The latest hockey offering from EA Sports looks just about the same as last year’s edition, but the inside workings of this beast are completely fine tuned and reworked. The team at EA Canada could have easily spent their time tweaking the presentation or changing a few items in the cosmetic area of the game, but they instead stayed dedicated to what the fans wanted, a tuned tweaking to what has become known as one of the most pure sports experiences in all of video games.
The authentic gameplay of NHL 09 has become even more similar to a real life NHL game in NHL 10. Developers claimed during production that over 200 gameplay changes were made over the course of development. Whether this is true or not is irrelevant, for the core gameplay of NHL 10 feels completely more true to the sport of hockey and is nearly an impeccable product.
Because of the preciseness of the actual sport, the NHL video games, for the time being, will probably never be able to get it 100% right. You’re still going to find the occasional hiccup in gameplay, the rare but still beyond stupid lapse by the goalie, and a few very strange bounces of the puck. What’s most important is that when EA said they would fix the glitch goals cheesers abused online, they did. They followed up on important promises like the reduction of cheap goals and many others fallacies in last year’s game that all add to the raising of the level of gameplay to be as close to the real thing as possible.
And while true hockey fans and purists will find NHL 10 to be an addictive simulation of the sport they love, casual fans might struggle to learn the ropes. The game involves strategy like no other sports game has before, and the control scheme might be one of the trickiest we’ve seen yet. Passing takes the right touch from the trigger finger and shooting requires spot-on aim. If you don’t know hockey, you might find yourself a bit out of the water. The learning curve is large, one a veteran might have to relearn for the new year, but can be at least partially mastered by anyone who concentrates and puts their mind to it.
And with that comes the reward. NHL 10 is the most realistic sports video game I’ve ever played, a title previously held by last years game. The new title only ups the ante, with more realistic player animations, including goalies that make miraculous saves not seen in video games before, and a new board play feature, that while sometimes feels almost random at outcome, is a beautiful implemented feature for hardcore hockey fans to really allow them to achieve a supreme forecheck on their opponent.
The additions didn’t only come on the ice, as EA reworked and added new features off the ice too. Be a GM mode improves on what was previously known as the franchise mode. More control is given to the player as the general manager of the team, and there’s more to control. Computer AI has been upped significantly in the trade department. No longer will struggling teams trade away young talent for an aging veteran simply because their ratings are similar. Make an offer like that in NHL 10 and you’ll find that your GM will begin to lose respect amongst his colleagues.
Returning for another year is the EA Sports Hockey League, a creation that forever changed sports gaming when it was introduced last year. The EASHL allows you to create a player, be it yourself or a fictional character, and start a club of your own or join one that has already been created. As you control just your single character, the EASHL allows for up to six players to be active in one game on each team, making for deep and absolutely rewarding gameplay. It appears EA has taken care of all of last years glitch goals, which means no more passes that goes through two defensemen, right past the goalie who stands motionless in his crease, and to the opponent’s teammate who’s waiting on the other side for an easy tap in.
Whether you have NHL 09 or not isn’t the main question to ask yourself when considering NHL 10. What really needs to be asked is whether or not you played that game at an unstopping pace. If you did, NHL 10 is a most worthy investment for the updated authentic gameplay on its own, forget about the bevy of game modes that will leave you wondering which to play first. Those unfamiliar with the NHL series shouldn’t be turned away at the high level of learning or competitive nature this game brings, for the lower difficulty levels and great tutorials make great help in understanding the nature of the game.
The developers behind NHL 10 continue to disprove the age old belief that sports games are simply recycled and slightly tweaked versions every year. This game is not simply a roster update with a cosmetic buffer and a few new game modes, it’s a finely tuned piece of dedicated work, and the greatest sports game of all time.