NanDEMOnai is a semi-regular attempt to profile demos for forthcoming games as unbiasedly as possible, based on their own merits and without any consideration of hype, publisher legacy, place within a franchise, or basis on any existing property. I'm just here to discuss how the demo feels, whether it makes the upcoming release stand out as interesting, and extrapolate how the full game may end up being. Basically, a preview with as little context as possible, like a blind date.
If the idea of these is to go into things as blind as possible, NHL 12 definitely made that pretty easy. I haven't played a hockey game since Ice Hockey on the NES, and to be honest, I was only barely aware of some of the more recent NHL teams (Predators? Wild? What?) until this past season. This is far from my area of expertise.
So imagine my complete lack of surprise when the control scheme, just jumping into the demo's "Play Now" section for a match between the Bruins and the Canucks, was an absolulte mystery. Everything's on bumpers and triggers, I'm shooting with the right stick, and the buttons are all just changing strategies... help! I won the match, but only because it assigned a score of 1 for my team and 0 for the Bruins before things even started. I decided to take another crack at things, in the hopes I might get a handle on it, when I noticed the option to "Play With NHL 94 Controls" in the pre-game screens.
A to pass. B to shoot. That
was more like it. This, I could handle. I still got my ass handed to me, thanks to the score starting at 3-1 Bruins this time, but at least I was actually making shots and getting somewhere while I was on the ice.
There are a couple of other modes in the demo, including the Be A Pro Mode, which sims the bulk of a game with your custom character (which you can't actually customize in the demo), then drops you in for the last bits to actually do stuff with him. Apparently this unlocks classic players for the Hockey Ultimate Team mode, which doesn't make any goddamn sense to me. You get dealt a fistful of cards with players, an arena, and some other stuff I guess is for boosting stats, and you can shuffle the team around position-wise by swapping the cards on a grid, but I didn't get very far beyond that point due to being completely lost.
I guess I could recommend the demo to anyone who's into ice hockey and your average, annual EA Sports offerings, since it does go to the effort of showing off new features and looking pretty (really, really pretty), but most of those people who'd be interested on those points are probably going to be picking up the full game on the 13th anyway. For the more casual player, the NHL '94 controls are fun to at least putz around with, so it couldn't hurt downloading if you want something free involving ice, pucks, and the potential to beat the crap out of your friends in first person, but dropping $60 just to play NHL '94 with more current rosters doesn't seem much of a selling point for the full version. There's no sweet zamboni theme between periods, so consider that a dealbreaker for me.
It is what it is. Please tell me they'll finally put up an NHL shop on the Avatar marketplace so I can get fake-me a Flyers jersey. Thank you.
LOOK WHO CAME: