|System: PSP||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: EA Canada||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: EA||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Sept 2006||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1 - 4||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|Review by Colin||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Colin Thames
Perhaps NHL 07 isnt all that unique since its so closely resembles the PS2 version but that should be a good thing, right? Yes, youre right. Its a very good thing. NHL 07 for the PSP is a slightly watered down version of its bigger siblings hockey game but thats only to be expected due to its limited processing power. But what the PSP manages to capture is the fun and ultimate playability of the next-gen console version. Comparisons are inevitable but there can be no question that this is the best portable hockey game available for any handheld unit.
NHL 07 is not a perfect game but it delivers the goods where it counts. The physics is great, the shooting is accurate for the most part, the controls are responsive, the game is fast-paced, the AI is a convincingly fair opponent and the graphics are clean. On the downside, there are some instances when shooting, such as when skating backwards, where the accuracy is out the window. Some stock animations kill the real-time feel especially during body checks. The commentary is repetitive, and the online mode can at times be virtually unplayable due to latency.
Control of the puck is good. When you have the puck in your possession you can fake out your opponents by alternately pressing on the left and right buttons. This seems to be more effective than just pressing the triangle button, (which accesses a stock deke animation) especially when trying to fake out the goalie. The nub will take some getting used to but it does work smoothly, offering a variety of control options. There are nine different areas that you can target on the opponents net. You have to make sure that youre in the right position to make the shot otherwise it wont be very accurate. It did take me a couple of hours to feel comfortable with the shooting system but now Ive got the feel down. You can only develop this feel with practice.
Thanks to the good puck physics you can bank angles much like you would on a pool table or air hockey game. You can rebound the puck off the corners and deflect them off other players. It gives you more scoring options. But despite the arcade-style of gameplay, there are some very realistic elements that contribute to making this feel like you are playing a real hockey game. Overall there is a tremendous sense of speed to the game which does not seem unrealistic. Pressing the sprint button causes the player to put it overdrive, but it comes at the cost of handling the puck. The faster that you go, the more difficult it is to maneuver and remain in control of the puck. Youll find yourself more vulnerable to having the puck stolen at higher speeds. You will also find that your shooting accuracy decreases as you skate backwards or shoot backhanded. One-timed shots are also downplayed and dont make up a significant portion of the scoring strategy. You will find that one-timing requires you to be set up almost perfectly in terms of passes and position relative to the net. Its too fussy of a system to rely on for consistent goals but as in real NHL games, its a rare treat when all the planets align to facilitate it.
The AI plays a realistic game. They are not overly aggressive but tend to play somewhat conservatively with their offense. They are not entirely predictable however, they do play a good passing game and can really put the pressure on by occasionally skating circles around your team. When youve had enough of this, its clobbering time. You can body check, poke check, side check, dive and hook. All of the controls are managed by the face buttons. Some of the checks will just temporarily stun the opponent. Youll have to work harder than just pressing a button in order to steal the puck from these guys, but at least its a great outlet for your frustrations.
A passing game looks easy for the AI, but its not the best way for you to play. It just doesnt flow. Your teammates never seem to be in the best position making it a risky proposition to relinquish control of the puck.
The Dynasty mode is included and is basically identical to the PS2 version. It allows you to play as any NHL team as well as some European teams including the Czechs. In this mode you will have plenty of options including signing, trading and drafting players. You will also be able to select players with different attributes to join a line in hopes that their chemistry meshes. You will obviously want to choose players with different attributes for different positions so that the entire team will play as one multi-faceted hockey organism. Just like the Habs used to be before you were born. Ask your grandfather about them. Using the connectivity between the PSP and PS2 you can trade Dynasty data from either system. That means you can take everything in your PS2 Dynasty and play it on the bus or while waiting in the principals office to catch hell for playing your PSP during school time.
The online mode just doesnt work well. Sometimes it crashes before you even get to play and when it doesnt crash there is some terrible lag (delays) between command and execution. Considering that there are plenty of other good, playable modes such as Dynasty, World Tournament, Season, Free-For-All, Shoot-Out, and local multiplayer modes, you shouldnt be too disappointed with the crappy online mode.
The crowd cheers in all the right places and the sound effects, although subtle, are realistic enough. The commentary is repeated too often and should just be turned off. There is no music during the actual game but there are tunes leading up to face offs, during penalties, offsides and when accessing the various menus. Graphically its a clean looking game, but if you read between the lines that could also mean void of detail, which in this case is exactly what that means. The players are a little stiff but they do control well.
Hockey season is off to a great start with NHL 07 for the PSP. For far less than the price of a ticket for an actual NHL game, you can have twenty times as much fun with this purchase.
By Colin Thames
CCC Freelance Writer