27th September 2011 - EA have been releasing their hockey games since way back in 1991, ah the good old days! This year we have their new iteration NHL 12. With the usual “new” features and additions touted to be added to the annual update of the game, let’s see if EA Sports hit the back of the net this year.
Not having played a full NHL game for a couple of years, I was a little worried that I would find the new control scheme too hard to get used to. You see I am used to playing the old style NHL games with the face buttons as your primary controls rather than the two analogue sticks controlling a large percentage of what you do. However, what I discovered was the best NHL game I have ever played. The amount of control you have and the amount of cool things you can do is just amazing. Obviously no sports game can truly re-create the feeling of actually being a pro player at the specified sport, but in terms of realism in a video game, NHL 12 is the closest thing you will experience to the real thing, this year at least.
The improved physics have a lot to do with NHL 12 feeling so authentic. New touches that have been added are that players now have the ability to hit the goalies and vice versa and goalies are, for the first time with the current game engine which was actually introduced way back in NHL 07 able to fight players and each other. The improved physics also allow for more realistic hits with helmets coming off (you get an achievement for doing this!), players being able to be hit into the bench (yet another achievement! Lol), you can do knuckleball shots, shatter the rinks glass and the puck appears to move more realistically than before.
Players also don't as easily lose total balance if they're hit as with the previous iterations as when a player is hit they might use their hands or stumble to their knees to regain balance rather than fall flat on their face.
Other than just “playing” a game of hockey in season mode, there is also a plethora of other modes to dwindle away plenty of your time. There is the Be a Pro mode, the Be a GM mode The Be a GM and the Be a Legend mode. The Be a GM option is the franchise mode that you find in most sports games. However NHL 12 lets you do more than most sports games out there. With meta games for training scouts, coaches, and players, you get real, measurable results for your time spent off the ice. Of course you can just play through the schedule if you want but it allows for those wanting to delve far deeper into the game the ability to do so.
You can also play in the 2011 NHL Winter Classic at Pittsburgh's Heinz Field with fans donning Winter Classic gear. For the first time ever, NHL legends are included in the game and are fully functional in any modes. The legends are Ray Bourque, Chris Chellos, Steve Tzerman, Patrick Roy, Jeremy Roenick, Gordie Howe, Mario Lemieux, Börje Salming and of course Wayne Gretzky! A "Legends" team is included in the game as part of the legends feature.
NHL 12 includes seven professional leagues: the National Hockey League (NHL), American Hockey League (AHL), Czech Extraliga, SM-liiga, Deutsche Eishockey Liga (DEL), Elitserien (SEL), and National League A (NLA). The game also includes the Canadian Hockey League, which comprises the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL), Ontario Hockey League (OHL), and Western Hockey League (WHL).
All these other features and the huge amount of different leagues and therefore teams are great and all and if you liked the Be a Pro mode before you will like it even more as it has been improved, like all things seem to from year to year. However, to be honest, the core of the game is playing the game of hockey with the NHL teams and really the other modes did nothing for me. The Be a Pro mode in NHL seems to work better than the one in FIFA, whether that be due to the closeness of hockey in comparison to soccer depends on your taste I guess, but for me the actual core game plays so well the other modes are really just tacked on additions not worth your time. Get in there and play a full season of the normal game and try and lift that Stanley Cup, now that is where the fun is. And of course there is the online mode, which is awesome for taking on people from around the world and showing your skills. The one thing that seems to ruin the online experience in a lot of games, especially for us poor souls here in Australia is the dreaded lag. I am happy to say that the lag issue seems to be dealt with pretty well in NHL 12 as when I tried the online mode I was put into a match against an opponent who was in Canada. To my surprise we were able to get through the whole game with no noticeable lag, although I got thumped!
The graphics in NHL 12 seem to be almost identical to last year, from what I have seen of NHL 11 anyway, but as I haven’t played a NHL game for a few years the graphics in NHL 12 seemed very polished. It is hard to make a sports game where the action far away so that you can see everything look amazing. Those expecting graphics like Uncharted or Gears of War will be disappointed. The animation variety is the awesome part of NHL 12 as they look very realistic and varied.
The sound is what you’d expect from a sports game. The play-by-play commentary is okay and keeps up with the play well, but it isn’t as good as in FIFA or the NBA2K series. The sound effects do the job and the musical score suits the game well.
With all the modes on offer and the quality of how the game plays, NHL 12 is more than worth the entry price.
If you are a fan of sports games or a fan of the NHL, you owe it to yourself to get NHL 12 and that’s all there is to it.
+ Gameplay is brilliant
+ Variety of modes
- Some modes are useless, at least in my opinion
- Graphics not as updated as some may have hoped for
- Sound isn’t that impressive as other sports games
Reviewed and Written By Craig Cirillo