from the realism of the game.

Problems:

Inherent problems once again are very prominent in this game. The infamous S move is still available and is used by many people who like to score cheap goals. Also walking out from in back of the net and scoring top corner on the goalie is a 99% sure goal.

The default settings and sliders need to be tweaked in order to achieve a balanced and fair game. I was beating the CPU silly on Hall of famer with the default slider settings. Scores that looked like 11-1, 15-2, 18-0, with shot totals of 92-7, 85-12, etc. You can consult the ESPN video game forums for realistic slider settings.

Penalties are also in abundance in the game. They seem to have lain off the charging penalties that were so often called in last years edition, but now it seems to be mostly spearing calls that dominate. Once again, sliders need to be tweaked.

The create a player and create a team feature are nice features, however more depth and choices would be an added plus.

Injuries need to be overhauled. I had to turn injuries off in my franchise because I lost 6 key players in one week for 2-4 months. This is ridiculous. 3 players a game are injured on average in NHL2K5. This is no where being close to realistic. It is frustrating when half your team is comprised of minor league players.



Menus and interface are standard. They seem to be lacking the polish and finish that other games in the ESPN family have most notably NFL2K5.

The game play graphics are average at best. Over the past three years, there seems to have been no improvement in the graphics of this game. You cant even compare the graphics of ESPN with EA sports. EA Sports actually puts effort in improving the look of their games.

Cut scenes are horrible. Empty stands, cheesy locker room footage. Players still holding their sticks backwards. Silly goal celebrations, the intermission chick that shoots t-shirts into the stands, come on where is the good old Zamboni? The best one is the coach who is tying the lace of the skate of his star player. Give me a break. Please improve your graphics and cut scenes. If the game is endorses by ESPN, it would be nice that they actually employ the ESPN theme to the game. Berry Melrose at the intermission?



Sound is excellent in this game. Dolby sound, great and accurate commentary for the most part. Custom soundtrack support, excellent fan reactions. Fans chanting your goalies name after the big save. This game has it all. The sound is one part of the game that does not disappoint. Although the commentary can get repetitive at times, it is almost always accurate and relevant to the play. They also got rid of that stupid shoulder hit comment that plagued last years game.

I would like to see some sort of feature introduced that would allow a created players name to be used by the commentary. Instead of always hearing, number 55 makes the pass, it would be cool to actually hear your name in the game.



Suggestions:
lish up your graphics and menus. Give it the feel of an authentic ESPN presentation

2.More selection for the create a team/player. Additional equipment choices, faces, stadiums, set prices for tickets, refreshments, etc.

3.More realistic default slider settings. I should not have to spend all my time tweaking the sliders to get an authentic representation of an actual NHL game.

4.Ditch the party mode and skybox games, concentrate on the actual game itself. The ESPN franchise is for sim fans. If I wanted all the extra stuff, I would buy EA sports or NHL Hitz.

5.Maybe add features such as broken sticks, losing your helmet, major penalties, blood, instigator rule, more realistic injuries, etc.


Overall: 8.0 / 10
Gameplay: 8.0 / 10
Visuals: 6.0 / 10
Sound: 9.0 / 10

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