The NHL series continues to be the only game in town, but has that led to some complacency by EA Canada? Find out in our NHL 12 Review!
|Release Date||September 9, 2011|
|ESRB Rating||Everyone 10+|
Since NHL 93’, I’ve been playing hockey video games. I was only 5 years old when I received my first full copy of an NHL game which happened to be NHL 94’ so I know a thing or two about NHL hockey video games. Simply put, this year’s installment is the best yet.
Every year, I usually have my complaints about whichever iteration of NHL game that I’m playing but this year they really got the gameplay down. The hitting has been completely revamped the past two years with more emphasis on realism. The system relies on a player’s weight, speed, and position to be effective, gone are the days of knocking down everyone on the ice. In addition to that, your player can actually fall down with the opposing player if you really hit your opponent hard. If a player isn’t hit hard, they may stumble, fall to their knees or you may even fall down.
The next big feature of the game is a great one and that is goalie interaction. You have to be careful not to even run into the goalie as now; you will get a penalty for any kind of contact unless you get pushed in by your opponent. While this feature can be frustrating, you can score some timely goals if you get in the goalie’s way enough. The last big feature gameplay wise is the completely reworked puck physics; this is something that has put an entirely different feel to this year’s game. Players can miss rolling pucks, knuckle pucks can bounce off things and find their way into the net, and it just generally doesn’t feel as if the puck is stuck to you.
The AI has also been tweaked and has made the game a lot more enjoyable because of it. CPU players will dump the puck into an empty corner if they have no play, they’ll force players to the outside for poor shots on defense, and they will generally make the best play available. The AI goalie that in years past was largely unreliable makes a lot more saves and makes better decisions. There is still the occasional time where he throws out a puck at times where he shouldn’t without user input though. Finally though, your CPU teammates stay onside a lot easier which creates far fewer headaches
There are no new modes besides the Winter Classic which is just a tacked on experience but, there are some improvements to existing modes. Other reviewers may look at no new game modes as a negative however I beg to differ. This is an NHL hockey game everyone, you can only make so many modes based on an NHL game and EA has done a good job supporting the many that they have already implemented. Be a Pro introduces the ability to play 4 years in the CHL starting as a 16-year-old rookie but, users still have the ability to start in the NHL or only play 1 year in the CHL. Players are now given tasks that pertain to the game and each task completed gives bonus XP towards your player. The ability to sim to your next shift is a welcome one, no more waiting out every time you leave the ice. There is also the ability to break records set by the various legends in the game or the option to take a legend through a Be a Pro career in the Be a Legend mode.
In Be a GM, not too much has been changed and in my opinion, not that much needed to be, you get to control every aspect of your franchise from the contracts, to lines, to playing games. Retired numbers have made their way to the mode along with rookie contracts, and more realistic injuries. EASHL remains mostly the same however the one small change is that you have 5 different builds, one for each position and that you have to reach your legend card with a goalie and a player if you play both, they’re not combined. Ultimate Team introduces Ultimate Team 24/7 allowing you to play a user opponent even when they’re offline with another feature from this year’s game, lineups. Now you can set a lineup for each type of tournament you’re in so that you don’t have to waste time changing things every game you’re in.
The presentation is second to none in this game, it’s the little aesthetics that really make it complete. There are new camera cuts to influential players making great plays and the Jumbotron actually shows the score. The commentary remains largely the same and could use some more new lines added but it’s still very good. The new action tracker is the greatest addition in years. It allows you to scout shots, faceoffs, goals, penalties and more. Not only can you scout all these stats but you can view them mid-game, at intermission, any time which is helpful when you’re trying to strategize. Helmets and masks fly off on hard contact, glass shatters from hard shots or hits, players can be knocked into the benches, the crowd seems more intense, and the benches react to plays.
This is usually the place where I’d tell you what I didn’t like about this game but, I can’t find many faults with this game. Other than a pretty weak hockey soundtrack (however there are custom soundtracks), this game does almost everything right. There are tiny tweaks here and there but none of which I could mention have any effect on gameplay or fun factor. This game is so realistic and true to the NHL, the online play is immersive. I guess the one thing I can complain about is the EASHL that should have a lot more options than it does, it’s your team so you should be able to do anything with it and in short, you can’t.
NHL 12 is the definitive NHL hockey experience, there’s a reason 2K took a couple years off, you just can’t compete with the quality hockey game EA has put out. This is the best in the series and this is the one hockey game you should own. Period.
*I originally wrote this review in 2011 for the now-defunct The Paranoid Gamer.*