In Play: 'NHL 2K7' 2K Sports

NHL 2K72K Sports (Xbox 360), $59.99

While the NHL continues its rebound from the 2004-05 lockout, the world of video-game hockey is thriving in 2K Sports' NHL 2K7. Every aspect of 2K7 is next-gen-style impressive (the sound and the graphics certainly), but it's the game play that sticks out -- and it's the game play that's most important to true puckheads. For those new to the Xbox 360, this will be evident from the get-go. The graphics are supermodel beautiful, and the play is sleek and fluid with new skating animations, making the action as realistic as ever. If it were to get any more realistic, fans might not even care if there's another NHL lockout. One of the new features of 2K7 is an audio/visual presentation called Cinemotion. It replaces the typical TV-broadcast style presentation with a Hollywood-style orchestrated soundtrack that varies depending on the momentum of the game. This might sound a bit a corny -- and it is -- but it's low enough in the mix that it is neither distracting nor overbearing. Admittedly, it takes a little while to grow accustomed to playing without the broadcasters' banter, as annoying as they might be. Whatever they've done with the camera angle, it sure works. The game view is closer, yet the range of vision does not suffer in the least.

Another highlight of NHL 2K7 is that the tunes are supplied by Sub Pop recording artists, replacing the typically god-awful jukebox of most sports games. The kings of grunge have made a resurgence of late, and many of their top bands are represented here with songs from the Postal Service, Band of Horses, Hot Hot Heat, Sleater-Kinney, Seaweed, and many more. Nothing like checking an opponent into the boards to the lovely strains of Mudhoney. Maybe next year they can secure a deal with Matador Records. As far as sneaking the puck past the goalie, there still isn't a more reliable method than the old one-timer. Get a good angle and set up a teammate for that perfect one-timer that'll have the goal light getting plenty of action. All of this, plus added franchise focus and expanded ProControl make NHL 2K7 an excellent next-generation hockey game.

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