With a locked-out season haunting the minds of hockey fans, the
closest rabid hockey fans will come to the ice is the latest
installment in EA’s exceptional line of sports games.
“NHL 2005,” offers some enjoyable new features and
great hockey gameplay, but it comes up short in a few crucial
areas.

For what’s supposed to be a realistic sports simulation,
“NHL 2005” features moments of fantasy that a player
would expect to find in a more arcade-like game. The in-game
artificial intelligence can be incredibly aggressive to play
against, as it constantly tries to knock down anyone on the
opposing team. Passing is also a bit awkward at times, as the puck
isn’t always shuffled to the correct player and ends up
places on the ice where it shouldn’t.

Yet once one gets used to the passing system and the occasional
camera problem, there is a lot to appreciate — even with the
overzealous computer intelligence. The game’s speed is
blazing, which allows a player to really get caught up in the
action. The overall play mechanics and controls are tight, too.

“NHL” also has its fair share of modes, including
slightly laggy online play (though Gamecube users have no online
options) and allows plenty of customization. However, there is
nothing too innovative.

One of the game’s highlights is a loaded dynasty mode,
where a player assumes the role of a team general manager and keeps
track of different team aspects. There is also an Elite Leagues
option, with European teams complete with international rules,
while The World Cup Of Hockey portion lets teams from all over the
world face off in the prestigious tournament. The Free4All
mini-game allows four players to participate, shooting as many
goals as they can into the net.

Graphically, the game looks outstanding with well-rendered
player models. The game’s music mainly consists of pop-punk
bands, but the sound effects are realistically superb as they range
from intense slapshots to cheering crowds. The repetitive and basic
commentary, however, is quite annoying, so gamers may be tempted to
turn it off.

As a whole, “NHL 2005” is quite playable but its
flaws hold it back from being a truly great sports game. EA has
certainly made steps in the right direction, but it still has its
work cut out for them. Hopefully it will make some additional
tweaks for next year’s edition, but for now,
“NHL” should satiate the appetites of video hockey
fans.

 

Rating: 3 and 1/2 out of 5 stars

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