NHL 2K6 Crease Control Spotlight

What's this? Manual goalie controls that actually work? We check out NHL 2K6's new crease controls.

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Manually controlling the goalie in hockey games has always been a hit-or-miss prospect--and usually more "miss" than "hit." Whether the issue is the speedy pace of the games or the odd camera angles, unless you're willing to spend a lot of time in practice to get the timing down, it's usually been to your benefit to leave the goaltending to the computer and hope for the best. 2K Sports attempted to alleviate this problem somewhat with NHL 2K6's maximum-goaltending controls; and while the mechanism certainly ended up giving you more of a sense of control over your goalie's flopping, there was still the issue of the camera angle getting in the way.

Crease control gives you more control over the goalie than any previous 2K hockey game.
Crease control gives you more control over the goalie than any previous 2K hockey game.

With NHL 2K6 for the Xbox 360, the development team is still focusing on the goalie controls, but this time, they've come up with something truly interesting. Dubbed "crease control," the new controls give you not only more goalie control than ever seen in the series, but an entirely fresh vantage point on the action taking place in net.

Here's how the new system works: As your opponent's forwards enters your defensive zone and wind up to take a shot on goal, you click down on the right analog stick. Your viewpoint will immediately shift to behind the net, where your goalie will be translucent so that you can see the puck coming at you. After the offensive player lets loose with the puck, the action will slow down considerably and a red target icon will show you exactly where the puck is heading. During this small window of opportunity, your job as goalie will be to place a circular blue icon on top of that red target before the puck reaches the net. Do so and you'll stop the puck; fail to do so and the lamp will be lit.

As 2K reps told us, the crease-control system was actually suggested to the developer by NHL 2K6 cover star Marty Turco, who explained to the development team the importance of good positioning when playing between the pipes. This element of positioning will also come into play with the crease-control mechanics, thanks to a handy goalie-vision cone that gives you a quick visual clue of when you are in position to make a good stop. When the cone of vision is green, you're in front of the puck and ready to stone the forward; if it's red, you're out of position and about to get scorched. To add more complexity to the controls, the blue cursor, which you'll be controlling, will rapidly shrink the more time you take to make a stop. The smaller the cursor ends up, the more accurate you'll have to be with your placement.

Making goalies look silly is going to be tougher than ever in NHL 2K6.
Making goalies look silly is going to be tougher than ever in NHL 2K6.

It all sounds good in concept, but how does it work in execution? In our brief time experimenting with the crease-control system, we liked what we saw. It really added a sense of drama to each shot that came our way, and we're pleased to see that the maximum-goaltending controls from the Xbox and PS2 versions are still in place, letting you dive for pucks in the same manner as in the current-gen version of the game. Our only question revolves around how this new system will affect players' defensive strategies. Knowing that you have the crease controls at your disposal might mean that some players ignore controlling your defensemen altogether in the hopes of just relying on the goalie to make the stop, which wouldn't necessarily be very true to how the real sport is played. Nonetheless, it's great to see a manual goalie system that actually seems to work.

Our all-too-brief demo of NHL 2K6 for the 360 focused mainly on the crease controls found in the game, so we couldn't get a feel for some of the game's other features. We can say that the graphics looked nice--especially the player models, who displayed a nice beefy appearance. Based on our look, they aren't quite as impressive as those found in NBA 2K6--but then, it would be tough to top that, wouldn't it?

We're itching to get our hands on a preview build of the 360 version of 2K6, and we suspect it won't be too much longer before we get to do just that and put the crease-control mechanics through their paces. As soon as we're able to, we'll report back our findings on these features and everything else NHL 2K6, so stay tuned.

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