NHL 2K7 is NHL 2K6 with a roster update and slightly prettier graphics. The changes are confined mostly to the faces and the ice, otherwise the character models, animations, stadiums, and crowds are identical. Compared to 2K Sportsí best title last year, MLB 2K6, NHL 2K7 looks bad. Half a year later, the second NHL game on the Xbox 360, and it looks worse than the first effort baseball game.
If only the resemblances to NHL 2K6 were merely graphical. However, NHL 2K7 differs in virtually no significant way. The gameplay is pretty much the same, and goalies have about the same weaknesses as they did before. You can designate opposing players to shadow or hit when youíre on defense, but thatís about it. Players skate the same, pass the same, react the same. AI is little if at all different. The goalies still flub the same kinds of shots and the same strategies work.
The front end interface has had a visual overhaul, but is effectively unmodified. New are opportunity calls from your owner, which work sort of like barrels in Diablo Ė they can either hold goodies or explode in your face. You never know until you answer the phone. If youíre into hardcore simming, the constant emails are obnoxious as ever, and thereís no way to mark them as read en masse. Even if you play game by game, the emails do add up and often not for very good reasons. Do I really need to know the players of the week when Iím 50 games into a season? It rather loses its novelty.
The lack of changes on the front end is mostly good, especially when compared with the disaster that is the NHL 07 management interface. Lines, player status and contracts are all easily fixed and negotiated. You have control over who you scout, and though it can be somewhat tedious to do it by hand, the basics can get done in 5 minutes Ė unlike the constant scouting and recruiting of College Hoops 2K6.
One area where we wish NHL 2K7 had made improvements on the management side is with player salaries, the salary cap, and trades. The salaries are not based on the real world at all and neither is the cap. Effectively, the salary system hasnít changed since at least 2001 and this is really a shame, since the new NHL collective bargaining agreement provided an excellent opportunity to do it over.
The lack of improvement in the 2K franchise is depressing for a number of reasons. First, the fact that MLB 2K6 is years ahead in graphics and gameplay, despite being older, is a sad statement on the importance of hockey sims. Secondly, EAís plans for a big NHL 07 update were known well in advance and 2K Sports still didnít respect them enough (and with NHL 07ís front interface, who can blame them)? Finally, after a crippling bug in NHL 2K6 last year on the 360, where the game would lock up after using up its cache on the hard drive, fans of the series deserve much more than 2K Sports offered. There still
isnít a patch for NHL 2K6, while a similar MLB 2K6 bug got fixed.
2K7ís evaluations of players arenít as bad as NHL 07ís, but theyíre not great either. However, itís clear that 2K Sports does a better job scouting the talent than EA does. EAís emphasis seems to be on matching point and goal production. 2K Sports is somewhat more refined.