For a few years now I have been writing NHL reviews and expressing my gratitude to EA for developing such a premier sports game. No matter what sports video game you pick up these days you can’t help to admit that these games are just getting too real. Every year people complain about not enough change in revolving sports games but if you sit back and look at what you’re playing it sure does blur the line between a video game and watching the professionals on television. With hockey season right around the corner already it’s time to break out the sticks and lace up your skates because NHL 12 once again delivers a highly powered hockey game that continues to win awards; this year should be no different.
Right from the start, EA throws you a curveball, or should I say hip check. When you fire up the game you’re placed right into the Winter Classic, and you either have the option to play it or quit. The presentation of this event is absolutely amazing. EA really did a nice job putting this together. The game takes place at Heinz Field, which was last year’s venue, between the Penguins and Capitals. However, you do have the option to replay last year’s Winter Classic or use custom teams for the match-up. When you first enter the game, it displays both teams walking out side by side with the flames blasting on either side of the walkway. Just as it would in the actual Winter Classic.
This is just the start of NHL 12 and you haven’t even experienced what the game really has to offer yet. EA really went all out with this and represented the exact scenery of the Winter Classic. Fans also have gloves and scarfs on to add to the actions along with the coaches in their leather jackets and Fedora’s. With the snow falling the entire game, it really puts you in the players skates, and makes you feel as if you are really there.
Anyone familiar with previous NHL games will be reacquainted with EA’s real time physics engine and new to this year, dynamic goalies. About two years ago, EA added puck physics to the gameplay. They also made their contact engine fully physics based which no longer would allow you to see canned animations based on hitting and contact during the game. The rink is fully live, and for the first time, even the goalies. Within my first match my goalie throw down his pads and went at it with one of the opposing players. Not a good strategy but very cool.
As for the puck physics, in the past years, the puck would always seem to be glued to your stick and never actually fall off. This year, the puck is fully live, and can even roll on edge when following through with a slap shot or wrist shot. Rebounds will bounce out and cause mad scrambles in the crease, although, don’t get to close to the goalie or you may be sitting two minutes for goaltender interference. Both the added puck and contact physics makes this game play and feel much more realistic. Speaking of realistic, you are now able to body check you opponent throw the glass shattering the other teams hopes of winning and surprisingly enough, player now lose their helmets. I was shocked when I hit a player so hard that his helmet came flying off leaving me with a huge smile on my face and an achievement to go along with it. Solid additions that make this game that much more enjoyable.
As always, NHL 12 returns with all your favorite game modes including Be A Pro and Be A GM but I would have to say the most exciting this year is the return of Be A Legend mode. This year Be A Legend mode packs in nine serious NHL legends. Those legends include Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, Gordie Howe, Patrick Roy, Ray Bourque, Steven Yzerman, Borje Salming, Chris Chelios, and Jeremy Roenick.
Each Legend must be unlocked by completing a certain task in order to allow you to use them. The requirements for each legend are primarily based off of your Be A Pro performance tracker. Legends can be placed on any team within the NHL and you have the ability to relive their NHL careers.
The fact that you can skate along side current players with past legends is purely a lot of fun. But if you want to keep your teams true all-stars, EA has also included an NHL Legends team. The team is a mixture of all nine legends along with some current NHL superstars. The fact that you have current talent mixed with past talent is pretty much unstoppable for any opponent.
Once again, besides the best game of hockey around, you’ll find plenty of modes to keep you busy during the upcoming hockey season and long after. Probably one of the most played modes on this game, the EA Sports Hockey League. This is a great multiplayer mode where you can team up with friends and take on other teams from around the world. A fun aspect this year is that you are now able to scout your opponents. On the pause menu it will list player scouting as an option and from there you can view all of the players stats along with their performance tracker grades. This will help you get a feel for your opponents before actually playing against them. Although there wasn’t much improvement to EA Sports Hockey League it’s the minor changes that count.
In the end, EA Sports as done it again. They have taken a perfect recipe and made it even better with the art of presentations and added changes through the game. I would fully recommend this to anyone who has never played the EA NHL series before or even the hardcore hockey junkie. They made drastic improvements to their physics engine which makes each game much more realistic, the new puck physics are a treat and dynamic goalies make for a great time. The only think I could say is stop reading and start playing. Go out and get your copy now.
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