NHL 2005 First Look

We hear about the latest entry in Electronic Arts' hockey franchise.

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In the wake of the positive response to NHL 2004, Electronic Arts and developer EAC are aiming to craft a follow-up that builds on the best of 2004's qualities. Careful review of user feedback helped direct development on the upcoming game, which is currently in development at EA's Canadian studio. We recently had the opportunity to hear about the upcoming game from a member of the team, who gave us an idea of where development on this year's version of the game is going.

Based on user feedback from last year's game, the development team is opting to focus on several key areas for NHL 2005. Generally speaking, the goal was to create more open ice for players to skate through, thus providing a more expansive environment for gameplay. The flow of the game is another area that's being concentrated on, with an emphasis on keeping the action moving at a good clip. The end result will be more deking and offensive options and a wider variety of skating choices. You'll be able to backskate, strafe, and glide, among other skating options. Another nice touch to the control scheme is a context-sensitive control mechanic that lets you take command of the most-offensive-minded player. Furthermore, on defense you may even call in backup when you need it, and you can have your artificial-intelligence-controlled partner block for you or help you stop an opponent's offensive breakaway.

NHL 2005 is also slated to include more subtle touches to its gameplay, which should contribute to the game's experience significantly. When you've got the puck and are looking to pass, players who are open will bang their sticks on the ice to give you a heads-up. The use of motion capture from five-man motion-capture sessions helps give you a better gauge for what you're doing when you're in a tangle of people on the ice. Finally, the individual player personalities (which include unique behaviors and moves) will be reflected on the ice, which will help or hinder you depending on what position you're playing.

The online component of the game is still coming together but will reflect a number of tweaks based on user feedback. Issues such as lag and the age-old annoyance of players quitting in the middle of a game are both on the "to-do list" for NHL 2005.

All told, development on NHL 2005 sounds as though it's proceeding apace. The development team's focus sounds as though it should address some of the trouble spots from last year's game so that this year's game will end up offering an ever-stronger installment in the franchise. NHL 2005 is currently slated to ship later this year for the PlayStation 2, PC, and Xbox. Look for more on the game in the coming months.

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