NHL 12 ReviewBy Mike D'Alonzo - Posted Sep 14, 2011
There are good and bad things about following up the best game in the history of your franchise, as is the case with NHL 12. EA has done a really nice job with the new game, adding some nice pieces to the mix, with only a few hiccups along the way. The result, once again, is a very solid, very satisfying hockey experience.
- Improved AI makes it feel like you're part of a team.
- Goalies are much more a part of the action than ever before.
- Tremendously deep game will provide hours of joy.
- Be a GM mode needs some work.
- Legends are cool, but could be so much cooler.
- Tweaks are necessary in the sound mix.
NHL 12 Review:
Last season, EA managed a real doozy of a hockey game, making NHL 11 one of the best in the history of the franchise, making improvements all over the place, and reasserting the game as one of the best sports games on the market, period. So, how do they follow up a game like that in the next iteration? With such a high top end, can there be improvements, or will they be content just to tread water?
The answer is, surprisingly, that there are improvements here, and, while the leap forward isn't quite as impressive as it was with NHL 11, NHL 12 is a fine and very deep game that should keep hockey fans on the edge of their seats for yet another season.
Home Ice Advantage
Starting with such a fine template as NHL 11, it would be hard for EA Canada to produce a game that wasn't worth the effort, and, to their credit, they've done an excellent job here. The control scheme is much as it was last year, which means that there's no tutorial for you to jump right into, preferring instead to immerse you in the game by jumping right to the Winter Classic outdoors at Heinz Field, which is pretty darned awesome.
This year, you'll find your teammates a little more helpful than they've been in the past, as there has obviously been work done to improve the AI. This is good, because your team will behave more like a team and less like a bunch of guys standing around waiting for you to shoot. If you play with an attacking style, the AI will actually crash the net. They'll rebound and attempt shots. The result is a game that flows ever so much better than in the past.
Also new to NHL 12, goalies are real people who engage with other players on the ice. What this means is that, not only can you take control to block the net, but you can also screen goaltenders out of the play, dislodge them from the crease, and take the net off its moorings. This, of course, comes with a price, as goalies can be pretty salty, and can finally get involved in fighting, where they couldn't before.
Fire on Ice
Once again, the presentation in NHL 12 is excellent, with the announce team of Bill Clement and Gary Thorne back in the booth (much to the chagrin of some of the online community, who have been clamoring for change for years) and beautiful and realistic represenations of arenas around the league. One of the minor problems with this year's edition of the game, however, is the fact that the sound mix is sometimes weird, and you can't hear the announcers over the music, which just leads to a muddled mess that you want to mute in a great big hurry.
Also improved is the physics engine, which now allows you to check players over the bench, and break plexiglass when you board them, in addition to broken sticks and helmets flying from the force of a particularly hard hit. All of this just adds to the realism of the game and makes it more fun. Goals are still hard to come by, which is the way it should be in hockey.
One of the Greats of the Sport. . .
Ever since 2K put out NBA 2K11, which came with the Jordan Challenge mode, sports games have been hopping on the legends bandwagon, and NHL 12 is no different. However, they should have paid more attention to the way that 2K incorporated Jordan into the game, as it's pretty fun to play as Wayne Gretzky, Patrick Roy, or Jeremy Roenick, but less so when you realize that there's not much depth to their character. It would be way more fun to play them in their time period, so that you could see not only the legend you're playing, but also the team they played with and some of the notable opponents they played against. This is an easy improvement to make, and one that would make the game exponentially better.
The Be a GM mode could also use a bit of an overhaul. Sure, it's deep, but it still feels a little cobbled together. If you're going to devote the resources necessary to make a game like NHL 12 as big as it is, you should pay a little more attention to things like this for the stat geeks in the universe. It's no fun when you can't really pretend to be a GM, so if you can't make it more realistic, why bother?
The CHL is once again part of the game, as is the Czech Extraliga, SM-liiga, Deutsche Eishockey Liga, and more. There are national teams, but the uniforms couldn't get legal clearance, so don't expect to see the official unis, or to play international tournaments. Still, there are lots of different hockey leagues and teams to choose from, including the return of a new old favorite, the Winnipeg Jets.
Lighting the Lamp
The small hiccups with NHL 12 aside, the game is, once again, a really wonderful hockey simulation, and one of the best hockey games ever committed to disc. Though it didn't make quite the splash that its predecessor did, NHL 12 is a really deep, really fun game, which should once again, keep fans playing for months on end without a break, and that's the mark of a game you'll want to own, isn't it?
EA wins once again, taking the old time sport of ice hockey farther into the future than ever before.