By Neil McCormick
When it comes to sporting games, there seems to be two camps , those that want a pure sports simulation, or those that want an arcade style, fast simple version with plenty of action and high scoring opportunities. NHL 2k10 attempts to deliver on the latter.
I say attempts to deliver the latter, because the default settings needed tweaked to produce a fast enough game. For under the default settings it felt kind of sluggish. However this was quickly adjusted.
Once adjusted, the controls felt smooth and adequately covered what was required on the rink. The players move as you feel they would if they were on actual ice. However, the problem arises, if like me you are unfamiliar with the rudiments of ice hockey, you are going to struggle at first. Heck before I picked up the controller as far as I was concerned, icing was what you found on top of a cake. Turns out icing occurs when a player shoots the puck across at least two red lines on the rink, the opposing team’s goal line being the last, and in the process the puck remains untouched. When icing occurs, a linesman stops the play. Play is resumed with a face-off in the defending zone of the team that committed the infraction. Who would have known ?
This probably made me a perfect person to try this game, could someone with absolutely no knowledge of ice hockey, get to grips with an unknown sport and at the same time enjoy the experience? I am glad to say, despite some initial problems, I emerged with a new admiration for a sport. All I need now is for someone to pick up the challenge and produce a decent arcade rugby game.
The Puck caused me some problems, being short sighted does not help when it is small to the point of being minuscule and you have to bring it from your half and score in the opponent’s goal. Whilst the game developers tried to make it easier, by providing a shaded outline, it still proved tricky to see. Despite this, the puck animations are close to perfection, the puck moves as you would imagine it would move on the ice, spinning and wobbling as it should.
At the beginning button bashing was essential to try and salvage some sort of pride as the CPU demonstrated total domination. The CPU goal tender was a devil to play against. It got to the stage of hit and hope as no matter what I would try, it would save the shot. Whilst at the other end, under my control the tender felt as capable as a chocolate teapot. However with determination and gritted teeth I spent time on the rink and gradually improved, till I could sometimes score.
The introductions to a game were excellently produced, with each team’s venue having their own individual intro, with a tailored light show. The graphics shone, the ice was beautiful and seemed a decent representation of actual ice, the arenas are nicely detailed, the crowds are loud and jubilant. You would think then, its going to be a great immersible experience, then the commentary kicks in and I frowned.
Having been totally immersed by the sound track and interactive commentary of NBA 2K10, I expected to enjoy a similar experience with NHL 2K10. I was wrong, It was not in the same league, in truth it disappointed. The fact it came from the same stable is all the more shocking. Yes the commentary covered the key moments of the game, but it quickly grated due to frequent repetition, and in the process it somehow failed to capture the spirit and interaction of playing the game which was so easily achieved by the NBA 2k10 game. However this is a mere dust and polish issue, which I am sure could be easily improved on in the 2011 edition.
Whilst playing against the CPU can be a harsh experience, playing online is where it is at. Playing against human opposition seemed to really help the game sparkle. At least you would have some chance of an equally balanced game. The key here however was to hone your defence skills as, the person that can defend the best will gain the upper hand.
As well as the typical stadium game of NHL 2k10 I also tried the pond hockey mode. This gave a very realistic feel to the game, as 2 v2 teams took on each other, in what looked like your typical iced over pond, in the Canadian winter. It brought a fun experience to proceedings. As beautiful as the stadiums are recreated in the game, it felt like they were a poor man’s imitation compared to the gorgeous scene playing outside.
So on balance, while the game does have some flaws, playing against human opposition, redeems the game. If you want a game, which with a little work, will reward you with a great live experience then this would be a great game to play with some friends over a couple of beers.