*blows dust off blog* *coughs* *cracks knuckles* Give me a second here while I remember how to do this olí bloggy-thingy....alright....chairís comfy....glass is filled....candles are litÖ.aaaaaaand GO!!
If youíve ever had the misfortune of reading my thoughts either here on Destructoid
or out in the Twitterverse
, you may have at one time come across the fact that I have a slight appreciation for the sport of hockey. Save the gasps for later, please. Being both a gamer and a hockey fan means that I am cursed with a terrible affliction where I give Electronic Arts $59.99 plus tax every year in exchange for an NHL game I basically bought the previous year. It is number 10 on my ďTop 10 Disgraces as a Gamer
Ē list. Iím not here to talk to you about my inadequacies at this time (Iíll save that for my ex-girlfriends HEY-O!...oh wait no), Iím here to tell you about how one of my most anticipated games this year and every year, NHL 12, has caused a bit of a conundrum for me.
The biggest gripe that most gamers have with sports games is that they see them as nothing more than ďroster updatesĒ, bringing minimal changes that wouldnít require the full-priced purchase every year. Maybe theyíre right in a sense, but over the last half-decade I feel that this would be particularly untrue of EAís NHL franchise. Just like with the actual sport of hockey, some minor changes wonít be very noticeable but they may make a world of difference. NHL 12 is brimming with these small upgrades. So in lieu of an actual review (I did one for NHL 09
, what the H-E-DOUBLE-HOCKEY-STICKS do you want more from me!?) I am going to break down what I liked
from the game and what I found to be annoying
. Since Iím a gamer and a sports fan, this is going to be nauseatingly overdramatic. Get ready for a LOVE/HATE Session!!
The first time you fire up NHL 12, you are dropped into a tutorial. While I found it hilarious that fighting is the first thing the game teaches you after you learn how to shoot (this HAD to be done on purpose to screw with mainstream hockey writers), the new faceoff mechanics you get taught dropped my jaw. Forehand and backhand grips, stick lifts, tie ups and draw dekes, this is a fully fleshed out faceoff system. Just like how the Leafs are discovering this year with David ďStar Destroyer
Ē Steckel, faceoffs are now more than just squaring up in the circle and whacking at the puck. It feels like skill and timing play a more important role. Itís not a huge deal but it does help to immerse you into the game and get the puck where or to who you want.
Speaking of immersion, the physics for the checking system in NHL 12 knocks you out of the moment worse than a stanchion to the face. EA upgraded the hitting mechanics and seemed to have left a few kinks in it. Players fall in the wrong direction, go down with injures from non-contact andÖ.huh, whatís that? Yes this happens to more than just the Vancouver Canucks
! It is game wide and not because the virtual players are trying to draw Shanabans
! It doesnít ruin the game, but it is pretty wonky and you will notice it. Same goes with the puck physics, where itíll occasionally jump into hyper-drive across the rink. The game also suffers from the occasional freeze, and Iím not talking about the playing surface here. Itís most noticeable for me in Be A GM mode, where the game will get held up on the loading screen or stop in the middle of a match. Also, itíll sometimes revert back to the default music even after I set the game to play a custom playlist. This is probably the first time in a long time that I donít care for an EA soundtrack. Itís about as disappointing as the San Jose Sharks in the playoffs.
Sometimes youíll play a game and see something so unexpected, something so realistic, that it just amazes you with what they can do in video games these days (LEAFS IN THE PLAYOFFS!?!?). NHL 12 is chalk full of these moments. In the first game I was playing, I skated up into the offensive zone and took a wrister that was blocked by the defenderís stick which exploded on contact, leaving me with a smirk on my face as I prepared to abuse this helpless player. Except that this did not happen! Before I could reach the loose puck, the defender dropped to a knee and batted the puck out of the zone with his hand. I didnít even know they could do that!! I then paused the game and went to explain to my father the awesome display that I had just witnessed. He was not as excited as I was. In another game, I had been checked hard in the offensive zone. Not as bad as Stephane De Costa was hit by Neon Dion
I might add. In the impact of the hit, I had dropped my stick and was racing to backcheck the opposing player empty-handed. Thatís when I notice something poking out from my teamís bench. They were holding out a spare stick for me to use back on defense!! There seem to be countless amounts of these small details that just amaze me, stuff that makes me squeal with glee like Kyle Wellwood at an all-you-can-eat buffet
NHL 12 is the ďJason Allison
Ē of video games. What I mean by that is that yes, the game is very good, but it is just so goddamn slow!! Do you want to play a game? Gotta wait to load the match. Do you want to play Be A Pro Mode? Gotta wait to load your save. Do you want to edit your character?? Gotta wait to load the data. Do you want to play your next game?? Gotta wait to simulate to the date. Do you want to play a different mode?? Gotta wait to save. Iím not sure if itís just the PlayStation 3 that itís like this but the game is just so freaking slow and it gets to be pretty annoying after a while.
