NHL 12 is the best hockey videogame ever created. Usually words like that are met with a head shake or replies like EA fanboy, but NHL 12 is truly the pinnacle of hockey videogames. The team at EA SPORTS has spent the last few years adding features to their hockey series that show how much passion the team has for hockey. They have spent their time not just layering on fluff or arcadey game modes that might appeal to the masses, but have put time an effort into making a hockey game that plays realistically and the way hardcore hockey fans want.
NHL 12 has added a number of subtle changes that many casual gamers might miss if they spent anytime with NHL 11. EA SPORTS has added better board play and even more goalie animations to NHL 12 and this really adds to realism of the game. The computer opponents are no longer the pushovers they were in previous games and often require human players to adjust tactics during the game in order to stay in the game. The computer teammates seem to adapt to the gamer’s play-style and get to open ice and drive the net better than in NHL 11.
Goalies are no longe the brick walls they were in NHL 10 and can be driven from the game if they give up too many goals. The amount of rebounds seems to be a bit higher as well as the goalies making catching glove saves more often.
Shooting has stayed the same from NHL 11 and continues to be a high point of the series. Using both sticks to skate and shoot has made the series more responsive than most other sports videogames. The ability to use the right stick to deke allows for an amazing amount of control.
The graphics in NHL 12 are amazing. Players have a significant amount of detail and the large number of authentic gear licensed allows gamers to create players who look just like themselves. NHL 12 has even added female players to the game allowing women, and girls, to create players for the first time ever. The ice continues to look amazingly realistic and degrades as the game goes on. Goalies look bigger than skaters, just as they should, and move fluidly.
As the series has evolved, fans of the EA SPORTS NHL series know what to expect. A great Be a Pro mode, a staggeringly deep multiplayer mode, Be a GM mode and a number of other modes are offered in the game. These modes have been tweaked in NHL 12, and while they are nearly perfect, gamers know what to expect. If you played the Be a Pro mode in NHL 11, you’ll be very familiar with the mode in NHL 12. I found myself only playing through one season of the Be a Pro mode in NHL 12 after playing nearly 5 in NHL 11. It wasn’t due to the mode be any less polished, but rather due to the fact that I felt I had already “been there, done that”. If you are new to the series, or have not spent significant time with this mode, you will probably spend quite a bit of time advancing your player from rookie to seasoned veteran.
The multi-player mode is where I have spent most of my time while playing NHL 12. This mode, and the EASHL, allows gamers to take their created players online and take on other players in a drop-in mode or along with their friends in an online league. Being able to create a virtual beer-league team and play online for trophies has been a major addition and something that keeps players gaming throughout the real NHL season. This mode is easy for a novice to jump into and compete. Even while building up your created player, you can still contribute to an online team by playing sound position and making good plays. I found that the more realistic you play, the better you do.
Overall the series has set the bar for sports games and NHL 12, while not a huge leap forward from NHL 11, continues that trend.