NHL 2K10

Hockey (of the ice variety) is perfect for gaming. Fast relentless attack and defence, big tackles, actual fights and incredible atmosphere all adds up to something that gaming should adore. Indeed hockey has a good past in gaming going back to the 8-bit days, evolving slowly where today we have two heavyweight developers representing the sport. EA Sports of course have the big budget effort with 2K Sports playing the David to EA’s Goliath. In recent years 2K’s efforts have lacked in quality, with falling review scores leaving the developer bereft of the once rosy reputation it once held as the true sports fans’ sports brand. Can NHL 2K10 repair this and provide an alternative to the EA NHL juggernaut?

For those readers who perhaps are not well versed in the mechanics of any sports game I should explain first that there are a few things you just absolutely have to get right. Pacing, physics and control. If your game isn’t paced like the sport then it won’t have realism, your physics for players and puck/ball have to be spot on so the players can play the sport like the real thing and so nothing bizarre happens. Finally control, pretty simple but it has to control well for obvious reasons.

NHL 2K10 manages to have none of these in gameplay, which is an impressive feat in its own right but does makes playing a bit of a chore. The game feels sluggish in pacing which is far removed from the speed of the real sport and this carries through to controlling the players. It seems the whole ice part was forgotten when looking at player movement with it feeling like skating on treacle thus removing the dramatic speed aspect of the sport. Physics are the final piece of the puzzle and sadly NHL 2K10 fails to deliver on this as well. The puck feels more like a magnet and will favour the attacker more often than not, so checking an attacker or slamming him into the glass may not actually get him off the puck. The feeling of sheer anger when you send an attacker spinning and then to his knees only for him to get up and skate off with the puck is staggering.

The whole game is geared more towards attack this year than ever before, with even the best defences being easily bypassed and with shooting being easier than ever. My first game ended 9-8 and that was on a reasonable difficulty setting with first time shots invariably flying in and defences doing their best red sea impression. It’s video game hockey circa 1999 and in today’s age of sports games offering both simulation and arcade play in one package it feels dated and lacklustre. Granted you have the addition of stumbling shots and stick lifting but these are not new to the genre and are more about NHL 2K10 catching up with the competition instead of truly innovating. Combining the lack of innovation with sloth like players, frustrating physics and late 90’s arcade styling you have a game that is simply boring on the ice.

The rest of the game doesn’t offer much to improve matters. Graphics are an improvement but it’s a move from ghastly to functional with animations still distinctly unrealistic and lacking in variety. This carries through the whole presentation which matches the dated gameplay. I’ve seen more realistic high quality TV broadcasts on Youtube and the commentary is lifted straight out of the 90s with clunky dialogue and delivery.

The biggest issue outside of gameplay is the game modes, which offers little change from previous years. You can hit up a quick game, play a season or a franchise, play a little 4 vs 4 or 3 vs 3 or online play. Standard fare but with emphasis on the online play, with the ability to invite friends in almost any circumstance being very much at the forefront of the game. Again a very casual arcade decision to make and one that has its issues: namely lag. Smaller games ran fine but once games started approaching two full teams the game descended into the realms of unplayability. This is a small gripe though in a small addition and one that doesn’t weaken the overall game mode set, the lack of change however is what weakens it. There is nothing in NHL 2K10 which isn’t done better or more interestingly in other titles and when the on ice play is so simple and arcade-like the innovation had to come from the modes on offer; sadly it’s the final nail in the coffin. If you are a hardcore hockey fan this is too simple for you, if you are a casual fan there is nothing here you can’t get on another hockey title playing on an easy difficulty and for all fans of the genre this is a title that does nothing to innovate or change. A missed opportunity to go a different direction.







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