NHL Eastside Hockey Manager 2007 PC
Published by SEGA
Developed by Sports Interactive
Release Date: Out Now
Price: €29.99 (Download Only)
For many years the only sport you associated with Sports Interactive was football. However, that all changed a few years ago with the release of NHL Eastside Hockey Manager. Sports Interactive bought Risto Remes, his development team and their Eastside Hockey Manger game into the fold and designed NHL Eastside Hockey Manager using the Championship Manager 3 game engine. It was an impressive debut and the sequel, NHL Eastside Hockey Manager 2005, managed to build on this success and make for a more involving and better looking (the game was now using the same engine and styling as the FM series). There still wasn’t a true 2D match view though. Here we have the latest in the series, NHL Eastside Hockey Manager 2007 and rather impressively it manages to make the experience even more satisfying.
NHL EHM 2007 comes with leagues from North America, Canada, Austria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Great Britain, Norway, Russia, Slovakia, Slovenia and Sweden. In total there are 20 playable leagues with 45,000 players and 3,000 teams. As well as the NHL there is also official licensing for the AHL, ECHL and Central Hockey League. In short it’s a very comprehensive ice hockey management simulation that has a surprising amount of depth. In fact whilst the series is relatively in its infancy when compared with the Football Manager series (whose roots date back over 10 years now) it has matured very quickly. Of course the series has the disadvantage of being in the shadow of the Football Manager series, which has managed to raise the bar for sports management simulations for the last few years and features such as a 2D match engine have been demanded. Thankfully the developers have obliged this year.
There’s no getting away from the fact that whilst the game is a better overall experience than NHL EHM 2005, and that this is due to a variety of features and improvements, the most outstanding addition to the series is the 2D match engine that allows you to watch the games being played. Now it’s possible to see exactly what’s happening and get a real idea of how effective your tactics and players are. For the most part the player movement is realistic and the games are enjoyable to watch. The 2D match engine isn’t the only area of the game that’s improved though. There are more varied scouting reports, better draft recommendations from your staff, greater salary cap control and a fantasy draft. Teams now trade in a much more realistic fashion. This all helps to create a more believable NHL experience. You’ll also find that you have a greater degree of control over your tactics thanks to the inclusion of sliders like the ones found in the Football Manager series. A customisable Front Office screen has been included to allow you to see the details you want. As with Football Manager 2007 you can customise the level of detail with which the game simulates competitions. You can choose to Quick Sim competitions, simulate at full detail at all stages, later stage or none. Naturally the advanced simulation options will take up more time. You can alter the depth of simulation at any time so if you find your game running a little slowly you can turn to a quicker simulation method thus making your game process results in a speedier fashion.
Are there any areas where the game could improve? Well I would like to have seen an in-built tutorial included with the game in the same way that the Football Manager series has done for the last few years. There’s no editor to allow you to modify rosters or player attributes, which I daresay is something fans of the sport would have loved to have been able to do. I also think the games play out a little too slowly. Yes, you can speed them up but then it’s a little difficult to follow everything. Like the Football Manager series the game is designed to run at a screen resolution of 1024x768 and you can run the game in windowed mode. Unlike the Football Manager series you can’t expand the window so that the game fills the screen. This isn’t a problem but some do like to have the ability to do this and it’s a shame that you can’t.
The presentation of NHL EHM 2005 had been improved from the original NHL EHM and NHL EHM 2007 also manages to make a significant improvement in this respect. The interface skin used in the game takes on the look of the Flexion skin used in Football Manager 2007 (although technically NHL EHM 2007 was the first game to be released with this appearance), which I personally feel is a good choice as it’s a skin that is easy on the eyes and makes a good use of icons. I would have preferred the option to have a right-handed skin (which puts the navigation bar on the right side of the screen) as this is something that feels more comfortable in FM2007. The F keys are used for shortcuts and these can be customised, which is good to see. Naturally NHL comes with official team and competition logos etc. You’ll also find the same for the AHL, ECHL and CHL which is certainly pleasing. The lack of player photos for these officially licensed leagues is disappointing though.
All Sports Interactive titles to date have been deaf gamer friendly and NHL Eastside Hockey Manager 2007 is no exception. All of the information in the game is in text and you’ll have absolutely no problem at all. In fact the amount of sound in the game is minimal and quite repetitive. Even some hearing gamers may choose to disable it. The new skin makes a good use of icons and should you be unaware of what an icon does, simply mousing over the icon will bring up a tool tip that explains what screen the icon will take you to.
NHL Eastside Hockey Manager 2007 manages to build on what NHL Eastside Hockey Manger 2005 accomplished and take the series to the next step. The new 2D match engine is a great inclusion and the other improvements only serve to make for a more realistic NHL experience. Of course there’s still room for improvement, as we mentioned earlier, and it would be great to see an editor included in the next version of the game. Those looking for the ice hockey equivalent of the Football Manager series need look no further than NHL Eastside Hockey Manager 2007. Even those who haven’t yet played previous versions of the game or those who have only tried the Football Manager games really ought to give the demo a try because it’s another first rate sports management game from Sports Interactive.
The NHL EHM series has come a long way in a short space of time and if you're a fan of sports management games it's well worth your attention.