After last years iteration of the NHL game, many of us wondered just how EA Canada could make the game even better than its near perfect 09 version. Well one year has passed, hockey season is starting up and we finally have NHL 10 on the shelves. So does this new version make it in the NHL, or is it better off warming the bench in the minors?
The game starts you out with naming your Pro and going into a tutorial to start the basics. After this you are opened up to a slew of options that should look very familiar to you if you have played NHL 09. Most of these menus and modes are the same, yet subtle changes have been made here and there to change it up a bit from the previous entry.
The gameplay has seen plenty of additions added. The fighting has been overhauled and now happens in First Person. Fighting happens in the game by skating up to a player and pressing the triangle button. Once the opposing player accepts the fight, the gloves come off and you are treated to a close encounter. Options giving in the fight include blocking, dodging left and right, pulling at the players jersey, turtling down to avoid punches or just wailing away on your opponent. While the fighting is not perfect, it is a huge step up from the previous game. The boards have also seen a boost with the new boardplay mechanic. When you get the puck near the boards you can be pinned to them by the opposing player or you can do the pinning by holding triangle near the boards. This actually works pretty well and further simulates the real deal when down in the corner. The main problem however comes with the fact that instigating a fight and board play are the same button, which at times causes you to pick a fight when you didn’t want to. The last big additions in gameplay come in the form of new passing and better goalie AI. The passing now feels much less arcade as where your joystick is pointing when you hit the pass button is where the pass goes. The goalie AI has seen a huge boost as the goalie makes better movements and bigger saves, though he is still prone to the brain farts that can get very frustrating, but they are fewer in number this time around.
The Be A Pro returns and remains a big focus in the game. Here you create your custom forward, defenseman or goalie through a variety of options. You choose your stick, skates, visor color, name, age and much more. You also choose what type of player you are, whether you are a play making center, offensive defenseman or a butterfly goalie. You then have the option of picking your team or skating in the Future’s game. If you choose the later, then you participate in the game and try and earn a high draft pick. Once onto a team you play your way through the minors, trying to earn trophies and make your way up to the big team. When playing this mode you play only from the perspective of your Pro. Meaning you make line changes, sit the bench and if you take penalty then you think about it in the box.The mode has remained mostly the same from the past model, though it still remains a lot of fun to try and see how quickly you can make it. Other modes make a return like Tournament mode and Season mode.
One of the new features added is the Be A GM mode, which pits you at the helm of a team. You take part in the draft, free agency, salary negotiations with agents and everything else that goes with running a team. You have access to Roster Analysis, GM Tasks, Team GM Reputations and Staff abilities. Team Gm Reputations is especially nice as it lets you see how much you are respected around the league, letting you know who will make deals with you and who might not. As you complete tasks in this mode you get points that you can add to your staff which includes an Amateur scout, Pro scout, Medical Staff and Asst. Coach. Your overall reputation is recorded, showing how fair you are with free agent offers and affects whether people will want to sign with your team. You also have a phone as a GM that allows you to give scout assignments, contracts and transaction news. You also use this phone during draft time to communicate with other GM’s about possible moves. The mode is fairly deep for its first time and shows a lot of promise. Hopefully EA can iron out some of it and make it a bit more robust next time through.
Another feature that you will see in the game is Battle for the Cup. In this mode you pick who you are and who you will play as you try and take your team through the Stanley Cup Finals round. Playoff mode also shows up in NHL 10, giving players the option of taking a team through the grind of the entire Stanley Cup Playoffs and trying to take home the big prize. While nothing robust both features are welcome additions to the huge lineup of modes already included from last year. Should none of these modes catch your fancy there are also options for a quick game of play now. Season mode allows you to play through a single season with the team of your choice. There is also a practice mode, shootout and Create a Play, giving you the ability to create a play from scratch that you can use in the game.