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2009 NHL Games


Graeme
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Well, it's that time of year when info on the next crop of NHL games is starting to come out.

 

EA has shown it's game to the media a bunch in the past few weeks, and it looks like embargoes are being lifted just in time for E3, where I'm sure it'll be shown.

 

Last year's game was pretty much the best all round hockey game I've ever played. It game me that kind of feeling that I hadn't had since possibly the first few years of the Genesis games when a fully featured, realistic (for the time) hockey game was something we'd never seen before and such a huge step past Ice Hockey and Blades of Steel.

 

The animation system last year was a revelation, and something that EA has struggled to get right since it moved to 3D way back in NHL97. It was something I harped on year after year after year and one of the main reasons I preferred 2K. Not only did they fix it, but they blew the competition out of the water. It finally felt like these guys were actually skating.

 

Thankfully we got some AI to back it all up, online worked way way better (although the Team Play feature being broken for so long was a major issue), and the framerate was buttery smooth on 360 which made for the best sports game made.

 

This year, the focus looks to be on Defense which is great because it was really the only part of the game where 2K still had a bit of an edge (discounting their ridiculous hitting). Last year was improved over 07, but my favorite defensive feature in 2K, using the right analog to position the stick, was not lifted... but now it is. Can't wait to see what else they've got planned. I'm hoping pinning to the boards is in, but I'm not gonna hold my breath.

 

The other big focus looks to be the Be A Pro mode. I'm a bit of an advocate of toning down these modes and such that just makes playing the game more complicated. I really really just want the old 16-bit options of picking a team and playing a playoff or season (of varying lengths). No waivers, no contracts, no draft, no AHL teams, maybe trades and injuries. So while I really have no interest in this, it could be a good addition for those that like creating custom players and pretending it's actually them.

 

My biggest issue with the game last year was the huge gaps in difficulty. In Pro I couldn't lose, and while there were games that were close and I was actually sweating a little bit, most were rather lopsided.

 

Unfortunately, on All-Star I felt like I was just being cheated. The AI teams would score goals that would NEVER have gone in on a lower level, and would regularly score 3 goals in 5 shots or something similar. There didn't seem like there was anything I could do. I have no problem if the AI was playing better, controlling the puck better and making me look foolish with great chances, but it wasn't. It was playing pretty much the exact same, but more pucks were going in the net cause my goalie (who's one of the best in the league) wasn't saving them anymore.

 

Maybe I suck, but my online record would seem to indicate otherwise.

 

IGN has a first look preview at http://ps3.ign.com/articles/887/887244p1.html

 

Some highlights:

 

Chasing after the puck, slamming a guy into the boards and swooping in with your stick to regain possession worked swimmingly in the early build I played. Intercepting passes was also a rewarding experience on the off-chance I was able to position my stick in direct line with the puck. Aiding in this was the fact that passes are actually a little less accurate in this year's game. Based on the length of a pass and what's happening on the ice, the puck may not always find its target.

 

NHL 09 also allows players to push the puck along as a kind of a speed burst. Players skate faster without the puck so the longer you can skate without it while still keeping it in front of you, the quicker you'll get down the ice.

 

I really like this idea and hope it works well.

 

Now slamming someone into the boards yields a nice rag doll effect with limbs flying around and skates lifting off the ground in perfect harmony before crashing back down.
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1UP's preview from last month:

 

http://www.1up.com/do/previewPage?cId=3168179&p=4

 

And from Gamespot over a month ago:

 

http://www.gamespot.com/xbox360/sports/nhl09/news.html?sid=6192147&mode=recent

 

Highlight from Gamespot:

 

Another big feature in last year's game was the three-on-three online play. In NHL 09, that's been moved up to full six-on-six play online. It certainly sounds like a hockey fan's online dream come true, though we suspect it's going to take a certain type of person who wants to sit in net for an entire game. Then again, goalies are a different breed in real life, too...

 

In addition to that, NHL 09 will boast online leagues, tournaments, and at least one other mystery feature that the producers behind the game are promising will be absolutely massive. Unfortunately, they weren't ready to spill the beans yet, but we'll certainly be on the lookout for exactly what this game-changing revelation will be later in the year.

 

Operations Sports talks about a few features that the others don't:

 

http://www.operationsports.com/preview.php?id=41

 

The one feature I am most excited about above all others is the new custom music option added to the game this year. If you own a next gen system and have some of your favorite hockey tunes on your hard drive then you can add these songs in each NHL arena for up to 13 different occasions during a game. So if you want to hear Blur playing “Rock and Roll Part II” after a goal the power is yours. Want to annoy your friends and have “Cotton Eyed Joe” blasting during a portion of the game then by all means have at it. When showing off this feature EA even had a little Guns N Roses “Welcome to the Jungle” blaring as the players came down the runway for the pre game intro, nice touch!

