By Joseph Phung
Score: 9 out of 10
Reviewed on: Xbox 360 (also available for PlayStation 3)
The EA Sports NHL series is definitely on a roll. It won 12 Sports Game of the Year Awards by various gaming press for NHL 09 and are looking to claim the top spot once again with its latest release, NHL 10.
GAMEPLAY WINS CHAMPIONSHIPS
A few subtle gameplay additions have been implemented into NHL 10 to make the series even more realistic. One of those is the board play physics, which allows players to shield the puck from the opposition and kick pass the puck to their teammates. On the flip side, you can also pin opponents to the boards to slow them down from setting up a play. While board play has been done in other hockey games before, NHL 10 simply does it right and it was long overdue for the series to finally implement this.
Fighting is one area that hasn’t been done well in hockey video games, but NHL 10 looks to change that with its new fighting engine. When a fight is initiated, the camera goes to a first person view and you use the controller’s analogue sticks to dodge, tug and punch your way to victory. By winning the fight, your team will become less fatigued as they feel energized by the victory.
Any hockey player knows you don’t shoot the puck in the other team’s net after a whistle has been blown by the referee. Do that in NHL 10 and you’ll have players from the opposition getting in your face to shove you around or even start a fight. The new post-whistle action may not be a major addition, but it does help create the feeling that players do react realistically to your actions.
One area that needed to be improved from last year’s game was the weak goalie intelligence. Thankfully, NHL 10 features some superb goaltending as they now position themselves much better and react to shots more quickly. Also, goalies now swat pucks in mid-air and make desperation saves when necessary; when you see one during a game, you’ll want to save the replay and show it to your buddies.
While the gameplay in NHL 10 is great, there are a few issues with it. Even when you set the penalty meter to the maximum level, there’s still a lack of infractions called and that takes away from the experience. Faceoffs are another sore spot as they’re still too simple. Incorporating more realistic elements like faceoff tie-ups and warnings is what the series needs next season.
TAKEOVER BRIAN BURKE’S JOB
The new Be A GM mode replaces the Dynasty mode from previous years. The goal to win as many Stanley Cups in 25 seasons as your favourite team is still the same. What’s changed, though, is there’s a greater emphasis of performing GM tasks like signing free agents and making trades that’ll improve your franchise in the pro and minor levels.
You can track your GM accomplishments and view outstanding tasks in the GM Tracker menu. Once a task is completed, you’ll earn Task Points to use to upgrade your staff, which in turn will help your club improve. The GM reputation meter also appears in the menu and your rep as a GM will either go up or down depending on the moves you make. So, if you offer too many one-sided trades to other teams, they’ll be less inclined to deal with your club in the future.
Speaking about trades, there are too many players switching teams in Be A GM mode. The problem is CPU teams are always putting various players on the trading block. Just a few weeks into simulating a season, players like Brian Gionta and Kristian Huselius were already available, which wouldn’t happen in real life.
COMPETE AGAINST THE WORLD
Playing online matches is the way to go if you want to see how you fare against other NHL 10 players. Ranked matches and league play are available, but playing through the EA Sports Hockey League feels more rewarding. Introduced in last year’s game, the EASHL allows you to take your created player and join a team of other users to become the best in the world. In NHL 10, though, you can compete in a new EASHL season each month, so your team can always try to win it all.
The online menu is also where you can download the up-to-date rosters to keep the game up to date with all the latest transactions. It’s great EA Sports has been committed on providing plenty of roster updates throughout the season, which included all the rookies – such as John Tavares – and tweaked player ratings, too.
EA SPORTS SHOOTS AND SCORES
Once again, EA Sports delivers a top-notch hockey experience in NHL 10. The gameplay, which was already excellent, is even better with the addition of board-play physics. The Be A GM mode and online play definitely keeps gamers engaged and entertained. And the stellar visuals and player animations will impress any hockey fan, young or old. NHL 10 is the complete package.
Joseph Phung is a freelance writer based in Toronto. He’s also the founder of canadiangamingdeals.com