NHL 12 demo review

Image courtesy EA.com

Upon first glance, the demo for EA’s NHL 12 appears to be a retread of last year’s NHL 11.

Sure, the songs may have changed and Chicago and Philadelphia have been replaced by Vancouver and Boston but on the whole, the game remains fairly status quo — and I’m OK with that.

EA puts out a solid quality product and the developers are better off improving the game rather than continually reinventing it. The controls and gameplay are familiar, with minor tweaks made here and there.

The first noticeable change to the game is the menu screen. A cleaner interface means improved usability for the EA novice. Featured in the in-game menu screens, the design of the Game Manual and the easy accessibility to graphics tracking statistics such as shots, goals, and hits, are a very nice touch.

In the game, the biggest changes are made to the way the goaltender interacts with his surroundings. The goalie is now more a part of the game rather than just a static block who serves no purpose outside of protecting the net.

Players can now run the goalie, allowing for a new way to score goals and wreak havoc in front of the net. Any contact with the goalie, both before and after the whistle, results in quicker responses from the opposing skaters, who will immediately engage you in a battle around the net.

The goalie can be knocked down and pushed around. When pushes comes to shove, the goalies will even drop the gloves with each other.

The skaters, on the other hand, have not undergone many significant changes. Although it’s hard to verify this, it appears that a user has more control over receiving passes, as the game switches players a bit sooner than in previous versions. It takes a little bit of adjusting. At first, cross-ice passes made to players on the attack that are located outside of the viewable area of the screen could result in more offsides and more missed connections.

Players also do a better job at reacting to lost pucks than in NHL 11. When the puck is poke checked away, the artificial intelligence kicks in and tries to gain control of the puck again.

In Be A Pro mode, the changes made are more of a setback than a step forward. A player will be assigned a task (ie. provide momentum, get more shots on goal, score a goal, etc.) and these tasks are a distraction from the actual game. Rather than play the position well and help the team out, gamers will be more inclined to take meaningless shots, play selfishly, and drop the gloves for the sole purpose of completing a task.

Winter Classic, Image courtesy EA.com

A user can now simulate ahead to his next shift, shortening the time he spends on the bench. The instant gratification is nice at first but fleeting. Doing this will detract from the realism of this mode and make it less appealing. Overusing this feature may kill the desire to continue playing Be A Pro mode in the long run.

As a personal aside, I still do not see the appeal of the Hockey Ultimate Team (HUT) mode and could never stick with it for more than a game or two. The setup and interface are counterintuitive and I have little interest in the concept. Others may find more value in HUT and I cannot provide any comments of worth to them.

Gordie Howe, Image courtesy EA.com

The most appealing aspects of NHL 12 are unavailable in the game demo. Winter Classic and Be A Legend modes will add new dimensions to EA’s hockey franchise, such as the novelty of playing in outdoor conditions or adding historical players to the lineup but gamers will have to anxiously await the game’s release to test out these new parts of the game.

One of the aspects that has been sorely lacking in recent hockey games has been the ability to play as classic teams. Hitting the ice as the ’87 or the Stanley Cup-winning Flyers teams was a great bonus. If the Legends available in NHL 12 is a step back towards that — with Wayne Gretzky and Jeremy Roenick both included as legends, maybe we can make Gretzky’s head bleed for super fan #99 over here? —  then it’ll be easy to overlook the game’s glitches and consider this game to be a vast improvement.

  • Rex

    You don’t have to sim to your next shift in Be A Pro. You can play it however you want to. If you like to sit on the bench and watch the AI play a game be my guest, I’ll be on the ice.

    • http://flyersfaithful.com Marcello D

      Sorry, I should’ve been clearer. I know you don’t have to sim to the next shift. I am just not a fan of the feature.

  • Rex

    You don’t have to sim to your next shift in Be A Pro. You can play it however you want to. If you like to sit on the bench and watch the AI play a game be my guest, I’ll be on the ice.

    • http://flyersfaithful.com Marcello D

      Sorry, I should’ve been clearer. I know you don’t have to sim to the next shift. I am just not a fan of the feature.

  • William

    I am not one to buy the concept that the Winter Classic is a revolutionary new feature which will change the game forever; as such, I can’t see how it can be “the most appealing new feature.” It is little more than a gimmick, similar to adding goalie fights. As far as I can tell, the Winter Classic most likely won’t be insertable into any other game modes, and so essentially, it will just be a super-detailed exhibition. I suppose that for someone who plays a lot of multiplayer, this could be appealing, but not for me.

    Personally, I am someone who plays BAP more than any other part of the game, and I am absolutely thrilled with the changes I have been able to see in the demo. Ideally, I would have liked them simply to fast-forward action in between shifts (so you could still follow the play), but what they have is essentially the next best thing.

    The fact that the game style forces you to play a certain way is actually a good thing, I feel. Occasionally, the new task-oriented system may advise you to take shots and run after hits when you normally wouldn’t, but then, I can’t help but feel that this is a part of the actual game when a coach wants to change the momentum. Having a sense of direction is, anyway, a HUGE step up from having to essentially restrain oneself and self-impose restrictions in order to make a realistic game of it (and not end up with 45 minutes and 10 goals per game). I am looking forward to seeing what other changes have been made to the mode outside of games.

