It’s another year and that means another videogame iteration for every major sport — especially the wave of titles that hit around this time of the year. NHL 12 has hit store shelves and it has brought some major and subtle changes. Fans of NHL 11 will surely notice several changes in this year’s version, and those new to the series will learn to appreciate how much NHL 12 has to offer. If you’re in any way, shape or form a hockey fan, you can’t go wrong with EA Canada’s NHL 12.
NHL 12 brings forth new changes that make the entire experience more realistic. The battling for the puck near the goal has brought a substantial change, especially since it’s usually the height of intensity when watching hockey on television. With the retooling and balancing changes between defense and offense, scrambling near the net with the congestion all the players has never been more engaging. Screening the goalie also merits those who use the technique correctly, and this is what you’re going to want to do, because the goalie is much more aware of the puck this time around. These changes add a whole new dynamic to an already deep experience.
Another change that is more novelty than a gameplay changer is the inclusion of the setting for the 2011 Winter Classic — Heinz Field. The inclusion of this outdoor setting is definitely a welcome addition to the NHL series, and even more so for those who were getting just a bit claustrophobic from the constant scenery of indoor arenas. Outdoors and snowing? It doesn’t get any more epic than that. A new mode called Be A Legend also makes its debut in NHL 12, and it allows you to play as some of NHL’s greatest players. Consider this the hockey version of what they have been doing with the NBA games lately, and it’s certainly something longtime fans of the sport will appreciate.
On top of the new is the return of pretty much everything that has been seen before, and that includes season and playoff modes, Be A Pro, Be A GM and, who can forget, online play. You put all this together and what you get is a game that should satisfy everyone who would be remotely interested in playing a hockey game. Casual fans will be more inclined to play season and playoff modes, while more veteran players and fans would want to explore every facet of the game. I believe a mode like Be A GM Mode is for the most hardcore of the hardcore. Only these folks would get excited about managing a team rather than playing something like Season Mode, because they actually know what they are doing. Signing players, making deals and scouting talent, while I see offers its unique style of fun, may not be for everyone.
Are you a person that wants to play a quick game? You can jump right in. How about the deep immersive experience of building a character from the ground up? There’s more than one mode for that this year. And how about taking your skills to face off against the world? You see where I’m going with this. There is so much to be done here, and I soon realized why this game came with a 17-page review guide to breakdown of all its features.
Graphically, NHL 12 looks really good, but it has not changed much from previous titles, which is still a good thing. Why change something that isn’t broke? I’m a big Winter Olympics watcher, and the name that resonates most with me is none other than Sidney Crosby. Ever since 2010, I looked up to this guy as a hero for his country, and the videogame version of himself looks identical to his real-life counterpart. That’s something that I always appreciate with a game like this, because they certainly have more than a few people to consider detailing. One gripe I did have was with some of the animation issues that still run wild in NHL 12. Although the game runs very smooth for the majority of the time, some players on the ice still look like jittery robots that remind you that you’re merely playing a videogame, and that becomes a real killjoy when you’re trying to get engaged into the experience. Unfair I know, but I want perfection, darn it!
Overall, the sights and sounds do a great job of translating into a worthwhile experience that even those who aren’t playing can enjoy watching a game between friends, and I’m sure the soundtrack selection will be appreciated by just about anyone. The commentary by Gary Thorne and Bill Clemente are back this year and it is, expectantly, riddled with issues here and there. With so many variables and different scenarios playing out during each game, it’s no surprise that the game’s commentary can’t accurately reflect what is actually happening 100% of the time.
NHL 12 is pushing the series harder and into better places than ever. Is the game perfect? Of course not, but at least the effort is shown throughout the whole game. Yeah, the AI is a still a little weak and some gameplay mechanics, such as stick checking, is a bit iffy, but these minor issues are overshadowed by vast improvements to the product overall. Even if you still have and enjoy NHL 11 regularly, NHL 12 has enough to warrant a switch over from the old to the new.