Perhaps the biggest new feature for this year's ice hockey outing is the inclusion of Live compatibility. Not only has this lead to EA launching an interactive Ice Hockey World Cup (EA's forte this year with the online footy equivalent in Fifa 2005), but it also means we'll have a wealth of superior challengers to puck around with. This essentially adds months to NHL 2005's appeal, and will turn the already feverishly loved title into a true competitive tussle.
The game itself now features a new play-calling system which allows you to choose offensive and defensive face-off strategies every time the whistle blows. There's also an improved roster of dummy shots and tricks, including the chance to 'saucer' the puck away from the net and pass it back to a fellow offensive player, enabling you to score without warning. And, of course, if you're getting your head kicked in, you can call in assistance from a team-mate who'll either swipe in to break up the scuffle, or, fists flailing, will join you in the brawl.
Needless to say, the entire NHL line-up has been thoroughly updated to coincide with the actual leagues, and there are even fun additions such as the Free-4-All sessions that see four players fighting it out to score a golden puck. One goalie has to defend a single net against four guys all eager to put their slate over the line first.
Stuff like this is hardly imperative to the success of the game, but the more EA crams into every update of the franchise, the better. But it's Live that counts, and we could be looking at the beginning of ever-expanding things in that direction. Be warned though, the majority of NHL 2005 gamers online will be American and Canadian. You might get your ass whipped.
The standard annual update, except this time it's got Live. The world of ice hockey just got a lot more exciting.