So I picked up ESPN NHL Hockey. This is the first Sega hockey game I've played since NHL2K back on the Dreamcast, and man I loved that game. So it's comforting to see that the gameplay mechanics of that classic are still intact.

NHL2K4, aka ESPN NHL Hockey, is basically everything great about NHL2K, upgraded and over the top. The ESPN presentation is in full effect and is really well done. It looks just like on TV, and they even have the SportsCenter desk and the ESPN commentators.

The commentary is decent. The color commentator has player-specific things that he says in between plays. As with most sports games, the commentary can occasionally get redundant, but I've heard a lot worse.

This is by far the most realistic hockey game on the market. The play unfolds just like a real hockey game. It really forces you to learn how to play good hockey. You can't just take the puck with one guy from one end of the rink to the other and score. You have to pass well, position yourself, and use the boards to dump the puck out.

I'm glad to see that the button to dump the puck is still in the game. Press it and the player shoots the puck in the air hard in whatever direction you're facing. Perfect for shooting the puck out of the zone in those shorthanded positions or just playing the puck up the boards.

There's also a great season mode with little goals and challenges to complete throughout the course of the season. Things like scoring a defensive penalty, shorthanded goal, or killing a power play. When you complete a goal, the ESPN scoreboard that's shown at :28 and :58 past the hour drops down and the ESPN theme chime plays, just like on TV.

This is a really great hockey game, especially for enthusiasts of the sport. Highly recommended.

I haven't had the chance to take it on Xbox Live yet because I want to get my skills down first, but once I finally do that, I'll put up impressions of the online experience.

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2003 - 2005
Reverend Hughes