Saturday, September 10, 2005


NHL06 vrs. NHL2k6...and my history of hockey games

First, some background…

I have always been the guy to get every hockey game available.

When I was growing up, in the 80s, there really weren't many hockey games. Strat-O-Matic was, and arguably is still, the best for die hard hockey fans. In SOM each player has a card that reflects his last season stats. This was the pre-curser to the video games of today. The difference was, you really learn the players when you play strat-o-matic, and your job is to put lines together and match lines. Unbelievably fun, really.

As a kid, 4 or 5, I remember my grandmother had the old “Bobby Hull Rod Hockey” game. The metal players weren't in slots as I remember it. They were stationary and just spun…The puck had a metal ball bearing in it; it really moved.

Of course there was knock-hockey. A great game of angles, and you used a little wooden stick on a board…Knock-hockey is still a good time.

Then came Air Hockey; at least in this kid's timeframe. I liked air hockey, because as a goalie, it was all about reflexes. We used to sand the puck down so it moved faster.

Then came Atari. One orange button, one big joystick. One turning knob to play pong hockey with. I vaguely remember activision hockey for Atari, but it was Intellivision that brought the first real ice hockey video game with which I became obsessed. Remember you could trip guys, and the trick was to take a shot, the goalie would go down and you could score on the rebound? My friend had intellivision and we played that game until our thumbs bled. Remember the intellivision controllers? The silver circle?

Then I got an Odyssey 2 game. They had a rather uninspiring hockey game I believe.

But then came Nintendo Ice Hockey. Arguably still one of the best video games, not just hockey games, ever created. You selected your team based on three different sized men. Fat, skinny, or normal. The fat guys had killer shots, the skinny guys could fly around the ice.

About the same time a few arcade hockey games were hitting that I remember. There was one game, I can't remember the name of it, but it was just one on one and the ice got all scratched up; played that for hours!!! And then “Blades of Steel." “Hit the Pass!”

Then EA starting putting out games for Sega. These were a giant leap. NHL 94 was absolutely perfect for the time. I believe it was '94 when you could fight and the loser would lay on the ice with blood spewing from his head.

From that point on I bought all the EA games, and shifted to Playstation. EA lost it for awhile around 98-99. They went for realism over playability.

Anyway, that was a long background, but a fun one to remember…

So let's get to it: NHL06 vs. NHL2k6

Both of these games have some unique features. Both look excellent. For me the choice comes down to a generational thing. I am 37 years old and can do things with an X-Box controller fairly well, but I was more amazing with three buttons, and one joystick, something my parents couldn't fathom at the time.

The X-Box Generation blows MY mind. 6 buttons, two triggers, and three joysticks. I am getting better, but you are what you grew up with.

For me NHL06 is just more fun so far. Less things to think about and more playable. Another big plus is that NHL06, despite being released earlier, has many of the players on the right teams. Not all of course, but about 90%. For example, NHL2K6's Line 1 for the Flyers is Roenick, Amonte, and LeClair…UGH! Why? Amonte and LeClair weren't Flyers from the moment players could get bought out.

Compare that to NHL06 where Forsberg and Hatcher skate out as Flyers.

NHL06 kept the guys like Lindros as free agents. That way you can put them on the right team. In both games guys like Crosby, Carter and Richards don't exist. That is due to a NHLPA rule. However how can you play this season without Crosby?

In NHL06 you can create them, which I did immediately. You can actually shape their faces and hair colors. So I sat down with photos and stats and created the three players. So when I play the Flyers I can use the actual lines that I guess will start the season:

Forsberg, Carter, Gagne
Richards, Knuble, Sharp
Primeau, Kappanen, Radio
Handzus, Brasheer, Stevenson

Anyway, they both have great franchise modes.

This is not to say the NHL2k6 doesn't do some things better than NHL06.

NHL2k6 reminds me of Madden. All kinds of controls. You can make all sorts of moves by pressing certain combinations, plus there is “Pro Control” where you can pass to specific players ala Madden's new passing.

2K6 has a really awesome practice area to learn these skills, also like Madden. There is an enforcer system where you can lessen your opponent's effectiveness through intimidation--a great idea! There is also a Super Box section where you can play Air Hockey and win tokens to unlock features.

So 2k6 wins out in terms of features beyond the game and player control.

But I admit, it is beyond my hand-eye coordination at this point. I like it in Madden, but hockey happens so fast and is a sport of reaction and instinct. That gets thrown by thinking “what buttons do I use to kick it to my skate in the corner?”

NHL06 has a 9 page instruction booklet. NHL2K6 is 45 pages.

In summary, I miss hockey and I want the right guys on the right teams. And I want to play it NOW. I've waited long enough for hockey. So for this one person, it is NHL06 all the way.

Others I'm sure would differ, and I'd encourage your opinions.

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