Of the four major North American sports, hockey ranks behind only football in terms of its physicality. It’s a brutal game played at high speed; finesse players make headlines with their graceful goal-scoring, but bigger, stronger, and slower skaters have important purposes to serve, too.
NHL 12 (Xbox 360 [reviewed], PlayStation 3)
In addition to being stronger, players are smarter this year. Improved AI logic significantly reduces the number of times you’ll scream at your TV after a teammate inexplicably goes offside; it’s great to see them dragging a skate behind the blue line to stay on-side. The league’s elite players exhibit their particular talents and tendencies on the ice thanks to “signature traits,” so don’t expect to see Henrik Sedin throwing checks left and right.
EA Canada touted this year’s physics engine with the tagline “size does matter” -- collisions are supposed to take players’ size and momentum into account -- but I’ve been able to destroy people with hip checks from diminutive players, so something clearly isn’t tuned correctly here. It’s neat that I can now check people over the boards, or pop off their helmets with a big hit, or shatter the rink’s glass, but I’d have preferred less buggy physics.
The Action Tracker also keeps a record of everything that happens in the game. No, seriously: it records goals, shots, hits, penalties, and face-offs, and at any point during a game, you can pull it up to view a video clip of any of those events. Want to keep the highlight for posterity? You can enter the full instant replay viewer to edit and save the clip. Action Tracker will leave you wondering how you ever lived without it, and hoping that every sports game on the market implements a similar feature.
I had a good experience online as well as offline. The online offerings -- standard ranked games, shootouts, and team play -- are still among the best in any sports title. Also still present are opponents who overuse the ability to dive to the ice and flail around, but hey, that’s not exactly EA Canada’s fault.
THE VERDICT - NHL 12
Reviewed by Samit Sarkar
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