Thursday, September 17, 2009

Aimless whining about NHL '10

Look, there's plenty to like about NHL '10. EA Sports added some nice features and the game feels (generally) more authentic than ever. In fact, despite my misgivings I'll probably play a few games tonight.

Still, there are some serious issues that make me glad that I didn't end up spending a full $60 on the game (since I was able to trade in games at Gamestop). In some ways, the series takes one step forward and two step backwards. Here's a random collection of thoughts.

  • The post-whistle shtick is really obnoxious, especially online. It would be interesting if the rough stuff truly carried over during the game or wasn't something that happened after every whistle. Instead, all it does is needlessly slow the game down to a screeching halt.
(And when you consider the game's nearly constant slowdown aka frame rate drops, every slowdown is another tablespoon of salt in your wounds)

Besides, it was more fun just to mindlessly bash people after the whistle. Hopefully EA patches this in the update so online games stop feeling longer than a game of Madden.
  • Many people had issues with an unintentional penalty that often happened in NHL '09. Sometimes you would receive an interference call because the game assumed you were going for a hit when you were actually attempting a one-timer.
Yet, they replaced that unintentional penalty flaw with a different unintentional penalty flaw. Now, if you don't pin someone against the boards at the right time the game thinks you want to start a fight since both actions share the same button.

In that case, the other person may not choose to fight (giving them a powerplay) or you might get an instigator penalty (giving them a powerplay). Couldn't EA commit the "start a fight" motion to the select button to avoid confusion and unintended penalties? Bah.
  • The neutral zone passing in this game (and much of the quick passes "into space") can be downright horrific at times. I tried to make reasonable breakout passes and they would speed senselessly to an icing violation frequently.
Generally, EA's solution to people scoring a lot of one-timer goals was to force passes into the most inane spots. I've tried to pass diagonally down and right and the game would force the past off the boards ... which was diagonally up and to the left. The exact opposite of my input.

Few things bother me more than a game "fixing" design flaws by making controls less intuitive and reliable.
  • Is it too much to ask for icon passing or being able to switch to the exact player you want? Sometimes I feel most comfortable playing defense with a forward, but the game assumes that I want to go for checks constantly and therefore only allows me to use a defenseman at crucial times.
This forces me into situations of potential domestic violence, but thankfully there is no wife or dog around to feel the sting of my fits.

I can often realte to Sleek's duck when it comes to unintended penalties in NHL '10

  • The teammate AI could still use some work. If the game is going to hang you out to dry by curbing much of the passing accuracy, then it hurts that much more when a player skates far out of your zone when you're under durress. That can be VERY frustrating.

But, on the bright side:
  • Despite the unintended penalties, I think the board play is pretty fun. It allows you to stage a much more effective forecheck and also gives you a little more time to set up a cycle game. (Shocking that I'd find that appealing, right?)
  • It seems like EA's done a solid job of cutting down on some of the more insufferable glitches from '09. I stopped playing online a while with the last update, since the game devolved into an exploit war.

Good game, but after two quantam leaps from 07 to 08 to 09, this year's game lacks a "wow" factor and has some serious drawbacks. Hopefully the game will get a serious repair, because right now I will probably not play it online very often (although I'm more likely to play the EASHL than standard team vs. team games).

If you have NHL '09 and a tight budget, I'd say wait a bit or just rent NHL '10. I'm sure EA will smooth over some of the rough edges, but right now I'm frustrated with the game as often as I am delighted.

Still, I'm glad I have it and probably will feel better about it once I get used to the tweaks and changes. What are your thoughts on the game so far? Do you share my frustrations? Are there some problems I haven't discovered or failed to mention? Or should I just rub some dirt on it and enjoy the game for what it is?

Feel free to share your thoughts on NHL '10 in the comments.


Topher0820 said...

legit gripes, except the accidental penalty on board play. its not about the right time, its about holding down the button (which initiates board play) or tapping it (which initiates general shenanigans)

CLS said...

Good point Christopher, although I think any confusion could be remedied by a simple button change.

I figure if you moved "instigate a fight" to the select button it wouldn't cause problems because if people want to start a fight it's pretty much a deliberate, non-hockey action anyway ...