The temperature is dropping and the leaves are starting to fall from the trees: it must be the best time of the year, hockey season! Needless to say EA has brought us another installment of its NHL series. There are many noticeable improvements: mainly the benches aren't just background anymore with two full teams (including backup goalies) actively taking part in the game by handing new sticks, calling for line changes and acting like real hockey players do. There are many new animations and some minor gameplay tweaks. You can actually knock the nets off now and glass can be broken, but these are features that should have come years ago. There are more detailed stats and replays available but unfortunately these are NOT available to view once the game is over. Earth to EA: this is not the SNES or Genesis and we can store very large amounts of data on our systems!
Yes, as is typical of EA sports games this one fails in its quest to win the Stanley Cup. Most of the relatively minor annoyances continue from previous seasons including:
- Only one of the four (or three) officials is present on the ice.
- Arenas are always full even though many leagues (like many AHL teams) play in front of cavernous and nearly empty buildings. While not as noticeable in the NHL there are still differences between crowds, both by size and noise.
- Excellent attention to detail but minor typos are STILL not fixed (Eagles is still spelled Aegles.) Given the budgets of these games this is unacceptable.
- Just like every other PS3 EA NHL game no matter what speed you set the clock it slows down to real time in the final 10 seconds of the first two periods, final minute of the third period and the final two minutes (!?) of overtime. This wouldn't be so bad if it could be turned off.
- Like NHL 11, the computer automatically pulls your goalie, resulting in many cheap goals and lost chances at tying a game up late. Of course, you can't turn this "feature" off. Who asked for this?
- Games are generally close and exciting but seem to get artificially close at times. When I get a good lead, the CPU usually gets an easy goal or two while simultaneously getting superman to play goalie. It doesn't work the other way though: I've also had a situation where the first 6 shots went in my net. Ridiculous!
Overall, this game is still very good but just like last year there are too many small problems to give this an A+. The series is still great but is starting to slip a bit given the near monopoly EA has. Score B+