Sunday, August 20, 2006

Cyber Pucks

I picked up a XBOX a year ago when they dropped the price down to $150 primarily to use as a digital jukebox for my CD collection, which I transfered to it. At the time they were offering NHL 2K6 for $19.95 and I figured what the hell. Although not a gamer, what did I have to lose? (19.95 I guess) Turns out, nothing, I was pleasantly surprised at how much fun I had with the game. It's depth, playability and fun factor got me hooked on it. Well, the 2K7 version is about to be released soon and it looks to be even better.

Here's a sneak video peek...

...and here's a sneak preview from

Thanks to the power of the 360 and PS3, the new skating engine really shines. Momentum is much more true to life and skaters will really dig into the ice to get going. On offense, there are a lot more transitions between skating forward and backward, so wingers on a power play can really probe the defense by inching forward, skating back and circulating the puck. All the while, you can spray ice into your opponents face, the boards rattle on impact and the arena lights reflect off the ice below. Don't believe me? Click on the image link below for exclusive new screens.

Another interesting change that 2K is making is with the presentation, an aspect of sports games that has remained largely untouched for some time. Yes, the traditional broadcast style is still there, complete with commentary from Bob Cole and Harry Neale (the sublime Gary Thorne and Bill Clement of ESPN are now working on NHL 07). But 2K wanted to give a more cinematic experience, like you're playing through the final scene in Miracle. With the new Cinemotion presentation, there's no commentary. Instead, a musical score drives the action, reacting dynamically to the action, picking up during tense moments and slowing down during lulls in the action (if there is such a thing in hockey.) 2K also added in a lot of on-the-ice chatter and the coaches bark orders, making for a more immersive experience. You can also blend the Cinemotion and Broadcast styles for a Cinemotion-with-commentary style, if you so choose.

Probably the best presentation is the new default camera angle, which has been lowered and pulled back. This allows for improved vision on the ice compared to the old-school top-down camera angle. You can usually see the entire offensive side when circulating the puck and, on breakaways, it's easy to spot the open man for a long pass. By lowering the camera, the new angle continues to feel close to the action.
Not to be outdone EA Sports has revamped their hockey offering also as NHL 07 looks to keep pace with new innovations and gameplay.

Here's a look...

David Littman, the producer of NHL 07, talks about EA's new video hockey game...
What are the elements you added to make this game authentic?

David Littman: The control system is just one part of the gameplay that has been designed specifically to give the user the most authentic hockey experience possible. Another huge area was our goalies. Alex Auld now of the Florida Panthers did our goalie mocap this year, so we really put some time into it. Goalies will come out and challenge and then back in on breakaways making saves that depend on their real life playing style. When a goalie butterflies, his pads move independent of his legs, so they will stay facing the puck instead of the ice for more realistic saves and rebounds. I particularly like that goalies have to close their hand on the puck to catch it or cover it and you will actually see the goalie look into their glove.

In terms of presentation, how does the next gen console change what you can create?

David Littman: With the next gen console we are able to push higher polygon models as well as higher res textures, making the players, equipment, ice surfaces and arenas look that much better. You will notice the different things on the jerseys like the perforations and stitching and on the equipment the different types of leathers and nylons. In the arenas we have modeled everything from the penalty box phones to the little screws along the boards. It's all the little things that current gen just could not do, that change the way we present our next gen games.
As of now both games have release dates of mid Sept. 2006.

Game on.


Doogie2K said...

After playing Half-Life 2, Jumbo Joe has such dead eyes. By the end of the generation, I want experessive players, dammit. They have the technology...

Photomas said...

Thanks doogie,

Not being a gamer (other than 2K6) I'm not sure exactly what your referring to, BUT if your pissed about lack of tech. advancement... then so am I.