NHL 2005 Impressions

We get up close and personal with the upcoming PC version of NHL 2005.

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The next hockey game from EA Sports, NHL 2005, will have various improvements and some all-new features that should help make the gameplay more fluid and the single-player games more exciting. We got a chance to see some of these features firsthand, such as "open ice control," an option that lets you take control of a player who is not holding onto the puck so that you can make sure you can receive a pass, rather than risk losing possession while getting double-teamed in a corner. Overall, NHL 2005 will attempt to feature more skating, passing, and shooting as as opposed to last year's game. Many fans of NHL 2004 felt that the game focused too much on bunching up on the ice and fighting over the puck.

On the ice, NHL 2005 will be as fast-paced as ever, though the gameplay will have a few additional features. These features include player personalities; when not controlled by you, players will act according to their own personalities and physical strengths, so smaller players may attempt to take advantage of their speed, while larger players might be more likely to brawl. In addition, goalies will be better about "puck awareness"--that is, they'll be more aware of where the puck is at all times (even when it's not being actively shot at the net). This development, combined with the new game's tweaked puck physics, should make for far fewer "soft goals" (goals scored by having the puck drift into the net off of a pass or an incidental ricochet).

The single-player game will receive some noticeable improvements in both an enhanced dynasty mode and an all-new World Cup of Hockey mode based on the debuting real-word event. Dynasty mode will still let you manage a team over the course of 10 years, but it will actually give you distinct yearly goals based on your team owner's personality and motivations, such as ambition, team advancement, or profit. That is, one owner might be after money and demand that you bring in more money each year, while another might put more emphasis on your team's place in the league and demand that you finish in better standings every year. Each time you succeed, you'll earn cash to bring in desired free agents, though the new system will let you make only three offers to a possible free agent before he gets insulted and leaves the bargaining table forever. If you make your goals, you'll be challenged with tougher goals along the same lines for the next year. If you fail the first time, you'll receive an angry message from the team owner, and if you fail a second year, you'll be fired and the game will be over. In addition to dynasty mode, NHL 2005 will offer an all-new tournament mode in the World Cup of Hockey 2004, which features the 600 top hockey players all across the world.

Even NHL 2005's presentation is getting spruced up; different rinks will have all-new visual improvements like ambient lighting and on-ice props (like an oversized plastic arch shaped like a shark's jawbone in the San Jose Arena). Several artists working on the NHL 2005 team reportedly spent the last year doing nothing outside of carefully modeling the likenesses of the top 100 players in the sport. To make player animations look even more convincing, the team is including motion capture filmed with two people fighting as well as five people scrambling over a puck at face-offs. NHL 2005 is scheduled for release on all platforms later this year.

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