NHL 2005 Review (GameCube)
By Phil Poccia -- Staff Member
With the NHL season locked out, hockey fans can get their fix in three ways: play it, watch amateur players, or experience it through video games. Since you are at this Web site, you will probably be going with the third option.
Gamecube fans will only have NHL 2005 by EA Sports this year if they want to play a hockey video game because SEGA is bringing ESPN NHL 2K5 to the PlayStation 2 and Xbox only. While fans of NHL 2005 will love the series' arcade style gameplay, other Gamecube owners or gamers wishing for a more simulation-type game will wish they had ESPN NHL 2K5.
The graphics are the best part about the game. Player models are incredibly detailed with no jaggies. Their bodies are proportioned correctly and faces are accurately portrayed. Added realism is provided by logos from hockey equipment manufacturers that are on all the players. Even coaches and referees are modeled perfectly. We would not want to get Rick Bowness and Blaine Angus mixed up now would we? The only problems with the graphics were boring crowds that looked ugly, which is a problem in so many sports games. The jerseys are all unlocked in the beginning of the game. While some of the nameplates are incorrect, the jerseys overall are exactly what you would expect.
The animations in the game are smooth. This game plays more like an arcade game then a simulation, so player speed is faster than in ESPN NHL 2K5. Players' physics and collisions are somewhat unrealistic compared to a real NHL game. The game does act realistic at times: the players fall to the ground in devastating fashion after a huge hit, and goalies do not make crazy, acrobatic saves.
The audio in the game is the worst thing about the game, though it does have some bright spots. Shots off the glass, checking, and sticks hitting the ice are realistic and do a good job of recreating the sounds of the game. The color commentary in NHL 2005 is solid but does not have the polish that other sports games with real-life broadcasters do, such as Madden 2005. The color commentary provides little insight to the action happening on the ice. Obvious comments about how the occurrence of big hits does not provide depth or analysis. EA Sports Trax Jukebox provides a limited selection of mediocre music that is geared toward rock fans. These nine songs are well known and are from bands such as Franz Ferdinand and Soundtrack of Our Lives.
Interface/Options : 83
The usual game modes that you would expect from an NHL game are here, including Dynasty Mode, Season, Elite Leagues, and Exhibition. New modes added this year include World Cup Mode and Free-4-All.
Dynasty Mode provides know-it-all fans the chance to run their favorite team. Each team has their own specific goals based on how ambitious the team is to win the cup, how focused they are on having loyal players who are focused on the team, and profitability. The owner will give an overall expectation for the team depending on how good they are, such as obtaining the number one overall draft pick or winning the Stanley Cup. Yearly revenues and expenses of your team are broken down and compared with the rest of the league. After changing things like the prices of tickets and the amount of money put into fan giveaways, the fan loyalty rating will instantly react.
As in professional sports, teams are built through free agency and the draft. When it is time for the draft, the prospects are given letter grades and reliability ratings based on offense, defense, athleticism, strength, and potential. Specifics on particular strengths and weaknesses are not available. For people who are confused with how to compare players with number scores in other sports games, like me, this provides a much easier way to rate the future of your team. Gamers who do not like to sit through numerous rounds of the draft will be happy to know that NHL 2005 only has five rounds, not nine, as is the case in real-life. There are a few problems with Dynasty Mode. Free agency does have some flaws, such as being able to get any player that you want as long as your team can afford it and the deal is not ludicrous. This makes it seem like your team is in a vacuum and no other teams are trying to vie for free agency, which is very unrealistic. Also, injuries do not stop a season when it is being simulated. Instead, lines are automatically fixed. While Dynasty Mode is not as in-depth as Madden 2005, it is very enjoyable and provides enough depth and ease of use to not scare off newbies to the mode.
Seasons can be played with either NHL teams or with Elite Leagues from around the world, including SM Liiga, DEL, and Elitserien. These modes are only for one season and let gamers run a team without the hassles of Dynasty mode. Exhibition is the typical mode of playing against the computer or a friend.
The World Cup is what you what expect it to be. Gamers choose one of the many the World Cup teams and pick the best talent available in the NHL from each respective country. Building your team is unrealistic since it assumes that all of the players that are eligible for your team are willing to play. In professional sports, players may not want to play in tournaments or represent their country, as was the case for this year's USA Men's Olympic Basketball team.
Free-4-All is a terrible mode that should be avoided. This party game lets each gamer choose an elite player and try to outscore each other in a set amount of minutes or to score a certain number of goals against one goalie. It has an arcade-like feel and is very boring.
EA has done a nice job of making the menus easy to use. Players can easily jump into the different game modes or change options without much hassle. The menus can be too simplistic at times. When choosing teams, the only thing shown for ratings is the overall score. There is no breakdown for offense or defense. This is a hint that EA was catering the game for more casual players.
Gameplay : 85
NHL 2005 may make hardcore hockey fans cringe. This game favors a more arcade-like experience and it shows. On default settings, it is hard to draw a penalty. Since EA is focusing on the hits and open action, they do not want penalties to keep interrupting the game. Using the C Stick is very effective at laying players out and is important for clutch defense. Default settings should be changed for things like rules and penalty frequency. This will lead to a more realistic game.
For all the scoring that has occurred in past versions of the series, this game can be very hard to score in medium and difficult modes. In past years it was not uncommon to score six to seven goals a game per team. Scoring has been toned done this year with tough defense and checking, as well as the amount of shots. Other hockey games usually have very unrealistic shot totals at the end of the game, but EA managed to not let this get out of hand. There is a big jump in difficulty between each skill level, so changing the default settings would be wise to fit your gameplay style. For all the arcade elements incorporated in the game, it is good to see that scoring was not high.
I would personally like to thank EA for making fighting optional in-game instead of it happening automatically or having to turn it off in the options menu. NHL 2005 lets players decide if they want to brawl by having to agree to it when icons come on the screen. In ESPN NHL 2K5, fighting has to be changed in the settings or five fights could easily happen in the game, minimum.
Nothing else has really changed from in any other gameplay department. Shots have been broken up between two buttons for wrist and slap shots, which are both pressure sensitive. Gamers can also do a wraparound by hitting one of the shot buttons.
Replay Value : 82
This game will give you many hours of gaming, but not as many as ESPN NHL 2K5. Though it lacks online play -- as do the majority of Gamecube games -- features such as Dynasty Mode and Season provide both depth and simplicity. With a lack of party games and no online play, this game does not provide as much replay as its competitor.
Overall : 84
NHL 2005 does have many things going for it, but it just is not as good as ESPN NHL 2K5. There are no glaring problems with EA's game, but it just was not as fun as it had the potential to be. Hockey gamers that have enjoyed the series and/or like arcade games will want to buy it. If you have a PlayStation 2 or Xbox though, ESPN NHL 2K5 is much better and is $30 cheaper.