Wednesday, September 7, 2011

NHL 12 Review

There aren't many sports left in the world that condone fighting (except the obvious ones like UFC). Suspensions and hefty fines are in place to stop our favourite athletes from hitting one another, yet NHL almost encourages it as an unique part of their sporting history. EA has embraced this regular past time by including it in their games since the fighting engine they use was released in NHL '09 and is a vital reason why people who don't really understand the rules will still love this game. Out of the four major US sports, NHL probably has the smallest following in Australia and is a game simply not targeted towards us. While complete new comers to the sport won't get the same feeling as someone who follows the teams and players, it is still possible to enjoy NHL 12 as it is a slick package.

For veterans of the franchise returning to the ice, EA hasn't left you out in the cold. As always, a large variety of enhancements both visually, in terms of gameplay and under the hood improvements have been made to create the most realistic NHL experience possible. The main changes to this years title seem to be focused around extending the core gameplay to being as realistic as possible. Three core features around authenticity have been improved in NHL 12. These are Anticipation AI, Full Contact Physics and Dynamic Goalies. I will go into more detail about what these bring to the table a bit later.


We are at the stage in sport game development where a game that isn't almost identical to the real thing simply won't thrive on the market. NHL 12 is a beautiful game and masterfully recreates the NHL experience. Crowds and players look almost like the real thing and animations for the most part look great until slowed down in instant replays which uncover some of the small flaws presented with NHL's impact engine. A keen eye towards television-like presentation is certainly the main focus and is shown off in its full glory with the annual Winter Classic Match opening the game just in the same way that Michael Jordan opened NBA 2K11. While this match doesn't have the same hit as the great MJ himself, it certainly greets players with open arms and showcases the best the game has to offer right from minute one.

From a sound or more importantly, a commentary aspect, commentators Gary Thorne and Bill Clemente return. They have been in previous installments and you would expect returning commentators to have less fragmented speech. Issues do arise while playing games as they can incorrectly comment on a player or their actions during the game. Little misses by a player may lead to them being called ineffective or poor, even though they have had a solid overall game. Little things like this will irritate true fans but can often be overlooked as a simple mistake.

The sounds of the game are excellent with the crowd realistically cheering for every goal and reacting if a fight between two players is intiated. The initial hush of the crowd before cheering when the punches started being thrown was excellent and really places you in a situation where you believe you are at the stadium. Home crowds will react individually to each other, booing the opposition and providing a loud roar when their team scores a goal. While it isn't as unique as games such as Madden 12 where the team chants (eg. New York Jets J-E-T-S Jets! Jets! Jets! before every kickoff), it still makes for a solid experience.


NHL 12 is a superb game on the ice, providing a rewarding experience that truly does justice to every aspect of the sport. Controlling players is easy and the intuitive controls will take little time to adjust to for new comers to the series. Playing the game is a breeze and player movements is solid, the fluid nature of skating is on full display. Everything from player collisions to puck movement between players or individual movements are superb and really creates the standard for this and developers hoping to compete with the EA brand, none smartly chose to this year.

Being a solid game will only take you so far, you need a variety of modes to play. Luckily, NHL 12 provides an absolute smorgasbord of modes to choose from. You are showered in choice more than perhaps any other sports game on the market. From the stock standard modes such as season, association, Be a GM to the brand new revamped Be A Pro mode which features Be a NHL Pro, Be a CHL Pro and Be a Legend, there is literally hundreds of hours of content in this game. That is just the single player as well. In multiplayer you have the choice of standard multiplayer matches, EA Sports Hockey League with online tournaments as well as the always popular My Ultimate Team which lets you buy cards to create a super team to compete with online.

My only issue with the modes that they have quite possibly gone for quanity over quality. While the modes are all solid, some of the smaller features like the way information is delivered to you in Be a Pro in particular is annoying. Small text that pops up on the screen simply fails against the premier titles of other sports which gives you things as big as your own personaly assistant. While this year has delivered on a large array of modes to play, perhaps next years title should focus on presenting these in the cleanest way possible to avoid the mess of this year.


NHL 12 is a super game which packs enough content to last you all the way to the Stanley Cup and beyond. You will find it hard to choose between playing a season with your favourite team, taking your own created player from the CHL to becoming a Hall of Famer in the NHL or creating The Ultimate Team. That is what makes this game so good, the sheer amount of choice you have. All this is delivered with some stunning graphics and a solid representation of NHL. While there are some areas which appear to have had the corners cut, this is a solid package that should be considered everyone, even if you have never seen a NHL game in your life. It is a game which you can quickly pick up and play without much effort and provides excellent value for money!

Graphics - 8.5/10
Sound - 7.5/10
Gameplay - 9.5/10
Overall - 8.5/10