 

Not since ditties were removed from the PC community have we had this much of an option when it comes to music in our games.

 

Well he forgets that the 2K had this feature in at least a few of it's XBox games (I don't know about now) but it's cool that EA is bringing this to their games!

 

Add to this a new [online] league play where you can trade players and have full stat tracking and playoffs and online is looking like the place to be in ’09

 

Cool!

 

A much needed move of lifting your opponents stick has been added to combat the potent one timer along with the ability to lift a stick of a puck holder and stealing the puck out from under him. This is used quite often in real life and is something that, while minor, could revolutionize defense.

 

There's lots of good info in this one!

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I'm incredibly excited for NHL 09. One of the more impressive things about the game is that, once again, they're listening. Defensive options improving and separate offensive and defensive line changes were requested and are being addressed. I remember when NHL 07 came out and one of the biggest complaints was the choppy framerate. They listened and fixed it. We want online leagues! Okay, we're putting it in. I like it.

 

I think the Be A Pro feature has the capacity to be brilliant. I know other sports games have had it, but I don't like other sports :). The progression from AHL up the ranks sounds quite fun, especially if it's done right. Hopefully there will be a difficulty level so that you don't shoot right up to the top line in the NHL somewhere.

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I haven't seen anything on 2K9 yet. What have you seen?

 

Didn't Kush Games get dumped as it's developer? I haven't liked the last few years much at all and having a new developer on it for the first year is always tough.

 

I am pretty sure Visual Concepts took over both NHL and MLB.

 

NHL '08 was the most fun I had had with a hockey game in years. It does not matter what 2K9 looks like, EA's game is the only purchase for me.

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I'm curious what will come out of 2K9 but it will have to be truly exceptional to get a purchase from me. I've double-dipped the past 2 years and ended up keeping the EA game and dropping the 2K game. Fool me once, shame on... shame on you. Fool me again... you can't get fooled again!

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The Hockey League sounds pretty interesting, but I'm wondering how it's going to play out in real life. 6 on 6 games could be chaos and I'm a little afraid that people will learn that running around in huge masses of people will actually work better than playing your position or something like that.... or that playing the positions will be the best way to go, but nobody will be able to properly.

 

Also I hope it's working right out of the box cause last year's team play features was a bit of a fiasco.

 

I'll be getting NHL 09. The only reason I didn't get 08 was because I got 07 (which I played for 8 months straight), and I'm too cheap to buy consecutive years of sports games.

 

You are in for a treat then! 08 was probably the best Hockey game I've ever played..... and I've played (I won't say them all, but pretty close) lots.

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http://wii.ign.com/dor/objects/14260007/nhl-2k9/videos/nhl2k9_demo_071608.html

 

Video Presentation of 2K9 on the Wii at E3. Apparently video hockey games have gotten too complicated and serious, so they're bringing back the fun.

 

*sigh*

 

I have a feeling that 2K is pinning this year's hopes on the Wii version with it's mass market appeal and lack of competition. After watching that video (although there's nothing in particular in this video to suggest this theory except for the fact that they're using the Wii version to show off the game, and not just because they want to talk about the Wii controls) I'm almost afraid that the Wii version is the lead SKU and the XBox and PS3 versions will be not much more than HD upgrades of that game.

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I have a feeling that 2K is pinning this year's hopes on the Wii version with it's mass market appeal and lack of competition.

 

Yup. Yup yup. The silence is deafening regarding other platforms.

 

The Hockey League sounds pretty interesting, but I'm wondering how it's going to play out in real life.

 

Yes, my concern -- especially given actual prizes at stake -- is that the top teams will be the kids who find the exploitable parts of the engine and not the teams with the most hockey sense. I think -- as with any online endeavor, frankly -- that with like-minded individuals it has the capacity to be The Shit. A team of players that are positionally sound and communicate well could be a whole lot of fun if there aren't serious exploits that make such a team irrelevant.

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I played the 360 NHL '09 demo last night. I tried out the mode in which you control a single player (forgot the name) and scored the only goal with 35 seconds left in the game. I like it. A lot.

 

I never read any new features, but that sounds interesting.

I've started to buy PS3 over 360, but since I've been playing the past few years on 360, I think I'll stick with that

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