Around this time every year a slew of new EA Sports titles hit the shelves pushing the previous year’s titles into the bargain bins. Of course this year is no different, but unlike most American males in their mid 20’s, I went for hockey over football. I became a huge hockey fan over these past two seasons, and when I heard that one of my favorite players was going to be featured on the cover of NHL 12, I couldn’t say no. This marks my first purchase of an annually released sports title, but is it worth it?
As you probably already guessed, NHL 12 is a hockey game. I can’t explain all of the rules because my hands would fall off before I could finish typing, but the basic point is to get the puck into the opposing team’s goal while keeping it out of yours. From what I’ve played of NHL 11, it seems like NHL 12 is continuing the process of making the core game more realistic. For example: momentum counts when it comes to hitting someone against the boards, and the puck doesn’t stay glued to the person’s stick. There are also a number of other tweaks such as the ability to knock someone into the benches, break a glass panel with a hit, and knock the goalie out of the crease.
The number of game modes in NHL 12 will seem daunting to a newcomer, but once you get familiar with the menus and the various modes it is not so bad. The spotlight seems to fall on the Ultimate Hockey League where you can put your own team together via a trading card interface. You get “pucks” for victories and various accomplishments, and spend them on booster packs which contain players, coaches and other cards that help boost your team. Be a Pro mode also returns, but from what I can tell it is pretty similar to the previous year’s pro mode. You make your own character, pick which position you want to play (offense, defense or goalie), pick your team (or go into the draft), and play through the season as one person. As you play you gain experience so your player can grow and get better. There is also the tried and true “just play” mode, which is self explanatory. These modes are very addicting and you can sink hours into them before you realize it, which can be dangerous.
There are other modes that are buried in the menus as well. These include modes such as GM mode where you play as the general manager of your favorite team and control everything from trades to recruiting, Winter Classic which is essentially another “just play” mode where you play in an outdoor arena, and Be a Legend mode which is unfortunately a bit of a letdown. Instead of recreating history and making new history as old pros, it just boils down to “Be a Pro God Mode”.
NHL 12 is crazy detailed when it comes to the graphics. The players I have seen close up so far look eerily similar to their real life counterparts, the stadiums are personalized for each team and the crowd isn’t just a duplicated texture map. There are a good amount of customization options when it comes to your custom player, including the equipment they use. I noticed a few hiccups when players ran into each other, and some of the textures on the uniforms stretch, but overall NHL 12 is a very nice game to look at.
The audio in this game mainly come from the announcers saying how good or bad your team is doing. It has to be pretty difficult to come up with lines that won’t wear thin after hours of playing, but so far I have only heard one duplicate line. That is pretty impressive, but I’m sure I will hear more. Other minor things like the players yelling to each other on the ice and custom soundtracks make the game more enjoyable. I laugh every time this plays when my pro scores a goal.
NHL 12 is leaving the arcade-like feel of previous games behind and is stepping into a more realistic style of game play. As I mentioned earlier, the physics have been tweaked and now everything from hitting another player to shooting the puck feels more fluid and realistic. The AI has been improved on both sides as well. You can’t skate into the opposing team’s zone by yourself unless you want the puck wrestled off of you by a couple defense men and I have not seen the infamous goaltender own goal yet, so that is a plus.
Since hockey is not a one man game you will have to depend on your teammates to an score goals. The AI on your team has been tweaked to the point where they now anticipate passes which makes for some exciting 2 on 1’s and breakaway opportunities. They also work together on plays and overall their communication is good. However, there are times where they seem to still have trouble passing to me when I am in position and wide open. In the end that’s only a minor complaint, and overall it is a lot easier to execute plays thanks to the improved AI.
If you are a newcomer to this series, NHL 12 might seem a little unforgiving on even the normal difficulty. You will find that players have no mercy, and that statement is even more relevant when you take your game online. Once you wrap your head around the controls and learn how to set yourself up on the ice, the game becomes much more manageable and you will find yourself scoring more goals. This will come a lot easier if you are already a hockey fan, but then again you probably wouldn’t be buying this if you didn’t like hockey.
Overall, NHL 12 offers up a very good experience for hockey fans. While it is not perfect, it continues the trend of taking steps in the right direction. You will have a lot to do with all of the game modes available to you, but even if you’re just interested in playing a few games every now and then as your favorite team you can do that too. If you already have NHL 11 you might want to hang onto that one, but if you haven’t purchased an NHL title in a while, or ever, this is a great one to get.
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Name: NHL 12
Available on: PlayStation 3, XBOX 360
Developed by: EA Canada
Published by: EA Sports
Release date: September 13, 2011
EG Score: 4 out of 5 / “Worth Buying / Worth Renting”