NHL 2K7 hands-on preview

Visual Concepts is executing a similar needed facelift for the second NHL effort on Xbox 360. The renovation begins with this year’s player designs that have leapt forward a little in believability ” by judging without the benefit of a side-by-side comparison – but still don’t reach NBA levels of realism. On the rinks ice surface are the same dynamic reflective properties as seen in “NBA 2K7,” and more defined skate ruts. Center scoreboard lights reflect appropriately across the rink and ruts with every movement of the in-game camera.

From our brief hands-on time, we noticed the action is smoother than last year’s thanks to new skating animations that speed up player’s movements and the overall game pace. Heightened speed also puts more pressure on defenseman to actually defend against slightly faster incoming forwards. This type of tweak could have easily thrown simulation gameplay out the window but it works well and never crosses the line into arcade territory.

Details are still sparse at this time but we were able to coax a couple new features out of our 2K Sports representative. A new camera tentatively called “Parametric” is described as being similar to the Sky Cam seen in NFL games, only this camera will follow one particular player from start to finish. Another camera dubbed “Cinemotion” will exploit the sport’s drama by slowing down the game and cueing dramatic music during key moments. I can hear the purists screaming now about a conspiracy to ruin the natural flow of the game but 2K Sports swears Cinemotion is being designed to be non-intrusive. Ultimately opinions won’t really matter as Cinemotion can easily be toggled off.

New features found in 2K6 will again return in 2K7 such as icon passing and manual goalie control. These plus cleaner, crisper gameplay and more refined visuals should make NHL fans happy come the start of next season.

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