Well with the start of the season right around the corner, I’m betting the PensBurgh boards light up. With that, there will once again be a incremental increase in the interest level of hockey. So with that being said, I think its time for a “customer review” of EA Sports NHL 10.
First let me start with a bit of back round on how EA does business for those of you who don’t know. EA is very much what I consider a lean business, What I mean by that is they will not release games onto platforms that do not show a significant profit margin. That brings us to virtually every single sports title released by EA. As of now, there is very limited support on the PC for any sports title. In fact to my knowledge NCAA 10, Madden 10, and NHL 10 are consol only entertainment apparatus’s. Sucks but so is life, why would you release a game for a platform when it doesn’t sell on that platform? On to the game.
As with NHL 09, upon initial start up, you are requested by renowned Penguin hater’s Gary Thorne and Bill Clement to create your own player. A quick tutorial on each aspect of the game then begins and once completed your “allowed access” to the main menu. Once this tutorial kicks off (for those of you who play or have played IRL), you are immediately taken with the level of detail from ice to seat, the uniforms are much more realistic (in comparison nhl 2k10 the unis look almost glassy in appearance). Shooting with the right stick can be a chore depending on what type of player you enjoy playing; the farther from top dead center on your right stick you go, the less accurate the shot. Most controls and actions are the same as the previous versions, with two marked exceptions.
First person fighting has got to be one of the baddest things I have ever seen (other then watching a you tube video where a guy who made homemade fire works blows himself up). The controls are self explanatory, right stick punches, quick punch after a jersey tug (down with the left stick) generates an uppercut, left trigger blocks, and double bumpers turtle and you loose the fight. It is no where near as easy to lay a whooping down on an opposing player, in fact I lost to gooch in the tutorial….twice…. Post whistle play is where you will get most of your scrums (this again is sweeter then lucy pinder) Throw a puck at the net after the whistle, and you get about three guys chasing you over the rink until you take the bait. This is absolutely hysterical and a very welcome addition.
The insertion of board play is a fantastic addition also. Getting into a scrum along the boards on defense can quickly shut down a forecheck and using while cycling the puck in the offensive zone can draw two or three defenders, thus leaving a guy somewhere wide open. Getting the puck there can be tricky, as in real life, kick the puck out of the boards in a scrum isn’t the most accurate thing in the world generating a lot of turnovers, but once you get the hang of it some of your best offensive chances will result from board play.
Once again, GM mode continues to up the bar. The sheer volume of stuff that needs accomplished makes you wonder if Ray Shero has enlisted his entire family to help support him on his daily functions.
Now the bad stuff, most of the below isn’t a game killer but it would be nice to see some ai tweaks in the future. For one the AI can be down right retarded. Nothing says puck movement like a defenseman and a winger passing the puck back and forth for three minutes or more, especially when the two in question are no more then 5 feet apart. Also in Be A Pro mode, I have notice that it is rare to see my center or winger drive the net, this may be a result of the line I’m on, or strategy (pronounced strategery) by head cheese coach guy. The stats have been adjusted quite a bit, it is much more difficult to get credited for a hit in this version, where as in 09, if you looked at a guy funny you got credit. We went from one extreme to the other here, a nice balance in the middle would be nice. Finally I’m not a big fan of all the “unlockables” in the game. There are all these skill boost items that you can unlock by performing certain tasks in the game. But if you don’t want to do all that you can drop some real coin to buy Microsoft points to unlock the items (uber lame). Nothing says stud goal scoring power forward like skates with blue flames on them, urban camo gloves, and a stick with red flames all over it. If some of these designs were more customizable then cool, but for the hockey purist such as myself this is a lame attempt to get those who aren’t normally interested in the sport and are general puck hog’s in the game more into the game, if that makes sense.
Overall NHL 10 gets a 4 out of 5 from me. The revamped game play, increased realism, and shear volume of stuff to do out weigh the downers. However it’s those same downers mentioned above that keep this one from being the best hockey game in history.