Automatic player benching.
Start off with the pads and hitting in football, use the goalie system of soccer, sprinkle in the stick action of baseball, throw in a dash of boxing, add beer, and what do you get? One hell of a hangover, but also in this case, hockey! Oh, what a great game it is. Is there any other professional sport that allows for two players, in the middle of a game, to just drop gloves and duke it out for a round? What if day to day life was like that? Could you imagine an 8 o’clock meeting with the board, when all of a sudden Bob disputes Steve’s quarterly projections and uppercuts him into the coffee pot? Or Jane gives Lake a right hook for taking the last carton of milk at the grocery store? It would just be (spectacular) chaos, but not in the NHL. To them, that’s hockey.
Though it seems to be all fun and games and all the action does make for very interesting entertainment, we have to face the fact that hockey is still not very popular among sports fans here in the States. Yeah, we all root for our country when the Olympics come around, but in between those four years, we’re talking about Tom Brady, Derek Jeter, and Kobe Bryant. Who actually knows about the game, more than just knowing who Wayne Gretzky and Sidney Crosby are? The hardcore fans, that’s who—the guys and gals who will drive all the way from Eureka to San Jose just to see the Sharks play.
NHL 12 has come to reward the “real” hockey fans. This isn’t a game for your little sister to pick up and say “Oo, look at all the pretty jerseys”. No, no, no, this is for the day-in, day-out hard-grinders who understand the rigors and passion that go into making a NHL season work.
All of the game options in NHL 12 could make the average hockey fan’s head spin. But the idea is to incorporate as much authenticity as possible. Many of the same features are back from last year’s edition. Be a pro, GM mode, EA Sports hockey league, online versus mode, and many other expected options. This year’s list of new features include Be a Legend, Winter Classic, and just like Madden 12’s version, Ultimate Team.
Like Madden 12, Hockey Ultimate Team (still not for beginners) is designed to take an expansion team and lead them to a championship. Along the way one of the objectives is to collect packs of cards used to unlock anything from players to ice rinks and player performance boosts. I see your head is spinning already.
But don’t worry because all game modes aren’t as complicated or time-consuming as Ultimate Team. Be a Legend is just like Be a Pro, except you now have the option to select from past greats such as Mario Lemieux, Patrick Roy, Chris Chelios, and a few others. Like Be a Pro, in Be a Legend, you are player locked to your chosen skater and must perform your position duties in order to progress your player’s stats throughout the season.
Winter Classic is the most simple and entertaining addition to NHL 12. Played outdoors as snow falls, 70,000 cheering fans wave around their “Terrible Towels” as if they were rooting for the Steelers. It is an exhibition game played between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals (with the option to choose different teams, but why not be specific?). Winter Classic is more about the experience and tradition of hockey, if anything else.
NHL 12 continues to play like a high-quality game. With the full-contact physics engine still performing strong, skaters and goalies react to everything smoothly and realistically. If the puck hits cushier objects such as player’s pads or the net, it acts accordingly and will fall softly to the ice. Pucks that hit harder surfaces, like walls and goal posts, will smack with some thud and fly around as if shot out of a cannon.
Player interaction has to be the best feature of actual gameplay. When players make contact with their environment, they experience and endure proper punishment. A 16-pound center will not fare well against a 225-pound defender. My created defenseman is a “tough guy” (one of the many traits skaters can have), so his role is to bang bodies and play big, and boy does he ever. Sometimes I willingly give up the puck, in order to play defense, just so I can hit-stick the shit out of some wingman and send him flying into his team’s bench, earning me the “benched” Trophy achievement.
Though being a bit confusing with all the menu options and hundreds of game modes, NHL 12 is overall just a downright fun-ass game to play. Even if you don’t know much about the players or teams, this is a game you might want to check out simply for the in-rink fisticuffs. Maybe your little sister can play too; with the ability for players to lose their hockey stick, she can just skate around and pretend it’s the Ice Capades.