We're headlong into the push toward next-generation consoles, and as a result, the older consoles are beginning to get the short shrift. For instance, while Xbox 360 versions of major sports games are seeing big upgrades in gameplay and visuals, Xbox, PlayStation 2, and GameCube versions are practically the same games from the previous year with little in the way of alteration. NHL 2K7 for the Xbox is a perfect example of this. Though it includes a few of the smaller updates included in its Xbox 360 counterpart, it lacks any of the major changes, leaving you with a solid game of hockey that will impress someone unfamiliar with the NHL 2K series but that will probably leave some longtime fans feeling cold.
2K brand hockey returns to the Xbox with updated rosters, a few clever upgrades, and not much else that's new.
The big change to the 360 version this year, the new "cinemotion" presentation system, isn't available in the Xbox version of the game. You do, however, get the new camera angle, which is possibly the best camera angle included in a hockey game to date. This parametric camera comes down at more of an angle than the typical top-down camera view, and turns and zooms ever so subtly depending on where you are on the ice, and what's happening. It's the sort of thing that casual fans might not even notice or take note of initially, but dedicated players should certainly appreciate this change, since it gets you just that much closer to the action without sacrificing any level of control or visibility.
On the gameplay front, just about every feature from last year's game, including the crease control, icon passing, enforcer, and on-the-fly play-calling systems return once more, and they're all basically the same. One new addition to the game is the new pressure control scheme. If you find yourself having particular trouble with on individual opponent, you can order your teammates to pressure them by holding down the left bumper and pressing the right control stick in the direction of that opponent. You can set the level of pressure via taps of the left bumper. A single tap applies light pressure, a double tap applies more physical pressure, and repeatedly tapping sends your players in for a very hard check. You can cycle through opponents easily enough by simply tapping the right stick around while holding the bumper.
Pressure controls, much like many of the previously mentioned gameplay control systems, aren't exactly amazing by themselves, but when combined with the wealth of other available options, they help make NHL 2K7 one of the smartest games of hockey around, if not the flashiest. The basic gameplay engine hasn't really changed dramatically in the last couple of years, and those familiar with how 2K hockey plays will find yet another game of 2K hockey in this year's offering. Of course it's hard to call that a bad thing, since the depth of play, especially in the defense and core strategies of the game of hockey, is unmatched by any other available hockey title on the market. But when it comes to some of the faster and more exciting aspects of hockey, like scoring, offensive moves, and fighting, little has changed, and these aspects of the game engine are starting to show their age.
2K7's feature list is also quite familiar. Party mode returns with a familiar roster of hockey-based minigames; mini rink and pond hockey provide similarly goofy yet enjoyable distractions; and the skybox once again houses all sorts of unlockables, statistics, and other fun things. Franchise mode returns with most of the same great features introduced last year, as well as a few small additions. A hard salary cap has been implemented for all teams in the game, though it's not detailed in the ways of the NHL collective bargaining agreement. It is still displayed as a basic budget, and there isn't a realistic contract system in the game with regard to sending players to the minors or letting them go. You can't sign two-way deals, so you can send a player to the minor leagues or cut him outright, without having to put him through waivers.