Last year's solid current-gen release and tacked-on 360 port of NHL 2K6 proved that next-gen games aren't better just for being next-gen. This year, however, the attention shifted heavily from the Xbox and PS2 to the 360 and PS3, leaving the current-gen entries with that "tacked-on" feeling.
However, while current-gen gamers will miss out on some of the fancy graphics and presentation options that the 360 offers, the gameplay won't disappoint, especially if you're new to the series. Old fans will probably notice that the Xbox and PS2 versions (as with EA’s NHL 07) feel more like add-ons than new games, but there's no attempt to hide it - at $19.99 it's a bargain game.
The player AI's have been adapted to play by the new rules, and on the harder difficulty levels they are a challenge to beat. As usual, the easier levels are a little too easy, and the score racks up accordingly. Even ratcheted up to the highest difficulty level, one timers are still too easy to perform to realistically portray the NHL, where they're an uncommon scoring technique. For the most part, however, with the difficulty set high, the simulation is convincing.
In Franchise mode, a new rivalry feature gives each team three major and three minor rivals. Games against rivals are more physical and intense, and rivalries change based on your interactions with teams. As with every other hockey game this year, the salary cap has been implemented, although some of the more complicated repercussions of the CBA didn't make it to the current-gen versions.
The most notable new gameplay feature is Pressure Control, which allows you to instruct your teammates to apply varying levels of pressure to specific opponents. The more pressure you assert, the more intensely your teammates will check the guy who's troubling you.
Pro Control, On-the-fly Coaching and the whole parade of old features are back as well, so prepare for some multi-tasking. These strategic features may be too much for casual gamers, but make 2K hockey the deepest hockey series out there (granted that it only has one real competitor).