EA Sports scores with NHL 12

The common argument when reviewing sports video games is that the titles provide the same thing every year, only with updated rosters.

While this is true, diving deeper into the game and looking at the little things that have been tweaked is where you find the subtle nuances which make NHL 12 from EA Sports a whopping success.

Focusing on game-play and features, here is a review of the hockey’s worldwide best-seller available on Xbox 360 and Playstation 3.

Gameplay

Controls are the same as they have been for years, and they still rock. For those new to the game, this basically means that the left analog stick controls where your player will move on the ice and the right analog controls your players stick.

While navigating skaters around the playing surface, it’s obvious that loads of work went into fine-tuning the physics and graphics of NHL 12. Players travel so realistically that it makes even last year’s NHL 11 seem prehistoric.

Noticeably pickier than its predecessors, passing in NHL 12 requires pinpoint accuracy. This new feature will call for a slight adjustment for seasoned players, but may be frustrating to first-time users.

If a pass is guided with poor aim, you could end up mistakenly icing the puck or causing a turnover. It makes the game harder, but also simulates real hockey.

Another new aspect of realism is that goals are more likely to go in if there is traffic in front of the net.

In the past, point shots often ricocheted off of players and into the corners.

Now pucks change trajectory with slighter variation, going through screens and allowing for a lot more quality scoring chances on unsuspecting goaltenders.

For the fans of Don Cherry’s Rock ’Em Sock ’Em videos, you’re going to like the fact that you can crash the net and, should you feel especially aggressive, get into goalie fights.

More hard-hitting features include glass-shattering bodychecks and the ability to send a player over the boards and into the bench with a big hit.

Lastly, being able to score on an empty net from the defensive side of centre ice is actually feasible in NHL 12.

In earlier versions, clearing attempts often seemed magnetized to the glass for some reason, but now shooting a puck into the empty net from your own end is as easy as it sounds.

Features

A key trait included in this year’s title is the fact that you can unlock, yes I said unlock, NHL legends and put them on your favourite team in “Be A Legend” mode.

Starting as Jeremy Roenick, you can work your way up a list of phenoms including Chris Chelios, Borje Salming, Steve Yzerman, Ray Bourque, Patrick Roy, Gordie Howe, Mario Lemieux and, the Great One himself, Wayne Gretzky.

To unlock the greats you must reach performance milestones within the “Be A Legend” section of the game.

After a huge marketing campaign hyping the fact that you can use NHL legends, the reality in which you have to unlock them is quite disappointing.

Also, I would’ve liked to see Bobby Orr, Mark Messier and Joe Sakic included as legends, but I digress.

“Be A Pro” mode is back this year where, starting at the CHL, AHL or NHL level, you can build the career of a custom player by climbing the ranks in hockey’s hierarchy.

Responsible for controlling your player exclusively, at ice-level, this option offers a different look for those tired of standard game-play.

For the first time ever female characters can be made in the custom player sections and included in “Be A Pro” mode.

The groundbreaking addition was made possible thanks to a 14-year-old girl from Buffalo, N.Y., named Lexi Peters, who wrote EA representing the voices of all girls frustrated by the lack of female inclusion.

Pittsburgh’s Heinz Field is a newly offered setting for games when feeling the need to get your Winter Classic fix. Any teams can suit up and compete on a dark and snowy football stadium, a feature that at the very least is really cool.

Overall, NHL 12 is a whopping success for the EA Sports hockey franchise.

With improved graphics and realism, the title offers the most authentic hockey experience gamers have ever seen. Though maybe initially difficult for beginners, there are countless options to choose from in order to polish your skills.

Through the array of new features and visual improvements, coupled with replay ability that comes naturally to sports games, NHL 12 provides an excellent option for gamers this fall.

If rated out of 10, this game deserves a solid nine.