The Play offs have started.
The last hockey game I bought for full price was Wayne Gretzky’s 3D Hockey for the N64, since then I haven’t really fallen in love with any new hockey games. Sure, I’ve played my share but nothing has captured the frenzy of the old hockey games and has left me wondering if maybe my expectations are a bit too high. No, I haven’t been under a rock or anything, I’ve played and kept up to date on the newer NHL games but nothing has really stood out enough for me to merit a purchase.
When talks were brewing about NHL 2K10 utilizing the Wii Motion Plus accessory I was really excited to see how evolutionary this title might turn out to be. This excitement was due to the fact that the last sports title I played that utilized the Motion Plus was the excellent Tiger Woods 10. In the end it’s the actual utilization of this little gizmo that will either make or break this title.
So does NHL 2k10 have what it takes? Read more…
After reviewing over 10 games on the Wii, I finally got my hands on a hockey title. Leading up to this exciting day, my mind would fill with ideas of how the controls would work, simulating a slap shot, dekeing and faking, basically hoping for a direct simulation of an actual game of hockey thanks to the Wii’s unique position in terms of controller inventiveness. When I popped in NHL 2K9 for the Nintendo Wii, the first thing I noticed was the sharp cut off between the intro music and going straight into a quick match setup. It seemed that there was no true main menu in the game unless you read the small text at the bottom saying “press the + button to select menu”. I guess I could shrug this off in the assumption that 2K Sports was trying to instill the idea of instant action without bothering the player, and in fact, I support this decision as it makes the game begin that much quicker.
Playing the game itself is challenging. The introduction and all aspects found in most hockey games are present, but once that puck drops, it feels like a totally different game… or at least a hockey game you might have played a few years ago on the Gamecube. The graphics found in NHL 2K9 are nearly insulting to watch, with basic reflections, abysmal audience and simple animations, the un-detailed renderings of the players, while smooth, are simple at best.
Music wise you get the same old rock anthems and hockey jingles that appear in any other game and the voice commentary, while appreciated, is frustratingly repetitive to a point where you just want to mute your TV. Otherwise, the sound effects coming from the skates and players are simple recordings of real life sounds, both realistic but bland.
Now let’s talk about controls, what the Wii prides itself on. Controlling the flow of action is pretty unique in NHL 2K9, you use the analog stick to skate around and the remote to control your stick handling, sounds great but its so touchy and reactive at times while being sluggish at others that it’s nearly impossible to pull off a high skilled deke shot without making a mistake somewhere. Using the Wii-mote’s accelerometer to wind up slapshots is cool, but when you want to do it, it doesn’t work out how you hoped it would, and when you just want to dump the puck, you wind up… well, winding up! It’s hard and cumbersome to do simple maneuvers other NHL games can do with easy such as checking or stripping the puck from another player, and to go back to the graphics issue, the animations are so simple you don’t even realize your doing a move by the way the players look. One feature that still do this date eludes me is that no matter how hard I try to get into a fight, I just cannot seem to start one, there aren’t any instructions in the manual about how to control a fight and from all the demos I’ve watched and times I’ve played, I have yet to see a fight, I’m starting to think perhaps there is no fighting in NHL 2K9 for the Wii
Once your done playing exhibition games, 2K9 offers a number of other game modes to enjoy such as the following: Franchise mode allows players to focus on any NHL team to guide them to the Stanley Cup, making decisions about players on the ice, management, coaching, drafting and more. Mini-rink gives 2 on 2 hockey action on a tiny rink, bouncy walls and no penalties make for one action packed minigames. Pond hockey gives players a 4 on 4 match with invisible walls that still clank like plexiglass, and finally, the all important shootout mode. While these options aren’t all that expansive, and there isn’t a creation mode of any kind, it’s still nice to have some extras in a game that seems to be missing the ball on so many other features.
All these negatives being said, I still feel NHL 2K9 is the best hockey game out there on the Nintendo Wii to date, the nunchuck controls are fun to skate around with, and with the selection of other game types, you will have plenty to draw upon when the old NHL leaves you lying flat. After all, there’s always next year… NHL 2K10?
Replay Value: 3.0/5