EA Sports announces NHL 10, says let’s get physical

Football gets all the press for big hits, but it seems to me that hockey is the most physically taxing and intense sport out there. It’s a fantastic mix of speed and size; finesse and strength; smarts and force. It takes a special kind of toughness to be an NHL player, and that was the focus of EA Sports’ announcement of NHL 10 yesterday.

As the press release proudly trumpets, EA’s NHL franchise has been spectacularly acclaimed; NHL 08 and NHL 09 garnered Sports Game of the Year honors a total of 19 times. (Destructoid didn’t do a sports GOTY last year, but suffice it to say that had we held one, NHL 09 most certainly would’ve won.) But did EA Canada set the bar too high? I’m very curious to see if/how they can top themselves in NHL 10, and they’re starting off by talking about a promising new direction for the series this year: to convey the grueling grind and intensity of an NHL season and playoffs. After all, winning Lord Stanley’s Cup is considered the most difficult task in sports.

NHL 10 will bring the sport’s physicality right into your face with a first-person fighting system, which has never before been done in a hockey game, to my knowledge. Also on the physical side, the game features a brand-new physics engine along the boards, so expect to finally see scrums and tie-ups like those in a real NHL game. Intimidation is a factor, too: if you’re hounding your opponent up and down the ice, the team will start to perform poorly — passes won’t connect, and players will tire more quickly and avoid collisions at all costs.

EA Canada is also promising “over 200 gameplay refinements,” including batting pucks out of the air and one-timing loose pucks. Well, consider me stoked! For more information, pore over the press release, hit up ESPN’s exclusive first look, and watch this video of Gameplay Producer Sean Ramjagsingh talking about fixes and improvements. For screens, look below! We’ve got the first five in the gallery. NHL 10 will be out on PS3 and 360 this September (yet again, no Wii version — and this year, no PC or PS2 versions either). I can’t wait to check out the game at E3!

19-Time Sports Game of the Year Franchise Delivers New Standard for Physical Play in EA SPORTS NHL 10

Platinum-Selling* Franchise Authentically Replicates Emotion and Intensity of Playoff Hockey

REDWOOD CITY, Calif. – Electronic Arts Inc. (NASDAQ: ERTS) today announced that EA SPORTS™ has innovated a new, physical brand of hockey that includes first-person fighting in NHL® 10 to match the toughness and emotional intensity real-world NHL players endure in pursuit of a Stanley Cup™ Championship.

The franchise that has won 19 sports game of the year awards over the past two years begins a new era with gameplay innovations that deliver a new standard of toughness, the emotion of playoff hockey on the ice and in the arena, and over 200 gameplay refinements that replicate the skill and finesse that every fan sees throughout the NHL playoffs.

A new first-person fighting engine enables players to trade punches with an NHL tough guy. Feel what it’s like to be on the ice in the skates of an NHL player to throw and dodge punches. Grab and tug an opponent’s jersey to land a punch that ignites the fans and sparks your team to victory. Challenge a skill player and an opposing team tough guy will step in to settle the score.

On ice toughness and intimidation is taken to a new level in NHL 10 where winning one-on-one battles for possession of the puck along the boards becomes a test of will and skill. Utilizing an all-new board physics engine, players can use their body to shield the puck on the boards and then kick-pass it to teammates. Bigger, stronger players pin opponents to the boards while fanatical fans bang on the glass, just like real life. Fore-check defenders, pressure the puck and finish checks to intimidate your opponent into mistakes. Players fatigue, bobble passes, and avoid collisions under threat of constant physical pressure. Inspire teammates, ignite the fans and change the momentum of a game by instigating scrums, drawing penalties, and mixing it up — all after the referee blows the whistle!

“This is the most authentic simulation of hockey we have ever created,” said Producer David Littman, a former NHL and minor league goaltender now in his eighth year working on the NHL franchise. “The Stanley Cup is the most difficult trophy in all of sports to win and NHL 10 replicates the emotion, intensity and toughness players require to win the Cup.”

NHL 10 features more than 200 gameplay refinements that replicate the skill and finesse of hockey and deliver the most responsive and authentic action ever for the series. Players can one-time loose pucks, score from their knees, knock pucks out of the air and lift a leg to fake a shot on goal. A new 360° precision passing mechanic delivers control over the speed and direction of passes so players can bank passes off the boards or play the puck into space for teammates to skate on to it. Plus, all-new interactive crowds bring the emotion of playoff hockey to life with towel-waving fans, glass bangers and crowds that react to the action on the ice.

Prove you are tough enough to quiet the crowd, silence the opposition and survive a playoff run to lift the Stanley Cup in NHL 10.

NHL 10 will be available in stores this September for the PLAYSTATION®3 computer entertainment system and Xbox 360® video game and entertainment system with an MSRP of $59.99. It is developed under the EA SPORTS brand by EA Canada in Burnaby, B.C. The game has not been rated.

EA SPORTS™ is the leading interactive sports software brand in the world, with top-selling titles and franchises including Madden NFL football, FIFA Soccer, NHL® hockey, NBA LIVE basketball, NCAA® Football, and Tiger Woods PGA TOUR®.

*Based on total sales in 2008 according to the NPD.

Samit Sarkar