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NHL 06

Published by: EA Sports
Developed by: EA Sports Canada
For: Xbox, GC, PS2
Version Reviewed: GC
ESRB Rating: E10+ for Mild Violence
Bonus that PS2 gamers get: NHL ?94 (kickin? it old-school)

In last year?s edition of EA?s formerly spectacular NHL series, the series found a more realistic footing after several installments that featured more arcade-like game play. Yet NHL 06 is yet another step up for the series, which featured body check happy offenses and defenses, as well as some unbalanced play mechanics. In addition to that, the graphics were nothing to talk about?another feature that has since been remedied. And so we come to NHL 06, one of the most realistic and intense puck experiences to hit the current console generation.

Violence

Usually, this game doesn?t get all that violent? except when you?re playing against me. I get check-happy. Anyway, occasionally, when an aggressive player, such as Colorado?s Rob Blake, or the ever-violent Todd Bertuzzi (who almost killed a guy on the Avs, if you?ll remember, the season before the lockout) gets scorned, then you get the option to go into a fight. Plus, the goalies can fight, which is just awesome beyond words. So, yeah, there?s some sports violence in here. Plus, the right thumbstick can be used for Bruise Control, which is essentially the Hit Stick in the Madden series, except that it?s a lot more accurate, a lot more effective, and can be abused. Plus, it doesn?t ruin your play if you use it and miss. (-1 pt.) In keeping with the generally family-friendly nature of its sports titles (with the exception of the Fight Night series, which has blood, bruising, and spittle), there is no blood, unlike what happens occasionally in real hockey. There are injuries, but they aren?t as common as you?d think. (-0 pts.) Overall Violence Score: 9/10

Language

There is no profanity, crude language, or anything of that nature in 06. This is pretty cool, considering the alt-rock soundtrack, which has some sweet bands, like Institute and Billy Talent. Overall Language Score: 10/10

Sexual Content/Nudity

No cheering sections in hockey, means no skimpy outfits, means no problems in this category. Overall Sexual Content/Nudity Score: 10/10

Occult/Supernatural

Once again, this doesn?t apply to this game. It?s just straight up hockey, with some fighting as a side dish. Overall Occult/Supernatural Score: 10/10

Cultural/Moral/Ethical

No problems here. If you foul a player, you get penalized, even though you have the ability to slash a guy with your stick, or hook a player, or even elbow them (which, sadly, I am guilty of many times in this game). Overall Cultural/Moral/Ethical Score: 10/10

Game Play

NHL 06 is fast, frenzied, and hard. The developers just stuck this new feature that seems inspired by Madden 06 and its QB Vision Cone. You can manually aim the puck when you shoot on goal. It?s ingenious because it?s so simple, but insanely difficult because of the ramped-up AI all around. Goalies get wise to your dekes, and if you collide into a player from the opposing team, you might as well say yoink! since you?re not going to see that puck for a while. The game is so hard that people who have played other hockey games occasionally get schooled on the Easy difficulty, and the Medium setting is virtually unplayable. When I talked to a store clerk who sold me the game, he said that he?d won only 1 out of 20 games he?d played, but the game was still fun. That?s a mark of true design genius. No, the unlockables don?t come, and no, you can?t go against friends in Dynasty mode (which is a mild disappointment), but the game is so amazingly fluid, so well playing, that it doesn?t matter if the graphics aren?t what people expect. What matters is how it feels when you do make that shot in the fold, when you break the defense and accomplish something. Overall Game Play Score: 20/20

Graphics

The rink looks pretty nice, but the player models are just a little chunky. That just about sums the graphics up. Player, coach, and ref faces are phenomenally detailed and animated, with players chewing gum, arguing, talking, pushing, cheering the other guys on?the list goes on and on. Animations are excellent here as well, with hardly any slowdown or hiccups stopping the game. Plus, PS2 and Xbox owners get a nice spray of ice when the players slide to a stop; sadly, the Gamecube is missing this feature. The puck?s movement is also very realistic, with physics that are completely spot-on. Shoot the puck into the top of the goal, and the goalie?s water bottle will fly off and bounce on the ice. Awesome. Or, hit a player or a goalie in the head with the puck, and watch as they get stunned. Pretty cool. Overall Graphics Score: 8/10

Sound

EA scores with this edition of the now-infamous EA Trax. All of the bands are good, with one genre. There isn?t a song in sight that name drops the game, and there
isn?t a song in sight that decides that it might be better to have a remix. It?s all straight up good music, and fitting as well. Sound on the ice is in top form, too. You?ll hear different player sounds, calls from the stands, grunts, and an array of other noises that just add to the realism of this title. The commentary, team, however, doesn?t fare as well. For the first few games, the commentary is well done, with different player stats being referenced when the player in question makes an exciting play. But when the same line gets repeated twice a game, there?s a problem. Overall Sound Score: 7/10

Stability

For the most part, this game is very stable. Unfortunately, there are times when players get stuck on the goal, or on a wall, which detracts from the overall feel of the game. Overall Stability Score: 4/5

Controls/Interface

Like all EA games, this game has controls that take getting used to. After a steep initial learning curve, NHL 06 reveals tons of depth, and subtle strategies on ice. The menus are all straightforward, until you hit the Dynasty mode menu, which is a complete nuisance, and needs to be simplified. Still, I?ve seen worse. Overall Controls/Interface Score: 3/5

Overall Score: 91/100 A-

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Christ Centered Gamer looks at video games from two view points. We analyze games on a secular level which will break down a game based on its graphics, sound, stability and overall gaming experience. If you’re concerned about the family friendliness of a game, we have a separate moral score which looks at violence, language, sexual content, occult references and other ethical issues.

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