Every now and then, a game comes out of nowhere and surprises us. Sometimes, as with Far Cry and Galactic Civilizations, you can feel it coming – it looks good, or there’s some independent press hype, or even a demo released during QuakeCon takes the world by storm. Other times, like with NHL Eastside Hockey Manager, you have absolutely no clue until the gold is installed on your hard drive and you find that you cannot account for the past four days of your life.
To give you some background, picture this: I’m sitting at home playing my brand-new Xbox 360 and a half dozen different games for a big feature we have coming up. A package arrives at the door, I open it and see two games for the PC, NHL Eastside Hockey Manager 2005 and Worldwide Soccer Manager 2006. Being the Canadian that I am, I reluctantly give up the 360 and install, of course, the hockey game on the PC. The back of the box looks remarkably bleak, no 3D, no high-res graphics – heck, no way to actually play the game. Oh well, I was always a fan of managing in Sega’s NHL 2K series.
I fumble around with the interface which, although it is competent, goes about matters in non-standard ways and is generally overwhelmed by the raw amount of options, data and inputs a player can give. What am I doing, playing a game that’s stuck at 1024x768 on my shiny new Dell 2001FP? Oh well, maybe I can trade for Alexander Ovechkin, Eric Staal or Sidney Crosby for some first-round draft picks. What? Denied? What’s this game doing – NHL 2K6 would be all over that like butter on toast!
At about 7AM, with the pre-dawn glow peeking over the horizon, I look at the lackluster record my Oilers have managed so far this season – 26-37-3. I cleared the roster of some dead weight to free up cap space, and I picked up Mats Sundin on the cheap after the Leafs dumped his bloated salary. However, I’d also totally botched coaching, and had to pick up almost as much garbage as I’d dumped, in order to fill in holes left by injuries. Worst of all, many of these recent pickups proved to be impossible to dispose of in trades and no one bit when they were on waivers. Clearly, this is not your father’s Buick, or his hockey management sim. The management depth that EHM 2005 offers is nothing short of the legendary capabilities of Football Manager – which should come as no surprise to those who know both games were developed by the same company.