After a successful NHL 11, playing which I and many others spent numerous hours, EA Sports was met with a challenge. After getting fantastic reviews on most gaming review websites, how could they improve?
Somehow, they managed to do it.
The biggest worry that fans of sports series have is that a game will come along that feels and is too similar to the last year’s game, and NHL 12, which EA Sports released on September 13, is certainly not that.
The game boasted many gameplay changes including the new physics engine, live goaltenders, the action tracker and an overall more realistic look and feel.
The new physics engine is something that built off NHL 11; the idea was to make every check different. For example, when 6-foot-9 Zdeno Chara of the Boston Bruins checks a significantly smaller player, the expected result occurs; the smaller player collapses. Size was made a factor and for this gamers will applaud the developers. Although it really doesn’t seem to affect gameplay all that much, I noticed that it is there, and it makes the game seem more realistic. This realism is important to me. The fact that a player like 5-foot-10 Martin St. Louis can’t lay out a Zdeno Chara is noted, and it was an excellent addition.
The live goaltenders are a feature that fans have been asking for, and NHL 12 delivered. What this change means is the old style which ultimately had a force field around the goalie, is gone. Now, the goalie is just like any other player. He must now stand his ground in order to successfully stop shots. Another feature that branches off of this is the return of goalie fights. After a handful of goalies fought in the actual NHL, EA Sports decided that it was realistic enough to implement. The goalies can fight either players or other goalies. I don’t care all too much for the goalie fighting, really, because it is actually hard to initiate a goalie fight and even if it happens, it’s just 12 or so seconds of silliness. However, the live goaltenders are an addition that I am a huge fan of. They are able to make more dynamic saves, and it makes for a much tougher game.
The action tracker is something the developers implemented to make it seem more like a broadcast. In this feature, you can review every shot, every hit, save, goal, etc. Although this addition can easily go unnoticed, I actually am a big fan. After a few uses, it seems very reliable. (I admit that I used it several times to watch some of the spectacular goals I scored). However, I won’t be using it for strategy, and I’ll probably completely forget about it in the coming months, but it is still something cool for hardcore players.
The final new gameplay change was the overall more realistic look and feel. This somewhat goes hand and hand with the topics mentioned before, but there was also other changes that contributed to this. For example, players have much more fluent strides while skating, and the stick handling is much more dynamic. The puck is live, so it can roll and does not tie into the animations of the players. All of these work really well together. Players just want a realistic game, so when a game delivers, we are completely aware of that fact and we love it. NHL 12 feels excellent. It’s a lot different from NHL 11, but in the best way possible.
Along with these changes to gameplay, there were several new or improved game modes.
Be-A-Pro has never really been a favorite for fans. It seemed slow and disjointed and it didn’t flow as a game mode. In NHL 12, EA Sports attempted to fix this by adding tasks and letting you skip to your next shift. Unfortunately, it’s still slow. As hard as it is to criticize this game, the new Be-A-Pro just isn’t that fun. I may play it every once in a while, but it won’t be anything I’ll crave to play.
Winter Classic-The Winter Classic is a game mode that EA Sports made a huge deal of over the summer. The Winter Classic is an actual NHL event that takes place in an outdoor baseball field. It occurs on Jan. 1 every year.
This looks stellar. It’s very cool to see the snow falling down around the players and the towel spinning fans. When it comes up in my other game modes, I’ll be excited to play it; it’s a completely different experience. However, it won’t be a game mode that will be played over and over.
All in all, NHL 12 is a phenomenal follow up to a near perfect NHL 11. All the gameplay changes are excellent and most game modes are excellent. I can confidently give it a solid 9.5/10, and look forward to playing it for the coming year.