While it is fun, and can be addictive, NHL 06 doesn't reach the potential it is definately capable of.

User Rating: 7.3 | NHL 06 XBOX
Gameplay: 7
Why: NHL games have been around for a long time. Having said that, you'd think by now companies could come out with a game that is true to hockey, in realism and design. Unfortunately, since the gaming companies are always focused on making money rather than quality games, we have had to suffer through a decade of slowly progressing NHL games. Games that add something new everytime, but never come out as a spectacular showcase of the experience the companies have no doubt accumulated in making these games. That said, NHL 06 is a fairly good game.

As is standard in NHL games nowadays, you can play as any NHL team (or make your own) in Dynasty mode, Season, Exhibition, or quick play. You can also create your own player, though there is a limit and you can't delete a player once you have created them. You can edit them, their stats, their name, their face, but, oddly, not their position (either they are a C, RW, LW, D or a Goalie.). The creation feature is fairly good and allows for a great deal of customization when it comes to the face, but there are two dissappointing aspects that stand out:
1. If you make a perfect goalie, the AI can still score fairly easily (more on this later).
and
2. You cannot choose individual team's default helmets for your goalie. A feature I felt was a no-brainer, but we will most likely see it in a later game.

I'm not much for sports games, mostly because they are rarely fun, but I must admit that I had high hopes for this game. I love hockey and it was about time I played a hockey video game. Being the strategic mind that I am, I chose to go straight to Dynasty mode, which allows you to control a team of your choosing for 10 (I beleive) years, right after I created Patrick Roy. The star goaltender that backed the Colorado Avalanche all the way to a Stanley Cup victory in the team's first year. Naturally, I made his stats nearly perfect with an overall rating of 96, but I was in for a surprise. It turned out that the AI in this game were crazy, able to score on the best goalie nearly every game at least once. Now, this may not be a problem but when you have a star goalie that can't get one shut-out for an entire season, you've got a problem.

So, I decided to investigate. I played a game for myself, rather than simply simulate it, and found that the AI must have been programmed to catch up. I had used my near perfect team to amass a 7-0 lead within the first two periods, only to see an impossible comeback in the third. Seven straight goals by the AI in the third had me worried. So I played another game, trying for a shut-out, this time playing defensively after a few un-answered goals. To my horror, and utter dis-beleif, I saw the AI, swiftly and surely, skate up to my net and get the most impossible goal from right infront of my goalie. No one-timer, no deke, he just skated up and scored as if the net was empty.
I should also add that the AI goalies appear to be able to stop the pucks just fine.

Unfortunately, this trend continued and I soon decided that the AI must be able to cheat in order to catch up, because the only way I ever got a shut-out by playing, was to pass the puck back and forth behind my net until the end of the game. It is possible to get shut-outs through simulation but they are extremely rare. Simulated game scores also appear to be randomly generated rather than based on stats, because I have saved a Dynasty right before a game and simmed it. If I didn't like the score, I was able to exit, re-load, and sim it again, only to see a completely different outcome.

Such happenings reduce replayability and decrease the game's overall realism. The game, however, is fun to play. If you can get over these shortcomings, you're sure to find pleasure in playing it.

Graphics: 8
Why: The graphics are good, though not great. I am happy, however, to announce that the croud is actually made up of 3-D rather than 2-D cut-outs. The animations are superb, save for some impossible goalie moves, and although the player models look good, there is something wrong with every goalie's helmet. I think it isn't down far enough or something.

Sound: 7
Why: Horrible music, lack of custom soundtracks, but good sound effects and commentary featuring Craig Simpson and Jim Hughson.

Value: 8
Why: If you want a good NHL game to play against friends with, NHL 06 does the job well. If you're looking for a good Dynasty mode, you might get frustrated with the lack of realism in games that I pointed out. Otherwise, it's a solid choice.

Reviewer's Tilt: 7
Why: I'm not much for sports games but I do want realism. When you have an NHL game that can't correctly simulate games, when goalies that are the best in the league can't stop easy shots simply because the other team is losing, you've missed the mark. I may enjoy playing this game, but there is no excuse for the lack of realism that this game displays. Rent it first.

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