NHL 10 Review

EA’s NHL franchise is back for another season with NHL 10, and with it are the addition of hundreds of small gameplay refinements that improve this year’s outing. What results is the definitive hockey videogame, and one of the best sports games this generation. But do all the refinements make NHL 10 stand out enough from the already fantastic NHL 09?

The most noticeable, albeit minor, gameplay changes from NHL 09 to NHL 10 are first-person fighting, scrums along the boards, intimidation tactics, after-whistle action, and better atmosphere due to improved crowd reactions. All these features work great in the game and serve to make for a better, more realistic overall experience. But in reality, they just don’t change the overall gameplay that much from NHL 09. The “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mentality applies to NHL 10, which unfortunately means that a lot of the game went unchanged because last year’s was just so damn good. Winning 12 Sports Game of the Year awards last year doesn’t incite a lot of necessary changes.

The first-person fighting sounds awesome in theory, but in reality it feels clunky, forced and just not that much fun. The punches lack impact, and there also isn’t any facial bruising or bleeding, which will be a bummer to any hockey fan. The board play, intimidation tactics and after-whistle scrums make sense and work well from a strategic and gameplay standpoint. They break up the constant back-and-forth action that hockey videogames fall into, and offer another essential layer of realism and intensity to the game that was absent from previous years.

NHL 10

Unfortunately, familiar problems still make their way into the game along with all the great things. Your team’s AI can be hit or miss, with defensive men occasionally doing a poor job protecting the front of the net. Goalies on both sides will also sporadically venture too far from the net to make a play, resulting in some unnecessary goals. I also noticed an amusing glitch where two players on the opposite team would stand at arm’s length and continuously pass the puck back and forth about four or five times before finally shooting. These are all minor complaints when the overall AI is so good and does a majority of small things right.

The game’s slowdown, on the other hand, is not so forgivable. It doesn’t affect gameplay because it only became noticeable to me while I was navigating the menus, of all places. It boggles my mind that there is almost no slowdown whatsoever during gameplay, yet sometimes simple tasks like pausing and changing the camera angle would take upwards of thirty seconds. Installing the game to my hard drive didn’t solve the issue either.

So, does NHL 10 stand out enough from NHL 09?

Yes and no. Hockey fans who passed up last year’s offering have no reason not to buy and enjoy NHL 10. All the game’s features and gameplay mechanics add up to something that feels like hockey, and the attention to detail will put a smile on a hockey aficionado’s face. But those of you who purchased NHL 09 might want to hold off this year. While all the improvements do make for a better overall hockey game than last year, they’re not $60 worth of improvements. There’s nothing here that revolutionizes the game beyond what it was, and no, two slightly new modes don’t count, either.

So that leaves me at my biggest concern for the future of the NHL franchise — it’s so good at this point, I feel like there’s not much that can be done other than these minor yearly improvements that only serve to polish what is already a fantastic game. But that is for another discussion. For now, hockey fans can bask in the glory that is NHL 10.


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Author: Tyler Cameron View all posts by

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