Up until last year, hockey games hadn’t been revolutionized legitimately since the original releases almost 20 years ago. Fast forward to 2008, and we finally had the first excellent hockey game in years. The EA team decided that instead of classic controls, they would make the right analog stick control your stick in the game, and you’d use it for dekeing out opponents and aiming your shots correctly. It has a harsh learning curve, but gives you so much control that everything feels overwhelmingly rewarding when you pull it off. With the focus being on perfecting the controls in NHL 09, it allowed a few minor annoyances to make it into the final product. With NHL 2010, EA was looking to polish those issues, and push the envelope even further.
The biggest new feature is called “board play”. Now instead of being able to always escape down the sides, you can hold players up against the boards and fight for the puck like you’d see in the NHL. It makes the game feel much more authentic, and allows for better strategizing on both sides of the puck. In NHL 09, there was no real option for dumping the puck. If you threw it into the opponent’s zone and chased it, odds were they were already going to be on the offensive. In NHL 2010, this is now an offensive option. Once the puck is thrown into the opponent’s zone, you can fight for the puck along the boards and potentially take control. Fighting has also received a complete overhaul and is now done in the first-person perspective. Think the controls of the Fight Night franchise… only that it’s completely chaotic, because NHL fights are generally over before they start. Add these two big changes to all of the little tweaks, and the additions to NHL 2010 have added loads of authenticity.
There are still a ton of game modes to be found, with a few new ones. “Battle for the Cup” mode shows off the enhanced crowd animations and interactions, and you can still find all of the modes from NHL 2009. The online has been polished and received a bit of a change in the form of EA Sports Hockey League. You can gather a bunch of friends, and you are placed in monthly leagues and can compete with other people around the world. While the idea is great, it’s a bit annoying. Other teams won’t accept challenges most of the time and you just end up spending time in the lobby instead of ever playing a game. It was a big enough problem that I eventually just decided to stick to versus play, and ignore it altogether.
NHL 2010 isn’t a huge jump over last year’s version, but with a few additions and a good amount of polish, it is better and more than just an “upgrade” like most sports games tend to be. Unfortunately, hockey is an under-appreciated sport, and hopefully it doesn’t mean the wonderful effort found here will be under-appreciated as well. NHL 09 was quite the success for EA. Not only was it well received by fans, but it won several sports game of the year awards. NHL 2010 deserves even more praise, and not only is it the best sports game this year… it’s good enough to be mentioned with the best games of 2010, period.
+ You are a hockey fan. This is a very authentic experience and shouldn't be missed if you like hockey.
+ You are a fan of sports in general. Even if you don't find yourself following hockey, the video games are usually fun. Add this to the rewarding feeling that NHL 2010 gives you and it's sure to make great moments between friends.
+ You like good, polished games with original ideas. Even if neither of the above options apply to you, this game is good enough to maybe be fun anyways.
Don't Buy If:
- You really don't like sports.
- You don't like games with a learning curve. This game has a very harsh learning curve, but man is it rewarding. You can put on classic controls if needed, however.
Grade - A-