Wednesday, October 14, 2009

NHL 10 Impressions (360)

Last year, I wrote that NHL 09, while it wasn't an entirely faithful simulation of hockey, was incredibly fun to play.

I followed our road to the Stanley Cup in Be-a-Pro mode in considerable detail in this space, and scoring the winning goal in overtime of game six of the Stanley Cup was, by far, my favorite gaming moment of the year (and one of my favorite gaming moments ever).

Given our experience with the 09 version, both Eli 8.2 and I were eagerly looking forward to NHL 10, and I'm happy to say that there are no disappointments to be found.

The short version: while still incredibly fun to play, NHL 10 is now a much more faithful simulation of hockey.

In other words, WIN.

Even better, it's more faithful in the most important ways. A few examples:
--board play has been completely reworked. It's now possible now to be pinned against the boards and kick the puck to a teammate, as well as pinning opponents against the boards and poking the puck loose. It looks absolutely fantastic, and it's a much more realistic representation of how different spaces on the ice are used--last year, the area near the boards was a super-highway for the offense, but no more.
--passing is no longer tape to tape. This made for very pretty hockey, but that's only rarely how real hockey is played. The ability to make passing less accurate, both for the CPU and Human player, produces a feel that is exponentially closer to watching a real game.
--goal variety has been greatly improved. Last year, most goals were "clean"--in other words, ripped right past the goalie. This year, there are a ton more goals on rebounds or loose pucks in front of the crease. Messy, "effort" goals are a huge part of hockey, and this is the first time I've ever seen them reflected properly in the NHL series.

With this version, I think the NHL series has become the apex sports game, even better than MLB: The Show and the NBA2K series. The gameplay is tight, the graphics and animation are phenomenal, the sound is outstanding, and the announcing and presentation are absolutely amazing.

One more note, and I've been waiting for years to write this. The crowds in sports games drive me INSANE because they are so incredibly stupid. It shouldn't be that difficult to make the crowd somewhat dynamic, but for decades we've seen nothing but canned animations that repeat endlessly, regardless of the situation.

So this year, when we scored our first goal at home and the crowd leapt to its feet, I got chills. Eli looked at me and shouted "THAT'S AWESOME!" and he was right. We watched the replay and it looked just like a real game.

Fans also pound on the glass when players get pinned against the boards, and they roar for big hits. They generally act like they're real, and man, it's wonderful.

We've played for about ten hours at this point, so I'm still fiddling with sliders (very detailed and very powerful this year), and maybe we'll come across something that's a problem, but so far, it's been an A+ experience.

Site Meter