By Joseph Phung
Score: 8.5 out of 10
Reviewed on: Xbox 360 (also available for PlayStation 3 and Nintendo Wii)
2K Sports’ NHL 2K10 and cover boy, Alex Ovechkin, have something in common: they both came up empty-handed this year in trying to win the championship. But not all is lost, as NHL 2K10 has made some strides this season.
Score like a sniper
Those who like their hockey with plenty of goals and highlight-reel dekes will enjoy NHL 2K10. When playing on the game’s default difficulty, you might find yourself scoring as easily as Ovechkin does thanks in part to the new ‘Ovi Dekes.’ By holding the controller’s left bumper button and flicking the right analogue stick in one of four directions, the player you’re controlling will execute a contextual move based on the angle towards the goalie. Skilled players like Steven Stamkos will have more dekes available compared to a player like Todd Fedoruk, for example.
Stumble shots have been added to the game, so even if the player you’re controlling has been hit or knocked off balance, a shot attempt can still be made, but there’s no guarantee it’ll make it to the net. Again, skilled players have a better chance of actually scoring on a stumble shot, however that’s still rare to see in the game or in real life.
Even though it might be easy to score goals in the game, NHL 2K10 actually creates a decent game of hockey. The opposition cycles the puck well and will use their bodies and sticks to attempt to gain possession of the puck. Gamers who want more of a simulation experience should definitely ramp up the difficulty or even tweak the various gameplay sliders, as the accurate passing and big hits need to be toned down a bit.
Another problem is the goaltending can be suspect at times. Goalies don’t position themselves that well and have the tendency to go down early, leading to some easy goals. On top of that, the goalie animations are still the same from the last few years, making the movements feel clunky. Hopefully all of this will be improved in the future.
Bringing back the Hartford Whalers
Hockey fans who enjoy creating their own fantasy league will like what NHL 2K10 offers. The robust ‘Create Team’ feature allows you to customize your own team from scratch. Everything from team information to the colors of various accessories can be edited. To make it easier, you can take any current NHL team jersey and modify it to your liking. Old-school fans will also appreciate that several classic NHL team logos can be used on any custom team, so here’s your chance to bring the Hartford Whalers, Winnipeg Jets and Quebec Nordiques back to present day.
Once a team is created, you can actually bring them into the game’s ‘Franchise Mode’ to replace any current NHL club. You also have the option of customizing the league, so you can change the divisions around and move a team such as the Toronto Maple Leafs back into the Western Conference, if so desired.
The Franchise Mode is similar to previous incarnations, putting you in control of your favorite team to win as many Stanley Cups as possible. It’s good that a lot of the major issues from last year have been fixed, like the absurd trade offers and screen freeze-ups. While the Franchise Mode may not be in-depth, it does get the job done.
NHL 2K10 has some intriguing online features this year. Any game in your Franchise Mode can be played online, so you’ll be able to play against a real person and not just the AI. Another nice touch is having the option of uploading scores and stats onto the 2K Sports servers from any Franchise game played, allowing other fans to read about it.
Just like in other 2K Sports titles, the 2K ‘Share’ feature has been implemented here, too. It’s basically where users can upload or download custom rosters, created players and gameplay sliders into the game. There’s a lot of good content the community fanbase has worked on, so it’s worth a look.
The usual online play modes, like ranked matches and joining a league, are still there. What’s new, though, is the ‘My Team’ mode, which allows you to take your created team and have other users join it. Once there are enough players, you can compete against other teams online to battle it out and see who reaches top spot on the leaderboard.
Progress being made
Overall, 2K Sports did a good job with NHL 2K10. The gameplay is fun and there are quite a few options available, both offline and online. The game’s visuals and presentation are done very well, too, especially the unique arena intros for every team. Unfortunately, NHL 2K10 is still playing catch-up with EA Sports’ NHL 10. Knowing this, 2K Sports announced a few months ago it will be putting the Xbox 360 and PS3 versions of the series on hiatus for 2011 in order to come back stronger on those platforms in 2012. However, the Nintendo Wii version of NHL 2K11 remains unaffected by this.
Joseph Phung is a freelance writer based in Toronto. He’s also the founder of Canadiangamingdeals.com.