NHL Eastside Hockey Manager
The Collyer brothers began programming computer games in their bedroom in the late 1980's and they produced their first game in 1991. That game was the wildly successful Championship Manager, or Football Manager. Risto Remes began programming hockey games in his bedroom in the early 1990's and released a freeware hockey management
simulation game that received a lot of critical acclaim. The Collyer brothers launched Sports Interactive in 1994 and eight years later asked Risto to join and make a hockey game. And then the magic began. The combination of the fan driven features that Sports Interactive has come to be known for in their Championship Manager (Football Manager) and a great hockey game designer yielded an accurate, fun to play hockey simulation for PC and Mac.
In this second iteration of the game, there are many more licensed leagues because of Sega's involvement. Sega has a dedicated licensing team that is able to go after more deals than Sports Interactive was on its own. Gamers act as general manager for one of more than 250 playable pro and semi-pro teams from a list of more than 3,000 teams and 20 playable leagues worldwide including the NHL, AHL, ECHL and Canadian Hockey League. Over the course of a multi-year game, players can switch leagues just like in real life. If you're got a favorite player, chances are he's in the game.
The goal of NHL EHM is to build a hockey universe and drop gamers in rather than building the world around the gamer; even if there were no gamer interaction the universe would continue undeterred. SI provides the universe of hockey and, as general manager of the team of your choice, the universe is your blank slate. Gamers can start as a manager in the minors and work their way up to the pros, then lead their team as they charge towards the Stanley Cup. Or gamers could start in the NHL and build their favorite team into an unbeatable dynasty.
This latest version includes all the latest player moves up to the end of August 2005 (SI are planning to issue a roster update on their website in late October), as well as the new NHL rules. Player statistics include last year when the NHL was "on break". Gamers will have to confront the salary cap head-on. The game benefits from much needed context sensitive floating help that appears when one hovers over an attribute or command.
In-game graphics include an improved zone based view (x's and o's on an oval rink), which the company tells me will become more ice and player based than zone based next year.
New features include a training camp where all players on a team must tryout and scrimmage to prepare for the season. Scouting has been improved so that information is incorporated from the International Scouting Service; there are more scouting reports and more types of scouting assignments so you can get the information you need. Gamers can manage through international tournaments, world championships, and more. The trade screen has been improved to display the current salary and projected salary under the cap as a result of the trade. Gamers can offer players around and see if anyone wants them.
Playing the game is an experience. It takes a little while to get used to the routine of getting the boys ready in practice, setting lines and strategies, and playing games, but it will become second nature. Gamers can decide to coach their team or not during games. A lot of information is provided about a game, the boxscore, goal snapshots, a play-by-play tactical report, shot charts.
The new NHL rules are in and yes, there is more scoring. And when Sports Interactive simulated a season it was Pittsburgh that walked away with the Cup.
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