Xbox 360 Review: NHL 09

Puckin’ hell, this year’s NHL is impressive

Being English, I can’t claim to be much of a fan of American sports such as Baseball, Ice Hockey and American Football. I can see that the titles must sell well over here in Europe, or they wouldn’t bother releasing them. The NHL franchise has been going on for quite some time, so I wonder what this year’s game will offer hardcore fans and if it’ll live upto expectations.

I went into NHL 09 with no expectations and it was better for me because of it. The game begins with a small tutorial, which is new for a NHL game. Usually you would just jump into the mammoth-size menu and feel lost, but this time round they give you some pretty sound tips and training for you to play the game. I wasn’t the best and I still won’t be, but I began to understand the game more so for those of you who have never played an NHL game before…this year’s game will show you how to play.

NHL 09 has the usual modes that are littered in every EA Sports game, so there aren’t any surprises to be found. Instead the game’s biggest change is that it handles much better, it feels more refined and responsive to your movements. Like Madden 09, NFL 09 has had the same improvement added to it. Each area from AI to the visuals have all taken a big step forward, finally making use of the hardware and looking like a proper next-gen sports title.

This year’s online functionality is perhaps the greatest thing to ever happen to NFL 09, which could win it more awards than last year’s game. Being able to play with a number of friends on a team is an amazing feature that’s implemented well; although games can be somewhat laggy at times…hopefully a patch will be on its way to improve that.

NHL 09’s graphics have definitely improved over last year; it actually is starting to look like it belongs on my HDTV. It’s crisp, bright and great to look at. Character models are well detailed as are the ice rinks. The game has an impressive soundtrack, but if you don’t like it you can always customise it slightly.

The Verdict

NHL 09 improves upon its predecessor with improved visuals and controls while adding in some great new features such as 5 player teams over Xbox Live. It’s going to be hard to top this game for its effort and its end result, which is a great one that any fan should see.