Thursday, November 5, 2009

Video Games: NHL 10 Review

You'll have to see my NHL 09 review to get half the story, because the mechanics and game engine remain the same. And that's not a bad thing because NHL 09 was the best hockey game ever created. This year, EA Sports decided to concentrate on updating and adding a few new features, so that's what I'll look at.

1. Boardplay - This takes some getting used to. To make the game more realistic, you can now pin guys into the board and struggle for control of the puck. This means that the old way of doing (plowing into them with huge body checks against the boards) has largely been done away with. In many cases, if you go full speed into a guy on the boards, it'll just be a glancing check. They want you to pin them and fight for the puck. I thought it would slow down gameplay, but it really doesn't. It makes cycling a more important aspect of the game, which I'm all far. By and large, a welcome upgrade.

2. Fighting - One of the sore spots of NHL 09 was the fighting. This year, they revamped it and developed a first-person fighting system. Guess what... it also stinks. You have to dodge, aim your punches, block, pull their heads down, so it's pretty strategic. But still, fights are over way to fast and I'm just not a fan of the first person view. The only cool thing is that when your guys loses, he gets a black eye for a game or two.

3. Music - Hands down my favorite new feature, the custom music option allows you to use music from the PS3 hard drive. You can play these playlists while navigating the main menus (hello Backspacer), but the real fun is during the game. You can set specific songs for certain in-game events, customize songs for specific teams, or easily set a song or playlist for every arena in the league. For me personally, my Pens come out to Thunderstruck. Bang on the Drum plays when I score goals (as a nod to disgraced Pen, Jaromir Jagr). The Jaws theme comes on when we get a Power Play. I even have annoying arena songs like this and this and this to play during stoppages in play. The only drawback is that songs start from the beginning, so if you want a specific section to play, you need to crop the song before loading it to the playlist.

4. The Crowd - Never before has a hockey accurately captured the emotion from the crowd when the home team scores. Never ever. In fact, I can't think of any sports game that has accomplished that. I enjoyed the NCAA games where the screen shakes from the noise of the home crowd, but usually in hockey and football games, you see low quality crowd (most of them duplicates) woodenly stand up. It sucks.... but not anymore. In NHL 10, when the home team scores, the crowd roars, everyone jumps to their feet, and the clones are less noticeable. It's little things like this that maybe aren't necessary in a hockey game, but when they are done right, the game is sooooooooo much better.

Most everything else that matters (create-a-player, gameplay mechanics, play-by-play, etc.) remains that same. The result is once again the greatest NHL game of all time.


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