Preview: ESPN NHL 2K5 (Xbox, PS2)

Platform: Xbox, Playstation 2
Category: Sports-Hockey
Developer: Visual Concepts
Publisher: SEGA
Release Date: North America- August 31, 2005

With nothing but depressing news for hockey fans as we prepare for a strike that might effectively keep this falls season from happening, there is some good news.ԚÂ Much like the highly acclaimed ESPN NFL 2K5 game that was recently released, NHL 2K5 has been confirmed to be released with the ultra low price of $20.ԚÂ Good news doesn’t end there either, the game has been bumped up to the end of this month to compete with EA’s hockey game or just to get the game out incase the strike happens.

Also like NFL 2K5, a drop in price doesn’t mean a drop in quality.Ԛ Virtual Concepts openly admits were it’s flaws are and is trying hard to fix those and overall make the game more enjoyable.Ԛ One of the flaws from the previous games that has drawn complaints is one of the most important parts of hockey, the fighting.Ԛ Visual Concepts has taken this seriously and has put some effort into making this part better.Ԛ Personally I liked NHL Hitz old style off fighting (Not the fighting in Pro which I thought was horrible) because it reminded me of the old hockey games on the NES.Ԛ But what do I know?Ԛ In the improved fighting engine you can now throw some punches, jabs, block and do some grappling as well as having freedom to move anywhere around the ice.Ԛ No word yet if you can hire a hitman to take the other guy out for you if you do get into a fight.Ԛ But everyone knows the fighting isn’t the most important part of a hockey gameâ┚¬Â¦unless you’re these guys.

An interesting addition to the gameplay will be a tension meter.ԚÂ Through the duration of the game the more physical you are with the other team the higher the tension meter will go.ԚÂ Throw some hard checks at the other team and watch the meter go up, the higher it gets the more often a fight will break out.ԚÂ To help you throw some checks and cheap shots is the full stick control system that has been added.ԚÂ You can still do poke checks and body checks using the face buttons, but now you can also use the right analog stick.ԚÂ Tap it in a direction to do a quick hook, press down on the analog stick to deliver a harsh check that will likely end up as a penalty.ԚÂ The right analog stick can also be used when skating backwards to control your stick and offer better defense.

The Franchise mode has been updated to have a larger role of the minor leagues and developing players.ԚÂ The Skybox (think the Crib from ESPN NFL) is back with tons of items to unlock for it.ԚÂ A new multiplayer mode called ‘Battle’ has been added and has several hockey mini-games to play.ԚÂ Deeper online modes.ԚÂ All of this for $20.

ԚÂ With all of the improvements it may be the closest thing we’ll get to hockey this fall besides strapping on some ice skates and getting some of our teeth knocked out.

Features/Miscellaneous :

-New Fighting Engine:ԚÂ Now with the freedom to roam all over the ice to put the beatdown into an opposing player with punching, jabs, blocks and grappling.ԚÂ Come on, if they were going to make fights like we see on TV they’d just need one button to grab the other guy’s jersey and the other to punch the guy in the face.

-Online Leagues:ԚÂ Leagues, tournaments, a real time sports ticker, and a messaging system to bother your friends while they are in the middle of a game.

-Franchise mode:ԚÂ It’s even deeper this year with scouting, enhanced minor leagues, multiplayer support, and coaching staff control.

-ESPN Presentation:ԚÂ So that you can fool yourself into believing that the strike never happened and what you’re watching is a real game (IF the strike actually happens).

-Mini Games:Ԛ Battle Mode, Darts, Air Hockey, etcâ┚¬Â¦.I hope Air Hockey will be onlineâ┚¬Â¦