Thursday, October 9, 2008

Nitpicking NHL 09's Be a Pro, even if it's totally kick ass

Anyone who owns NHL '09 learns to love that arrow

On some level, it was luck that allowed me to avoid considering the question of NHL 09 vs. NHL 94 when working on my Top 5 NHL video games of all time for BoC. Really, though, it would have come down to those two games and it's hard to say if nostalgia would defeat flat out brilliance.

But as much as I love NHL 09 (and believe me, aside from a few family members and getting BJs in my car, there are FEW things I like more than NHL 09), it isn't without its flaws.

The first place to look is its awesome new addition "Be a Pro." Even if it's not the most original or innovative mode (it was in Madden years ago - it feels weird to refer to Madden as "innovative" by the way), NHL's realization of a hockey fan's wet dream is perhaps unmatched in sports games. Whether you're playing with four or five goofy Canadians online or hogging the puck in the offline version, chances are you'll whimper once you notice that 3 hours went by and you still wanna play one more.

Still, as awesome as it is, it can bring out that controller lobbing, punch-a-hole-in-the-wall rage that seemingly only surfaced during those awkward years of puberty.

Positioning is a great category and stats are cut-and-dry but the category that drives me nuts is "Team Play." Since you seem to play 40 minutes per game, it's natural that you're going to make some mistakes. And if you're the hockey world's version of the Ultimate Warrior like myself, that means a ton of points but also a ton of turnovers.

My patience in Be a Pro is Warrior-sque. God, that guy's a fucking nut.

Even if you hit everything that moves and have a plus 3 with perfect positioning ... you could still have that God Damn C grade in Team Play. Even if you pass it to Sergei Fedorov for a goal a fire hydrant could have scored. Even if you make those AI defenders bend at your will like a Herb Brooks archetype.


So that's definitely a minus for that mode. Also, the progression could be a LITTLE faster - or at least take into account a great season.

Digi-James won the Calder Trophy, the Hart Trophy, the Conn Smythe trophy and the Pearson Trophy along with a Stanley Cup in one season (!) and the biggest contract offer was $2.2 million or so.

$2 million for a guy who earned the two most prestigious trophies in the NHL? As some British comedy bloke would say, "Are you daft?"

Are you DAFT?

And considering how harshly the game judges you for turnovers, you'd think it would provide you with a perfect view of the play but the camera can often be a disaster. Sure, the graphics look fantastic from this point of view - especially on an HDtv - but there are times when you have no idea which team has the puck.

Ultimately, these complaints are almost a perk because they give EA something to strive for in NHL '10 (2010?). The amazing thing is that such a clunky, often enraging game mode could also be the coolest freaking thing in video game hockey since ... the skill stick.

But, seriously EA, would you add a fucking fantasy draft to the dynasty mode already? I get the feeling that they simply figure no one wants it...


Alexander Dubcek said...

It's imperfect because they neglected to release it on the Wii, even though it's a ridiculously popular console and offers unique opportunities. At least NHL 2K9 came out for the Wii, but I'm too damn poor to afford it.

jamestobrien said...

Yeah, you make a good point. Graphical limitations would probably limit the Wii version from being a carbon copy of the HD twins version, but you'd think they'd release something after three next gen editions.

Hopefully with the popularity of the last two games, EA will think hockey's important enough for two separate games.

It's sad to see 2K lag behind EA so sharply after making some of my favorites of the PS2 era...