By Joseph Phung
Score: 9.5 out of 10
Reviewed on: Xbox 360 (also available for PlayStation 3)
There’s always a lot of excitement when EA Sports releases its latest hockey game as fans know they’re going to get a quality experience. With NHL 12, the development team at EA Canada has made its best game to date.
Size and strength matters
One of the main additions to NHL 12 is the Full Contact physics engine, which allows players to knock the opposition over the bench, shatter the glass with a shot or hit, and knock the net off its moorings.
Most importantly, though, the engine factors in a player’s size and physicality whenever they go in for a hit. So, you won’t see smaller players such as Mike Cammalleri knocking down big guys such as Zdeno Chara anymore. Another realistic touch: bodychecks don’t always cause players to fall, but may make them stumble or fall to the knees instead.
Net battles are another addition this year. Forwards will jostle with defensemen for position in front of the net in order to create screens and attempt to redirect shots from the point. Goalies can also be aggressive and may shove and slash opposing players who get in their crease. Agitate a goalie enough and he might even drop his glove and blocker to fight.
While goalies in NHL 12 are more interactive than ever before, they do let in some questionable goals and have trouble with wraparounds. The problem is goalies hug one side of the net for too long, leaving the opposite side open. The defense can also be too passive at times, with some players just standing around, allowing easy access towards the net. Hopefully, a downloadable tuner update will address these two issues.
From CHL to NHL Legend
The Be A Pro mode has some new improvements this year. For those unfamiliar with this mode, it allows you to create your own player as a Canadian League rookie and then work your way towards achieving a successful NHL career.
As a rookie, your player will get limited ice time, but will earn more playing time and experience points if you successfully complete tasks assigned by the coach, such as blocking shots and scoring goals. Once enough points are accumulated, you can upgrade your player’s attributes to improve their skills and rank.
As your player’s rank rises, you’ll also unlock nine legendary NHL players such as Wayne Gretzky, Chris Chelios and Patrick Roy for use in the new Be A Legend mode. In this mode, you’ll select a legend and add them to any current team to see if they can still dominate in today’s league.
While being able to play as your favourite NHL legend is great, perhaps in next year’s game they can take that concept one step further and allow you to relive some historic hockey moments from classic matchups.
Make the best team possible
The fun and addictive Hockey Ultimate Team mode is back in NHL 12. Once again, you’ll assemble your own fantasy team and match up against other teams online and offline in various tournaments.
When creating your team you’ll be given a starter pack, which includes cards that consist of real players from various leagues and power-ups to boost attributes for a few games. To get better cards, including NHL legends, you’ll have to purchase card packs with the currency you earn from playing games. You can also use the auction option to bid on cards you covet.
Managing your team’s chemistry to find out which players work well together and scouting your opponent will help when trying to win games in this mode.
The complete package
It’s a no-brainer, NHL 12 is absolutely worth getting. The gameplay still provides a top-notch simulation experience. To top it all off, there’s plenty of modes here to keep any hockey fan busy until next season rolls around.
Joseph Phung is a freelance writer based in Toronto. You can follow him on Twitter @TheGamer2400.