You can jump right into the action after you've put the game into your console. The Quick Play option is back, and once again allowing you and a friend to hit one button and start the game. The video to follow is very eye catching, but unless you haven't played NHL 2002, then you have pretty much seen it before; they have added a few new touches like film and fight highlights from supposed previous games played, although every game you play has these exact same "film clips" so the novelty wears off after the second game of the season. Speaking of Season, that mode is back once again, and once again it's a carbon copy of last year's setup. It's a franchise mode made for 10 seasons of intense end-to-end action. The off-season is exactly the same, the trading is the same, there are the same retirements, the same draft style, the same free agent signing style, the same...ok you get the point. For those who have never played the game, let me make this quick. You play games of 26, 52, or 80 games, trying to make the playoffs. After your run for the cup has ended in victory or otherwise, you get to make your first of 2 draft picks. These are needed as you can lose players to retirement and then you have to try and sign available free agents to try and make another run at the cup. Don't get me wrong, it's kind of fun to do, but not when you have done it so many times before in last year's installment.
Also back this year is Tournament Play. This time though, it has a new name, International Play. Don't let it fool you, because the name is the only new thing about it. It's still the exact same setup as previous year's. Allow me not to go into too much detail on this one. Does anyone watch the Olympic Hockey? If so, just think of that, if not, WHAT KIND OF HOCKEY FAN ARE YOU?...errr...I mean, if not you likely are not reading this anyway. The game play does have two new features that give me mixed reactions. First is the new puck physics. The pucks now bounce off the boards the way they should. The hard rubber disks bounce off player's sticks and get deflected more times than not this year. This is a great improvement because it brings the shot total down from ridiculously high levels and also allows for more rebounds in front of the crease. Add to that the wonderfully done revamp of the goaltenders and you can get some exciting hockey. The second new aspect is the use of the analog stick for the puck control. This feature allows you to hold the puck to the left or right of your body while trying to rush the net making for a more difficult defensive play and creating more exciting offensive plays. I am still not sure what I really think about this new feature. I've got it figured out for the most part, but still don't really know if I like it. I guess it is every man for himself.
My biggest disappointment of this year's title is the lack of Internet play. I was really looking forward to showing my talents over the net winning every fantasy league out there. Maybe next year?