You'll have to practice because the moves take precision, but even the worst game player (read: me) will get the idea after about 10 exhibition games. If there's a coach in you, you'll want to play the Master League mode which lets you trade players and basically do all the tweaking you need to do to create a money-making, winning team. There are a few problems: the crowds are gone from the stadium. And the announcers should have their own artificial intelligence because the repetitive banter is annoying. These are minor brickbats, however.  

It's a few months old. But I want to tell you about NHL 2K6 now that I've played through a full season in the very difficult Hall of Fame mode on the Xbox 360.  First off, I admit I've become addicted to the game, so much so that I have to soak my right hand after playing. 

Yet there were drawbacks. The beginning animation of the crowd going into a sports facility made it look like every auditorium in the U.S. and Canada was the same with the same marble floors and same food stands. (I mean, where's the Beef On Weck in Buffalo?!?) Sometimes, the announcers spewed an incorrect fact or score. While the crowd is nicely animated, each fan looks too similar to the other. And once, my goaltender, Kevin Weekes of the New York Rangers, decided to leave the net and hang out near the boards in the middle of play. Plus, Hall of Fame mode didn't seem hard enough: I lost only four games during the whole season (Full disclosure: I admit I cheated: when I lost a game, I'd play it again until I won).

FNR3: A couch potato smackdown
photo: Courtesy of Electronic Arts
FNR3: A couch potato smackdown

Having said that, I think NHL 2K6 is a terrific game. Each player has his own strengths and weaknesses based on real life stats. And this is a true simulation, not some arcade cartoon where there's a lot of fighting and knocking a player over the boards. You'll find that certain players will be more agile than others. Rangers Jaromir Jagr and Michael Straka, for instance, can grab a rebound off the goalie and backhand it into the net with precision. You can coach and trade players, too, if you like. (Even if you don't want to trade, you'll get messages in the game offering such swaps anyway.) You can deke other players, but if you deke too hard, you'll get a penalty (I never really figured out the soft deke that was powerful enough to knock a puck off the opponent's stick). Everything, even winning a faceoff, requires your full attention.

Ultimately, both games feel real. You truly get caught up in the action, the suspense of the game. And if you're like me, you'll happily waste 20 or more minutes a day playing a complete season. Then, you'll worry that you could have been out in the world—doing something real.

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