NHL 2K9 looks for a Cup run -Review (PS3)

2K Sports offers up their 2009 incarnation of their NHL title announcing to all those interested that they brought the fun back to video game hockey. The approach was to simplify the controls making the game more accessible to newbies to the series and those turned off (my self included) from the excessively complicated control schemes as the series, sports video games, and consoles themselves evolved.

The Pros

NHL 2K9 reminded me of how much I liked hockey games in the 16-bit era. Purists aside, the game is just plain fun. It’s unrealistically faster paced; body checks all over and offensive chances galore.

The game does also feature some “neat” moments throughout. You have the ability to control the Zamboni during intermission between periods; players on your team will start growing beards in the playoffs, and you actually get to control the Stanley Cup celebration when you win the big one. In addition, the player has got mini-rink, pond hockey and the shootout mode that serve as an alternative to regular game play. This all culminates in a generally casual arcade experience even when playing the regular season/franchise which serves specific market well. Another nice touch to the game is if you are online, there is the streaming in game scoreboard that shows all the up to date scores in the sports world.

Where the game shines a bit more is the online component. You will be able to create an online profile for your self along with an avatar and will be able to enter weekly ranking tournaments with the grand prize of being in NHL 2K10. Online play allows for 12 players (one for each position) to converge and play a game and/or tournament with the option of having the game contain ranking implications to your profile. Players can lock themselves into one position in the game which comes with certain goals to meet (that will effect your ranking) depending on your position.

The Cons

Hold on a minute though, the controls are easier but where is the diving poke check? Yes, the controls have been simplified, but not without some sacrifice. Those looking for more simulation type of play need not bother with this one. A lot of the commands you were able to pull off that seemed to be key to ones winning strategy in other 2K hockey games (like the diving poke check for me) are stripped off or defaulted to satisfy the simplified control scheme. The absence is most prevalent when playing online or with a friend who is not an easily manipulated AI opponent.

The AI of the game is generally still very simplistic and easy. This was reflected on the very first game I played on 2K9 on “Pro” difficulty. With no real strategy or approach to playing my first game, I resorted to my default Sega Genesis strategy. This entailed a lot of one-timers, trying to run over any one who had the puck, relying on the computer controlled goalie to stop all the shots, and the occasional cheap slap shot while skating across the crease. Though the AI does actually try set up plays on both the defensive and offensive end, to my surprise the strategy still worked winning 5-0 with overall ease, not giving me really any motivation to go through a whole season in this game other than for an ego boost.

Even though some will love the simplified control scheme and the new arcade/retro feel to the game mechanics that it compliments, those looking for more a realistic approach to game play should look elsewhere. The choice in direction they’ve made with 2K9 almost leaves you wishing that they found a better balance between simulation and arcade play to satisfy both sides the spectrum.

The graphics itself are only average and the menus gave me the impression of a somewhat unpolished, less then sleek look to it. The announcers do the job but that’s about it.

Here’s the Deal

Hardcore hockey game fans will be a bit disappointed with this one. The lack of in- depth commands and actions have been given up for easier control scheme. However, if you are a casual hockey fan that is looking for a hockey game that is easy to pick up this may be the option for you. The appeal of the play is that it is geared toward action over simulation. There is nothing revolutionary on the technical side of things but it meets the requirements without getting too nitpicky about it. NHL 2K9 will be the hockey game you will either love or hate.

~ by consolecreatures on September 28, 2008.

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