There is nothing in sports gaming like controlling a skater in NHL 10. The fluidity, motion, and speed are captured perfectly. It is essential to the game, something that makes EA’s hockey franchise the winner of multiple “Sports Game of the Year” awards, a dozen in ’09 according to the box.
It may be overstating the fact, but everything about the motion of hockey is accurately represented here. The physics feel natural, the transitions are flawless, and speeding down the ice is remarkably real.
One of the few games to use analog controls purposefully, NHL 10 fails to improve the system, but it manages to keep that immersive nature. In tight games, you feel yourself pulling back and slapping the analog stick forward to mimic the motion of your digitally controlled counterpart. Wrist shots are equally satisfying, capturing the sense of actually swatting a puck better than tacked-on motion controls looking to do the same thing.
Board play has finally been added, an essential piece to hockey that this franchise has sadly been without. It works simply and naturally within the control scheme, although that’s sadly not the case for the gimmicky first-person fighting, which is less than satisfactory. The lead-up to a potential brawl is also a source of hilarity, with players robotically pushing each other around the ice, strangely grunting with each hit.
Flipping through the manual searching for EA’s trademark “New” notations reveals minimal improvements. A season and playoff mode should hardly be considered new, particularly since they have been part of this series previously. Why they were dropped in the first place is anyone’s guess. Previous features, including a depth-filled GM/franchise mode return. The latter may be slightly cumbersome or text-heavy for those simply looking to take a team through a few seasons of play.
Be a Pro also makes a comeback, impressively handled again to integrate a single user career mode into a sport that makes it difficult. The nature of hockey, with speedy line changes and specific sets of players on the ice, hardly limits ice time. It may not be as interruption-free as say Madden (with its ability to skip all plays not pertaining to the user), but you still can become involved with the flow and pacing of the game.
For fans of smaller cities, the inclusion of AHL teams is fantastic, even allowing a full GM mode to be played in the minors. Additional sports titles need to allow lesser-caliber leagues to be enjoyed in all modes of play, particularly MLB: The Show on the PS3.
The only logical fault of NHL 10 is a lack of significant upgrades, yet that clichéd complaint could be applied to any sports title. It is boring, and not necessarily all that fair given that the current state of the product is superior, right up there with MLB: The Show on the PS3 for the best simulation sports series.
NHL 10 is rated E10+ (Everyone 10 and older) by the ESRB for mild violence. This game can also be found on: PS3.