Some gamers dislike sports games because theyíre ďtoo realĒ, that thereís not enough fantasy or imagination to them. It should come to a shock to these people then that NHL 12 is actually a pretty deep role-playing game. SAY WHAT!? Thatís right, youíre reality has been shattered like a Leafs fanís hope for the playoffs in early November. Whether it is creating yourself in the game to play as, gaining experience to upgrade your character, unlocking new equipment or stat boosts via side tasks/missions, NHL 12 could best be described as what Iíll coin an RPS, a Role-Playing Sport game. You can even play as a past legend such as Stevie Yzerman
, Borje Salming
& Patrick Roy
(yes, I thoroughly enjoyed researching this part). Then there is the EASHL24/7, a mode where you build your own team using hockey cards, earning pucks/currency from games. You can buy or trade cards, juggle lines for best chemistry, enter different tournaments, and play against either a live opponent or just go up against the CPU-controlled team. Then there is the team I created for Be A GM mode, using the now-defunct Thrashers jersey to recreate my schoolís hockey team in the game (WLU Golden Hawks). The bright gold and purple can be a little obnoxious but I like it. I can even set custom music, either by song, artist or playlists, for specific events for my team such as for the intro and goals. And only in NHL 12 can the Ottawa Senators think that they are an actual NHL team. ROLE PLAYING, BITCHES!!
EASHL24/7 is one of the more interesting modes in NHL 12. The problem is that it needs to be connected to the EA Sports servers at ALL TIMES! Even if youíre just playing against a CPU-controlled team, whether itís another userís team or one of the opponents included in the game, you have to be online. The problem is that if you lose that connection for even just a split second, the game will boot you and youíll be given a loss. Kind of like Montreal Canadiens fans and reality this year, a loss is always a given. This isnít seen in the other modes, like online Be A Pro mode, just EASHL24/7 for some reason. I could be up 7-0 at the start of the 2nd period and end up with a loss. Itís pretty annoying and a mode I wonít play anymore until I get better internet (thatís the Toronto FC fan in me speaking up). Iím not going to turn this into a rant about Rogers or Bell (yeahÖ.I had to delete a few paragraphs here), but satellite internet is killing me! Plus if someone uses the wireless phone in the house then we get kicked off the internet because apparently we have dial-up again. It is just one of the many reasons why Iíve been missing out on Friday Night Fights lately. So my team, the Inuvik Deltas, shall be temporarily under suspended operations for the time being.
One of the less talked about, but pretty awesome, selling points for the game is that you can create women in NHL 12. The story goes
that a 14 year old girl named Lexi Peters wrote a letter to EA asking for female players to be included in the game but she was told it wasnít possible. Then EA thought about it and realized they would be able to do it for Be A Pro mode, though why they canít at least include womenís national teams is beyond me. While it shouldnít be that celebrated since NHL Hitz allowed you to do this a decade ago, and the Sedin twins have been in the league for years, it is smart that EA is improving the game to be more accommodating to more people. Being able to put yourself into a game really helps to immerse you into it so it must suck not being able to do that. Your move, first-person shooters!
Yeah, you know how I just mentioned that you can create female skaters?? Well it comes as a huge disappointment then that you can only use two models, a brunette (made after Lexi) or a blonde (modeled after a girl who looks like the one from Radio Free Roscoe
but with braids). Outside of height and weight, the only real customization you have is the eye colour. Iím sure there are non-white women that would like to play hockey. Hell, EA even neglected to include red heads!! Those bastards!! I really donít know what their development team was thinking. As a whole, the entire character customization could use a bit of an improvement, even for men. That old feature where you could upload pictures of yourself to use in game never really took off after the start of this generation. In the end I was able to create Amanda Kessel, younger sister to the NHL leading scorer Phil ďThe ThrillĒ Kessel
, so she is my new sniper. If only she could have been made a red headÖ..
If you havenít noticed from me talking yet, NHL 12 is filled to the brim with different modes with each one being different enough that youíll one to invest time into them. EASHL24/7 would probably be my favourite mode if I could play it since it ties online play with team-building. Be A Pro mode is pretty fun and intense online, where you can either be the hero or the goat for your team. Since the easiest way to level up is by winning, you really have to swallow your pride and do whatís best for the team such as making the pass instead of trying to score all on your own. Also, just back out if you have a player-controlled goalie on your team. Chances are youíll be playing with Vesa Toskala
and heís just as bad in video games as he is in real life. Then there is Be A GM mode where you build your team and perform task while trying to ensure both your NHL and AHL-affiliate win. Completing one week within this mode instantly makes you more qualified for an actual NHL GM job than John Ferguson Jr
. I remember in past years when this was entirely a simulation mode so itís nice that you can actually play as your team now.
As much as I love all of these modes, the time required to invest into them is huge! The biggest problem is that I havenít found a way to shorten the season other than by just simulating games or playing as the Columbus Bluejackets
. Each season is 82 games long, on top of a few preseason games, and playoff games if you make it. Playoffs are a best of 7 series, four rounds long (*insert your own Leafs joke here
*). Many of the requirements to unlock new stat boosts are to play upwards of 3 seasons with a Be A Pro character, some of which must be done as a specific player type (sniper, power forward, playmaker, defensive defenseman, two way defenseman, etc.). NHL 12 is a game designed for people like my cousin, a person who enjoys the occasional video game but lives and breathes hockey. Iím pretty good at video games but Iíve only managed to beat him THREE TIMES at NHL over the last four years! Iím actually pretty decent despite what my record says about me, something Iím sure Jonas Gustavsson would relate with. Itís a fun game, donít get me wrong, but I also like to play other games on top of actually watching the sport. So yes, I am hating on the game because it is too awesome.
Itís hockey ^__^
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