NHL '07

Key events

22nd December 2006

NHL 2K7

11th December 2006

NHL 07

X360 v PS3 Multiformat Face-Off, Round Two

It's early days in the great next gen console war, and the commercial reality of development is very simple - the cost of making games on more advanced hardware has skyrocketed meaning that publishers get the best returns from their investment with multiformat development. Eurogamer typically reviews these games on the lead platform (more often than not, the Xbox 360) but we've got plenty of love for the PlayStation 3 - enough to bring you the all-important info on any differences between the versions, even when review code arrives somewhat belatedly.

In comparing the games we concentrate first and foremost on the gameplay experience, with objective commentary on new game modes and control methods that have been added or tweaked since the initial review. And as there is such a large cost difference between the two gaming platforms, we think it's fair game to point out any differences between versions on a technical level too. This makes these ongoing features as much a commentary on cross-platform development as they are aiding in a purchasing decision.

Complementing each piece is a series of screenshot galleries at full HD resolution 24-bit RGB using the PS3's HDMI digital output and the Xbox 360's precision VGA display mode, both professionally calibrated and captured losslessly using state-of-the-art grabbing equipment - indeed the only kit available that can handle full colour-depth and 1080p when required. Console analists can then debate the minutiae we expose and exercise the full unbridled talkback POWER of the Internet to give voice to their thunderous displeasure.

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NHL 2K7

NHL 2K7

Ice cream.

All those guns and muscles and pumped-up shouting and macho tactics - honestly, sometimes games are embarrassing. The more mature they try to be, the more they look like kids' fantasies. It's tiring. Give me a tough and exhilarating sports game any day. Hockey, that's where it's at. Checking opponents, slamming the puck, weaving in and out, landing flat on your arse and grinding you teeth in last minute tension. Man's stuff.

After last year's hanging port of the Xbox version of NHL 2K6 to 360, this year we've got the real deal - the best ice hockey game on console, complete with all the beauty we expect from this new-fangled next-gen.

What we don't get is a leap in innovation, like we've experienced with the right stick control in EA's NHL 07. We can't have it all. Playing 2K's effort after getting used to EA's Skill Stick (where the analogue stick is used as the hockey stick, in a similar way to Fight Night's sticks-as-arms control method) is actually a bit of a shock at first, but give it an hour and you'll forget you've experienced a glimpse of the future.

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NHL 07

NHL 07

Slap dash.

Well lookee here. EA's designers have got busy with the right analog stick again, and served up a blinding control method for NHL 07. It's simple, it's obvious. The right stick is your hockey stick. Tap up to shoot, jab left and right to deke, and pull back before slamming forward for a blazing slapshot. Later, you'll discover more intricacies, such as rolling the stick in one direction and back a little to flick one off the wrist. Obviously, all of this sounds like wanking euphemisms. Ignore that, the Skill Stick - as EA is branding it - is very satisfying.

At least it is once you've got to grips with it. Just like the 'total punch control' that EA introduced with the Fight Night series, initially the right stick can be hard to get your head around. It's fumbly and awkward and the temptation is to jab it in any direction in the hope of blasting the puck somewhere near to the goal.

But give it a little time and it starts to feel comfortable, then useful, and then it feels like you're in real control. You're faking out the goalie, because you're directing the stick exactly as you like. It's like ducking low for a right uppercut in Fight Night and then swapping tactics to jab a couple of cheeky lefts. Against a human opponent it's a really satisfying feeling because it masks intentions in a way that starting a pre-set animation can never do.

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NHL 07 PC demo

Pucker up.

Electronic Arts has released a playable PC demo for NHL 07, which came out a couple of months back on about 58 different formats.

NHL '07 demo on Xbox 360

Try out the new Skill Stick.

There's a demo of NHL '07 up now on Xbox Live Marketplace, and it slaps in at 541.39MB - the kind of slap you might experience after a minor indiscretion involving a secretary.