As long as I have been writing you get to certain times of the year and it is at these times where you realize how long you have been doing this. I know its almost video game crunch time when EA and 2K put out there hockey titles because after that the gaming industry sees a major influx of gaming titles. I think this is a perfect time to check out a hockey game, and I am sure hardcore hockey fans have been really interested to see how the latest hockey title from EA, NHL 09 ends up turning out. So what is the final verdict? Read our full review to find out!
Some years I find that EA pushes out sports titles with rather limited improvements over the past years. And other times it seems like they out did themselves, and thus is the case with NHL 09 for the Xbox 360. For the first time in a long time it really seems like the NHL franchise from EA has enough modes to really put itself as a first string addition to the series. But do these new additions end up panning out for the game?
Really the biggest addition that needs the most attention in my opinion is the Be a Pro mode where I spent the majority of my time in NHL 09. One thing I should say right away I am not an achievement junkie but this is one game that really makes you earn them. Let’s get back on subject however, and get back to talking about the Be a Pro mode which really signifies the true strength of NHL 09. You can either start at the bottom in the AHL (if you’ve never heard of it your not alone) or in the NHL. Being the journeyman hockey player like I am I started in the AHL and had to really work my way up from there into the NHL.
This may be the most complete and well developed “superstar” modes in all of EA’s lineup, at least thus far. The game first off play’s beautifully when your playing as your player. After creating them you start off on the third line and your goal is to move up to the first line and eventually make it to the NHL. Having the perspective of just your player actually works beautifully in the game and from my experience had only minor camera problems. What happens is that the camera hugs rather close to your player and can get stuck when the puck goes from one side of the ice to the other, but its not a horrible inconvenience. The only other complaint I had was that the leveling up process of your player is far to tedious. For anyone who has spent hours and hours trying to level up characters in an MMO, this experience is quite similar. It can be taxing but getting to the pros and eventually winning the cup is quite the thrill.
The other big new feature is the new online play which allows you to take a player online and play with a group of other players each controlling one player playing against teams of real people. The game does a great job of keeping track your progress online and makes creating teams and playing with friends quite a blast. I unfortunately don’t have many friends who play NHL titles but I quickly made some great teammates online and played some unbelievable matches. You will get a few who still don’t understand the rules of hockey, but with that aside the game plays beautifully online and is probably the best online experience of any EA Sports title to date.
There have been more then just mode improvements, there have also been some extremely impressive gameplay additions as well. The game has gone a few notches above last years game in terms of realism. The controls have been altered ever so slightly to allow more chance on the defensive end. Checking players is now not the only options as being more of a nuisance on the defensive end by being able to push the stick or intercept passes something that was near impossible in recent years.
More then anything NHL 09 plays beautifully, and gives one of the most realistic NHL games of recent past. There are some issues, penalties are a bit random, checking has been toned down a bit to much, and some other minor issues. But more importantly NHL 09 as a whole offers up a near perfect hockey experience.
The only area that really didn’t receive a major overhaul was the visual department which looks awfully familiar to anyone who played last year’s game. That’s not a bad thing because the skating which really impressed me last year continues to in this year’s game. There have been some additions to the animation department that go along with the new modes, but all in all the game doesn’t necessarily struggle in this department it just doesn’t make any huge strides forward either.
I have to admit I very rarely if ever watch the NHL, and I think a lot of you will agree that, that no way deters me from wanting to play an NHL game. Hockey in general makes a terrible TV sport, but I think it is perfect for a video game, and EA has nailed it with NHL 09. The Be a Pro mode really was the icing on the cake for me as the mode not only allows some great progression but really just hooked me and sold all of the ideas to me right away. The mode can be a bit taxing at the on set but when you start to delve deeper into the mode it really is a ton of fun.
I think the last hockey game I enjoyed this much was back on the Nintendo with Blades of Steel one of my favorite sports titles. NHL 09 is really all of the ideas from past games finally put into a complete package. If you have sat a few years out on the franchise or even if your a regular NHL fan, NHL 09 is a game that all sports fans need to check out.
The owner and editor-in-chief of Darkstation.com. I've been apart of the website since 2002 and purchased the website in 2010. Owning and running Darkstation is a dream come true. I love video games and I love writing and talking about them even more.