NHL 2K7

Living in olde England and all, we know little more than the basics when it comes to ice hockey. We certainly don’t mind giving the latest efforts from EA or 2K a go when they plop through our letterbox though – you can always count on the fighting system to brighten our spirits when we’re being thrashed. We don’t even shove them to the bottom of our ‘games to play’ pile, like we do with the annual racket ball, curling and shove ha’penny updates.

nhlbody.jpgUnfortunately for us, the fighting system sucks, if you’ll excuse the phrase. The animation is laughable and the punches lack the oomph we expected. At least they’re optional, and there are certainly plenty of other things to get to grips with.

The most significant new thing for this year is Pressure Control: hold the left bumper button and point the right analogue stick at a rival player and one of your team-mates will go after them. Tap it twice and two will start stalking. Which probably isn’t the professional term.

Crease Control is another new feature, albeit not one implemented as well. In essence it lets you can take control of the goalie from an over the shoulder view, but the mostly decent standard camera makes this feature redundant. It’s a gimmick, pretty much.

Team strategies can be given out with the d-pad, while there are all sorts of tricks to learn like backwards skating and wraparounds. Fifteen pages of the manual are dedicated to listing all the controls for the various stances – defensive, offensive etc – which just goes to show how long it’ll take to master.

You aren’t just restricted to playing in a stadium (which is full of 3D spectators, incidentally) as there’s a mini outdoor rink for 3-on-3 matches and a novelty frozen pond rink.

Select Skybox from the main menu and you’ll be taken over to a recreational room where stats and photos can be viewed, in addition to three mini-games including air hockey and a trivia quiz. Ugly menus – and slightly ugly players – aside, the presentation is hard to fault.

You’d think that playing up to seven others online would be a bit chaotic, but even with the maximum things run smoothly and the camera manages to keep up. When connecting, a 2K7 Sports newsletter is automatically downloaded, along with new rosters. The only complaint we have is that the rank matches are sometimes drawn unfairly. In our first online game we were pitted against four human players, and naturally got trounced. Make no mistake – this game is really hard going for novices. At least until you’ve memorised a fighting game’s worth of button presses and combinations.