Howdy out there sports fans it’s Frank here again, finally saddling up my writing horse and taking it into some cold pasture.
Now I am a HUGE hockey fan! I have also been playing hockey for more than half my life and I can’t say I don’t still love both.
That being said, I don’t like EA’s monopoly on sport’s franchise games and it’s even more vexing when it’s actually true now that 2K games has been hung out to dry. It makes for very slim innovations each year, almost as bad as Pokemon’s shallow sequals. But, I usually take a few years off hockey games to give them time make a lot of improvements since the last one I bought, it’s also easier to not buy a 60 dollar game every year (For me). Now that all that negativity is out of the way let’s hit the ice.
Now the first thing you might notice is the graphics have taken a HUGE bump! The shadows, ice reflections, jerseys and small details have take a huge leap since 2011′s kind of flat clean graphics. The players faces actually look well shaded and textured and even the posts on the nets even have damage and rust near the bottoms (a very real thing that happens to all nets). It’s pretty, and I really feel immersed just like when I play MLB the Show, every detail has finally been added.
The trailer talks a lot about “Precision Skating Controls” and, yes they are better but you can’t reinvent the wheel with what was the strong core of the game the feeling of the weight and speed of skating around. They have added skating backward which is easily activating by a shoulder button, allowing you to poke check in reverse or put on some special moves in a breakaway. They also have included a simplified deke button, which is pretty cool.
ENGINE AND ELEMENTS:
The game has a completely redesigned physics engine which makes all the shooting and checking finally feel real. Skaters who take a big hit fall as a ‘rag doll’ meaning there’s no more reused animations from the previous games which makes hitting so much more satisfying as opponents go rolling down the ice or off the boards.
Now as soon as you notice the awesome hits you’re soon to find out about the “Enforcer System” lay a huge hit on the wrong guy, snow job a goalie or even shoot a puck after the whistle (yeah really) and you’re liable to become the target of direct and swift justice in the form of a fight. Hockey’s most strange and unwritten law system has finally been implemented and the first thing you’ll notice in the DEMO is the fights happen almost literally at the drop of a hat (if there was hats that is). The second thing you’ll likely to notice is the level of details of both persistent facial injuries as well as the depth of the fighting game engine. It’s definitely a fun diversion, as long as I don’t have to take 5 fights a period in the actual game.
NHL ’94 MODE:
There’s going to be a working version of the SNES/GENISIS classic NHL ’94 for you to play! That’s right! 90s hockey being my personal favorite era is a great inclusion, not to mention that it’s the year the Rangers (My favorite Team) won the Stanley Cup in the first time in 50 years.
In addition to the inclusion of this benchmark game there will also be a very interesting “NHL 94 MODE” were the game is changed over to a 3 button control scheme and the ice is blue and the music is 16 bit organs. I loved it, but I only played one game, and I have no idea how deep the game play will be, I would certainly love to set back rosters to those from 94 and then play a season or dynasty mode, as it is, it’s kind of a fun gimmick.
There are plenty of weird hiccups in the demo that HOPEFULLY will be resolved before the actual game is shipped out. Such as a bunch of strange issues where the background, camera or characters jerk around strangely or wiz by too fast, or when a fight occurs and the paths of the characters have to go through areas close to others those others are bumped out of the way awkwardly, which looks horribly fake and weird. The same sorts of pathing issues happen with the penalty boxes as well. Also all the players have the same visored helmets in the demo.
Other than those issues which will hopefully be resolved, by the time the game launches I would strongly recommend checking out the demo and the game when it drops September 10th!
See you on the ice!