The only game in the next-gen hockey line-up last year was NHL 2K6, but EA Sports jumps into the fray this year with NHL 07 - and they didn't spend two years developing it for nothing. Don't be deceived by the sleek presentation: NHL 07 is full of complexity, but it's all been honed into an experience that looks and feels as close to actual hockey as ever.
The wonderfully detailed player models may not be the spitting images of their real-life counterparts, but a lot of effort has been made to be accurate. The reflections in the glass, ice, and player's visors are fantastic - these are the best graphics from any hockey game to date. Our only critique is that the sheen on the ice is a little too perfect - it looks more like glass than ice.
The biggest gameplay change is the new "Skill Stick" control. The left analog stick can be thought of as the player's skates and the right functions as the player's stick. Trace a circle with the right stick and your player will perform dekes and spins. Flicking it forward performs a wrist shot, and drawing it back raises the stick for a slapshot.
It all feels very intuitive and it's much more gratifying to score on a shot that you actively controlled as opposed to one defined by a button press and canned animation. The only button you really need is the right bumper for passing, which feels like a hassle once you're used to the analog controls. But it's either that or a third analog stick...