When last seen on these shores, the 2K hockey brand came complete with the ESPN name, so seeing 2K6 without the glamour and glitz of the ever-enthusiastic sports channel is a disappointment. It doesn't help that the presentation that's replaced it is straight-up ugly and a jarring reminder that EA does presentation like no other. Still, it may be regrettable that EA has bagged the ESPN name for itself, but the gameplay that makes the series stand out like polished black ice is still very much in effect. And with this year's tweaks and additions to play, NHL 2K6 is one of the best sports games on the current generation. You'll forget all about nasty menus and bland music as soon as you glide onto the ice.
The real highlight of 2K6 is that it throws in some well-designed new control methods and options that significantly evolve the gameplay. From the off there's a fluidity to play that we haven't felt before. By right-clicking the analogue stick, button icons appear over your team-mates, and a tap of the corresponding button passes the puck to the player. It's a simple and smart mechanic that allows for real control over your team as they string multiple passes together instead of relying on an awkward combination of luck and skill that we've become accustomed to in lesser hockey titles. This sport is fast, and it's needed this quick and easy solution for some time.