NHL 09

So here it is; NHL 09, this year’s (next year’s?) version of EA Sports’ ice hockey title. What did I think of it? Well, let me just get something out of the way, a bit of honesty up front, so that you can read this review with a better understanding of my mindset when I wrote it.

I just played an online match of NHL 09. About two minutes into that game, the random person I had been ranked against had scored two goals against me. I battled, but with my huge lack of skill, I was losing badly. Suddenly, salvation! The person I was playing against suddenly stopped doing anything. Maybe their phone rang or a door to door salesman turned up, who cares, victory was mine! It took me another ten minutes to equalise the score – the computer goalie was some kind of invincible superwarrior. So, with about two minutes left to play, all I had to do was score one more goal to win the game and salvage a tiny scrap of dignity. I ran the puck into my own net with 30 seconds to go and lost the match.

You can only imagine the swearwords that burst forth from my mouth…

With that in mind, on to the game. NHL 09 is a hugely complicated hockey game. Want an option? It’s got it. What a game mode? It’s got it. This complexity shines through right from the start of the game, with me having to click “Continue” on roughly ten pop up boxes warning me about profiles, saving, autosaving and just about everything else before I even got to the main menu.

After completing the reasonably simple tutorial I found myself looking for a Career mode in the expansive menus. The mode I found – ‘Be a pro’ – turned out not to be anything to do with streetwalking, but a rather detailed mode where you set yourself up as a player, and embark on a career. It was the first time I have ever played a sports game that takes this tack, and apparently the first time an NHL game has done this too. It appears to be a combination of sports game and RPG, doing well in games allows you some points which can be spent on improving your characters skills to advance you through your career.

You can customise your character extensively, and I really liked the fact that in game you can see your surname printed on the back of your player’s jersey – a small touch but a neat one. Of course, the trouble with this mode focusing so intently on a single player is that this means if you foul and get put into the sin bin, or are just not currently on the ice, then you just have to sit there and watch the action. During this time there seems to be nothing you can do to help – realistic, yes, but I found it a bit dull at times. However, I think for really big hockey fans this mode could be brilliant, but as an amateur who just wanted to play some fast and fun hockey it wasn’t for me.

So, I set off to the Quick Match option. Now this I liked, as you can switch players so you are almost always in charge of the puck, and the game plays much more like every other hockey/football/etc. game out there. The graphics are bold and bright, and the whole game moves along smoothly and flows well.  Using the right stick to control your hockey stick works well, and when you flick it back and then forward for a big hit you really feel like you’re about to belt the puck. There’s even a fighting minigame, which I sucked at just as badly as I did the actual hockey, but I was pleased to see it was there and it was funny to watch my character take a pummelling. On the topic of humour, my total lack of hockey knowledge caused me to snigger when the commentators said that I had played “a good hard dump”. I have no idea what that means, but overall I was impressed with the commentary. I heard very few repeated phrases and it actually sounded like proper sports commentary.

The game also boasts a mode where you can take your character online, form a team, and play full games, 6 vs 6, with every player on the pitch a real person. This idea sounds great, and I imagine you’d see some really great play if you got a couple of decent teams together. If you are really into hockey, there is a lot of game here for your money.







One response to “NHL 09”

  1. Kirsten avatar

    6 on 6 real players online? That sounds totally amazing!

Leave a Reply