    • http://flyersfaithful.com Marcello D

      You make some good points but I’d like to clarify a few things:

      1. I never called the WC a revolutionary new feature which will change the game forever. It may seem like a gimmick to you but it’s different strokes for different folks. Appealing != great. I bet this feature will have a wider appeal than you think, especially among fringe players who are on the fence about whether or not to drop another $60 on a new NHL game. We don’t know what it will be like because we haven’t played it yet but, as the picture above shows, the player will be exposed to outdoor conditions. I assume that will limit visibility, cause players to skate and react differently and change the way you play the game. Changing the venue from an indoor rink to an outdoor park in and of itself may not seem like much but once you add in the element of weather conditions, I think it’ll make the game interesting.

      2. I play BAP and GM modes most often and, when I first started, the ability to FF seemed like the most glaring oversight in the game. Then, I began playing Road to the Show in MLB and hated the way it fast forwarded through the actions. It felt like a random series of drills or exercises, not like you’re actually playing the game. I feel like it’s a novelty that quickly loses it’s allure but that’s just my opinion.

      3. I see your point on the task-oriented system. I may change my mind about it in the long run after I get the full release of the game. Limited to what I can do on a demo, though, I am not a fan.

  • William

    I am not one to buy the concept that the Winter Classic is a revolutionary new feature which will change the game forever; as such, I can’t see how it can be “the most appealing new feature.” It is little more than a gimmick, similar to adding goalie fights. As far as I can tell, the Winter Classic most likely won’t be insertable into any other game modes, and so essentially, it will just be a super-detailed exhibition. I suppose that for someone who plays a lot of multiplayer, this could be appealing, but not for me.

    Personally, I am someone who plays BAP more than any other part of the game, and I am absolutely thrilled with the changes I have been able to see in the demo. Ideally, I would have liked them simply to fast-forward action in between shifts (so you could still follow the play), but what they have is essentially the next best thing.

    The fact that the game style forces you to play a certain way is actually a good thing, I feel. Occasionally, the new task-oriented system may advise you to take shots and run after hits when you normally wouldn’t, but then, I can’t help but feel that this is a part of the actual game when a coach wants to change the momentum. Having a sense of direction is, anyway, a HUGE step up from having to essentially restrain oneself and self-impose restrictions in order to make a realistic game of it (and not end up with 45 minutes and 10 goals per game). I am looking forward to seeing what other changes have been made to the mode outside of games.

    • http://flyersfaithful.com Marcello D

      You make some good points but I’d like to clarify a few things:

      1. I never called the WC a revolutionary new feature which will change the game forever. It may seem like a gimmick to you but it’s different strokes for different folks. Appealing != great. I bet this feature will have a wider appeal than you think, especially among fringe players who are on the fence about whether or not to drop another $60 on a new NHL game. We don’t know what it will be like because we haven’t played it yet but, as the picture above shows, the player will be exposed to outdoor conditions. I assume that will limit visibility, cause players to skate and react differently and change the way you play the game. Changing the venue from an indoor rink to an outdoor park in and of itself may not seem like much but once you add in the element of weather conditions, I think it’ll make the game interesting.

      2. I play BAP and GM modes most often and, when I first started, the ability to FF seemed like the most glaring oversight in the game. Then, I began playing Road to the Show in MLB and hated the way it fast forwarded through the actions. It felt like a random series of drills or exercises, not like you’re actually playing the game. I feel like it’s a novelty that quickly loses it’s allure but that’s just my opinion.

      3. I see your point on the task-oriented system. I may change my mind about it in the long run after I get the full release of the game. Limited to what I can do on a demo, though, I am not a fan.

  • William

    I’d also like to add that I think you left out another major gameplay feature which should make a huge difference to the playability of the game- the new net-front battle system. Gone are the days of being absolutely laid out just because you deigned to wander into the slot; now one actually can fight their way for position, with bigger players finally bringing their size to the fore. What was most ridiculous about the old system was that even the smallest body-check from a defender would force the attacker into one of their “stumbling” animations, and for that period of time, the attacker would be unable to do anything. That is also gone.

    I haven’t had too much of a chance to utilize this feature, but I am hoping that it lives up to its potential; hey, it can’t be worse.

  • William

    I’d also like to add that I think you left out another major gameplay feature which should make a huge difference to the playability of the game- the new net-front battle system. Gone are the days of being absolutely laid out just because you deigned to wander into the slot; now one actually can fight their way for position, with bigger players finally bringing their size to the fore. What was most ridiculous about the old system was that even the smallest body-check from a defender would force the attacker into one of their “stumbling” animations, and for that period of time, the attacker would be unable to do anything. That is also gone.

    I haven’t had too much of a chance to utilize this feature, but I am hoping that it lives up to its potential; hey, it can’t be worse.