Xbox 360 Review: NHL 10

EA’s take on NHL is the best yet…

The hopes of a franchise and its fans rest on your shoulders as you skate onto the ice to a deafening roar from towel-waving fans in an arena alive with the dreams of thousands. Here’s your chance to prove you are tough enough to battle the most skilled and determined athletes in the world in pursuit of the ultimate prize—the Stanley Cup™ Championship. Prove your resolve, inspire your teammates and write your own history with NHL 10.
• Intimidation Tactics— Fore-check defenders, pressure the puck and finish checks to force your opponent into mistakes. Players fatigue, bobble passes, and avoid collisions under threat of physical pressure. Face wash a superstar to provoke the opposition, instigate a scrum and ignite the crowd.

• Post-Whistle Action—Now, the game never stops! Antagonize opposing players, finish checks, retaliate for late shots on goal, draw penalties and pick fights—all after the referee blows the whistle!

• New 1st Person Fighting Engine — Change the momentum of a game by trading blows with an NHL enforcer with all-new first-person fighting. Grab and tug an opponent’s jersey to land a big punch. Face wash an opponent to start a fight even after the whistle.

• New Precision Passing— A new 360° precision passing mechanic delivers control over the speed and direction of passes so players can bank passes off the boards or play the puck into space for teammates to skate on to it. Players take poor passes off their skates and kick the puck to their sticks.

• Spectacular Goals—Introducing spectacular new ways to score, like players one-timing loose pucks, stick-handling and shooting from their knees, batting pucks out of the air and lifting a leg to fake a shot on goal.

• Improved Goalie Intelligence —Goaltenders position themselves more intelligently, react to shots more quickly and recover from saves faster. Plus, 250 new goalie animations, including swatting pucks out of the air, second and third saves and desperation lunges.

• Interactive Atmosphere— Playoff atmosphere pops to life with towel-waving fans, deafening noise and crowds that react and respond to the action on the ice. Fanatical fans bang glass during board play, spring to their feet after big hits, and boo opposing stars when they handle the puck.

• Next-Level authenticity— Over 200 gameplay refinements, including new offensive and defensive AI for more intelligent positioning, and new in-game facial animations that show player emotion when delivering bone-crunching checks or celebrating game-winning goals.

The NHL games have been quite strong over the years, but there has been little difference between versions other than a few upgrades both in terms of gameplay and visuals. NHL 10 feels like the ultimate version of the series so far, while it doesn’t have a horde of new modes…what it does have is a combination of great gameplay that sets it apart from its competitor. I can’t claim to be a big fan of NHL as a sport, but as a game it is quite entertaining. I personally love the new 1st person fighting mode which is more realistic and quite funny at the same time.
The controls for NHL 10 feel more refined than in past games, it also now allows proper aiming of the stick for shots which adds a new dimension to the gameplay. It takes some getting used to, but once mastered you will dominate against your rivals. The main addition to this year’s game is the Battle for the Cup mode which is a fully fledged campaign and it’s very welcome.

The NHL series is like wine, it gets better with age. Most EA Sports games seem to be the same thing every year, but NHL 10 seems to be the definitive edition with all the features we’ve come to love with some new additions and all the problems ironed out. I’m not saying it’s flawless because it isn’t, it still feels like the same game we’ve been playing for years…it just feels more refined. This year’s game looks great visually and it also has a fantastic soundtrack, not to mention top-quality commentary. NHL 10 nails it with its slick presentation.

The Verdict

Overall, NHL 10 is the best game in the series to date. It keeps everything good about the formula, but adds in some new things for good measure. It’s surprisingly good and might just give NHL 2K10 a run for its money.