The boys are back!
Posted 4 years ago By - Marko Djordjevic
EA Sports’ NHL franchise has been the most consistent sports series in recent years. The 2007 edition broke new ground by introducing stick-handling with the right analog stick. NHL 08 evolved the game-play mechanics even further and was touted as one of the best sports game of last year. There was a lot of pressure for EA Sports to continue this hot-streak and fans of the series have nothing to worry about, NHL 09 is fantastic.
Sports games are all about innovation and giving gamers more ‘bang for their buck’. This year’s version of NHL focuses on their ‘Be a Pro’ mode, which puts you on the ice in the hopes of being the next great super-star. You have the option of either taking an AHL rookie and make him graduate to the big league or controlling an established NHLer. Both will have the same goal: help your team win the Stanley Cup. To truly enjoy this new mode, you will want to start off in the AHL by using the created player that you built when you first started the game.
While you can not photograph yourself into the game, the create-a-player option is fairly detailed and gives you a lot of variety. You have the ability to not only customize your body but the type of stick, skates, gloves and other accessories you use. You can adjust the curvature of your skates or the composition of your stick which will affect the way your player moves on the ice and how they will play. The default items are set-up to be balanced, but if you want a faster player or one with more control, you will want to adjust these settings.
Objectives are all different depending on your player’s position, will be tied to your character. By completing those objectives, you character will get experience points that will be used towards your progress through your career. For example, if you’re a winger or center, you’ll need to score a certain amount of goals in the season. For defensemen, you will need to get a certain amount of assists or have a ‘+/- rating’ better than a certain pre-determined number while goalies will have to start in a certain amount of games or win a minimum of games in a season. Every aspect of the way you play is rated by the coach. When you’re on the bench, you get a pop-up giving you the Coach’s report card, grading you on three key points: position, team play and stats. If necessary, you will have positive and negative feedback which gives you pointers on how to approach your next shift (because like the game of hockey, you will have to seat and watch the game to get better). Score goals, assist a goal or just being on the ice during a goal will make him happy. Get a penalty, give away the puck too many times or are on the ice when a goal is scored and he becomes displeased. It’s easy to get good marks as long as you play well, but expect the ratings to change a lot during the duration of a single game. As you progress and your play on the ice improves, you will eventually get called up the big leagues and you will need to prove your worth and help your team win the Stanley Cup.
Your life as a Pro is not limited to just playing offline but can be used for online matches. EA Sports has introduced the ability to create online teams with your custom players and joining user-created teams. There is also a Team online option that allows you to play with other people on a single team, each responsible for a specific position. Both modes are fun but the online interface is not that easy to navigate and will probably confuse some in the beginning. You may also encounter some "irritating problems" like other gamers who just love to pause the game after every stop of play, which is probably done to view replays and/or checking stats. If there is one thing that this game falls behind the NHL 2K series is the online experience. Improvements will be necessary for future versions.
The controls for NHL 09 are still as solid as they were in the last two editions. Introduced this year is the Defensive skill stick which allows you to use the stick for defensive manoeuvres. Now on defence, you can raise an opposing player’s stick to prevent them from receiving a pass or to get the puck from them. It’s a great addition that balances the offensive edge from the past. Also included is the option of playing with classic NHL 94 controls. This is a nice addition as it will appeal to those who may find the right-analog stick controls as being intimidating. I would still suggest using the current controls because the game is built to be played with the skill stick, but it is nice to have choices. You might want to play a game with the older controls, but you will quickly change it back to the current scheme.
Graphics and Sound
Unlike outdoor sports games, arenas typically seem the same but that is not what matters here. Ice reflections and player animations are spot-on. Players look very much like their real life personas and the game feels extremely authentic. I did notice some graphic glitches in game . Weird graphic occurrences happened during the ‘Be a Pro’ mode where players would lose their heads during line-changes. It doesn’t happen a lot but it is noticeable. There are also some frame-rate and bizarre slowdowns issues during off-ice cut scenes and replays, but those do not affect the overall game-play.
The commentating team of Gary Throne and Bill Clement are probably the best team in the sports videogame world and they help the atmosphere by making you feel like you’re watching a real-life match. Their comments are usually quite accurate and with little to no delay. You do get the odd reactions and change of speech but it doesn’t happen too often. They have a lot of interesting comments about teams and cities and even the European Club teams are not forgotten about. The sounds on the ice are also really good. When you play ‘Be a Pro’ you can hear the coach call out for line-changes and players being very vocal on the ice.
The game’s soundtrack isn’t anything special unless you are a fan of alternative and punk music. The NHL series has always had a very ‘Garage-band’ sound to it, so if you’re not a fan before, you won’t be one now.
With your regular Dynasty, Tournaments and the incredibly fun ‘Be a Pro’ there is so much for fans of the sport and sports games to play. The ‘Be A Pro’ will be where you’ll spend the most of your time with the game but the Editing modes included in the game do give you more to do outside of just playing. The Create Play Mode allows you to customize team strategies that can we used your teams. There is even a nice implantation of the EA Sports World to upload your coolest screenshots and videos with ease. This gives you the opportunity to show of your skills to the world. There is so much to do in this game that you will still be playing it when the Stanley Cup is awarded in June.
With NHL 09, you not only get the best hockey game but by-far the best sports game available on the market right now. The ‘Be a Pro’ mode is solid and the plethora of options make this a hard game not to play. It would have been nicer to have my player drafted instead of picking the team I played with as it would have created a more authentic experience. It is a small wish and can certainly be addressed next year if they want to.
NHL 09 is absolutely incredible and you owe it to yourself to pick up this title and get lost in everything it has to offer.
+ So many teams; it’s not just about the NHL.
+ Excellent Controls that keep getting better
+ Great Commentary and on-ice sounds are fantastic
+ A little bit of everything for everyone and will get non-hockey fans into the sport.
- Would be nice to be able to use a camera or photos to create a more realistic custom player
- In Game Music will not appeal to everyone.
- The Computer rarely gets penalties.
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Release Date : 2008/09/09
System : PlayStation 3
Publisher : Electronic Arts
Developer : EA Canada
Category : Sports
ESRB : E10
7.0 / 10
8.5 / 10
8.0 / 10
8.7 / 10