NHL ’12 review – The Champ is back

In a move compared by many to Dean Portman, re-signing for the Mighty Ducks in D3, Euan Forsyth has agreed to commit himself once more to the wonderful world of MMGaming. After a few reviews, success went to his head, and he spent many a night out in the wilderness. That’s all in the past however, as Forsyth returns to the site with a bang, and a whole new meaning to the words, gaming review!

Sports fans! What better way to announce my return to MMGaming than by writing a review on one of my favourite console games of all time, NHL 12. I had originally planned to do this review pretty shortly after my last but that didn’t happen. My bad! I realise that having only written 3 reviews and one of them being NHL 11, this could get a bit monotonous, however as a huge sports game fan, I will try to convince you otherwise and try my best to keep things interesting.

I guess I’ll start by talking about the upgrades made to the game from previous NHL games. Of course, as with every sports game, EA has taken the stats from the 2010-2011 season and made the game relevant, increasing and decreasing certain players ratings as based on their performance. EA has really upped it’s game this year, and any ice hockey fans out there will be able to notice the differences they have made. Player personalities have become a huge part of the game. I’ll try explain without getting too technical. A player like Scott Hartnell from the Philadelphia Flyers, is very much a power forward who sets up screens in front of the goalie (basically he stands in front of the goalie to block his vision), and that is now reflected in the game

. Defenders and Forwards will jostle for positions in front of the net, and it feels more realistic and player controlled unlike previous years. There was a slight improvement in 11, but I feel in order to have a successful team on NHL12, you really need to get a good mix of different types of players.
Again the physics engine has been updated, and so it feels like a live game. Pretty much everything goes, helmets pop off after a big hit, and then you play on without a helmet, you can check players into the bench (which is pretty cool, and the crowds love it), and you can also knock the net of its moorings causing a stop in play. One of my favourites updates, is if there’s a guy against the boards, and your player skates in and gets a good contact hit, there’s a chance the glass can smash!

I was worried when I heard about this, in that I thought it would be pretty much every hit against the boards the glass would go, but I think EA have found an ideal balance, as it is a somewhat rarer occurrence in the game. In a way the physics engine updates are similar to 11, in that they look the same, and at the beginning they feel the same. However the deeper you get into the game, you realise the depth in the engine. Many little things in ice hockey can happen, that appear chaotic and uncoordinated, and they are represented in this game. For instance, if your stick snaps on a shot, and the play continues with the splinters on the ice, it can cause the puck to bounce off at a funny angle, and in many cases, costing me a goal or causing me to lose one. In truth, it feels excitingly real to a game, as the unpredictability factor has never been more relevant!
Another improvement to the physics engine sees the goalies become live. When jostling for position in front of the net, or following up on a rebound, it is possible to skate into the goalie and knock him over, or even knock his mask off. You could even be a bit of a dick and do it intentionally, which online is pretty funny and a good way of winding up your opponent. Although whilst somewhat satisfying to see your big massive hulk-like forward barge his way through an opposition goalie, chances are it will come with a goalie interference penalty for 2 minutes, and quite a few fights begin from the other team jumping in to protect their goalie.
Another change to the game is the team entrances to the ice. I love this update, as the team I support (San Jose Sharks – haters gon’ hate!) have the coolest entrance in the league where they enter through the mouth of a massive shark head. Now they also do this in the game too! The Edmonton Oilers also now enter underneath a massive Oil Rig.

The game modes are pretty much the same as the previous years, with the notable big new feature being the legends mode. The legends mode is a play on the Be A Pro mode, in which you select one player and play through a season/career as that character. In the Legends mode you can select such greats as Jeremy Roenick, Chris Chelios and Wayne Gretzky! You can put the legend into any team you want and play along with them. I must say it’s great fun, and I enjoyed it a lot more than Be A Pro.

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My favourite thing to do on NHL12, is play General Manager Mode, and turn on the fantasy draft, and then simming the season. This gives you a real insight into how good the team you’ve picked, as the sim engine is very realistic, and players put up the same kind of points they would in real life. In order to have a real challenge, I like to keep the salary cap on. This way it means that you can’t just pick expensive players, you have to search around and get a good mix of quality, graft, and youth. There’s also no point in choosing players who are on a short contract as they’ll be offski pretty soon, so you have to shop around for a player on a longer contract who’s not after silly monies!
I also found the online experience much more fun this year. All the games I’ve played have been pretty evenly matched and probably more enjoyable ‘cause of it. I also particularly enjoy skelping James Dunleavy everytime we play ( HIYA JAMES, HIYA PALL!!!!)



The only downsides to the game, are the awareness of the AI system and the fact you have to play and earn “skater points” with one legend, before you can unlock another. In all the games I have played against the computer, I don’t think I have ever seen it ice the puck, and I think the computer has been offside at the very most 5 times. Powerplays are also very rare to come by, so I wouldn’t put too much work into your powerplay unit in a season. The Legend Mode is very annoying, because I’m sure everyone would love to play as Wayne Gretzky, however you need to play through as all the somewhat lesser guys to unlock him.
However, despite these minor inconveniences, the rest of the game is excellent and I would thoroughly recommend it to anyone!
In conclusion, I feel that this game is very worthy of an A. EA brought their A game to the table, and made significant upgrades from previous years, all of which add to a more fun and more realistic game!

Rating: A

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