previews\ Aug 24, 2009 at 8:00 pm

NHL 10 - PS3 - Preview 2

When a game is done right, it is easy to write about. NHL 9 was a game that was stellar from the ground up. NHL 10 has tweaked a few areas to make for a more robust and true-to-life game mechanic, making the latest iteration of EA Sports franchise a joy to play.

And this was only the preview build.

The game has seen some improvements in several areas – each with the goal of making NHL 10 more realistic and more vibrant as a game. From what was seen on this disk, the EA development team is succeeding at their goals.

Sure, the foundations of the game have not changed overly much, but why mess with success. Ok, on to the changes …

The game has several new modes of play, including Battle for the Cup (which bypasses the season and launches you straight into the playoffs for the Stanley Cup), playoff mode (bypass the season and start the playoffs) and season mode. Should you enter into the franchise mode, you will find the AI a bit tougher, especially when it comes to player negotiations and trades. You can’t automatically stack a team with NHL superstars.

In the game, there are some new mechanics as well. The board work is not as hard as it might seem to be, and there is a PS3 trophy available for board work as well. If an opposing player has the puck up against the boards, you tap the triangle button to belly up and begin the wall fight for the puck. On one side (the player looking to keep possession who is first to the boards), the idea is to shield the puck and then kick-pass it to a teammate. The other player is looking to poke the puck free and subsequently get it to a teammate.

Fighting is now in first person and you can grab a handful of jersey and then throw jabs at the other player, or use the left thumbstick to dodge punches aimed at you. The L2 and R2 buttons put you into “turtle” mode, which is flattening out on the ice and surrendering the fight. Because of the new fight elements, the action continues even after the whistle blows. Should you hear the whistle while on offense and continue forward, dumping the puck past the goalie and into the net, you can expect a defensive player to take exception to that and try to knock you around for the insult you just delivered.

Conversely, you can play the game aggressively and force mistakes by the opposing team. If you come out fore-checking and put a body on the opposition at every turn, they start to anticipate the shots and make quick passes to try to avoid the bodychecks. That can lead to turnovers, and turnovers can lead to scoring chances.

The goalie AI has been boosted, and passing now can go 360-degrees, instead of the grid-like passing structure of the past.

When it comes to the look and sound of NHL 10, this is still a top-notch title. The graphics may need a little smoothing out before the mid-September release, but the game is a treat for the eyes. As for the sound – the musical score features a lot of familiar songs from the past and present (yep, that was the Scorpions performing Rock You Like a Hurricane), and the commentary is the best in video-game sports. If Gary Thorne is not the best play-by-play announcer in any sports game, he is right there with the top dogs. The way that the EA dev team has integrated his comments are 99% spot-on with the action, really driving home the reality of the game and making it a vastly entertaining experience.  

This is a whole lot of fun.

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