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NHL 2K10

Score: 73%
ESRB: Everyone 10+
Publisher: 2K Sports
Developer: Visual Concepts
Media: DVD/1
Players: 1 - 4 (2 - 12 Online)
Genre: Sports (Hockey)/ Sports/ Simulation

Graphics & Sound:

In terms of hockey games, 2K Sports' NHL 2K10 looks pretty good, or at least as good as any other. The player models are, of course, very similar looking because of all the gear that they wear. The helmets do a good job of protecting heads, but they also cover up the little bit of uniqueness that the players have. Still, when close-ups are shown of the players during dead ball situations, their faces look pretty good. Of course, the further the camera goes out during play, the less detailed each model gets.

The hockey rinks look pretty good too, especially in terms of the weathering that takes place as the players skate around and cut up the ice. The change in reflectivity as the skate marks appear is great to help add atmosphere, but I have to admit that the Zamboni smoothing out the ice takes the cake. (It's pretty fun to drive, too.)

I'm sad to say that the commentary sounds about as interesting as -- how do I put this nicely? -- the high-pitched shrill that comes from a dentist's drill as he bores into a rotting tooth. It's not that Randy Hahn and Drew Remenda have bad dialogue, necessarily. In fact, there were a few times where a smile hit my face due to some funny comments that left their lips. However, for the most part, the play-by-play is choppy at best, which takes away from the game's presentation aspect quite drastically.

One thing I must note is that, like its cousin, NBA 2K10, which shares the same Interface and Menu system, NHL 2K10 may have issues on older televisions because the on-screen HUD doesn't account for safe areas very well.


Gameplay:

NHL 2K10 has always been known for its great gameplay, but this year's title really feels like pulling teeth. The actual gameplay truly F-e-e-l-s L-i-k-e I-t D-r-a-g-s O-u-t F-o-r-e-v-e-r. The players certainly appear to be extremely slow, and I couldn't pinpoint the exact reason, but it may be that either the hockey rink is too large or the players are too small, making the play area feel too long and wide. It takes the players far too long to make it from one end of the ice to the other, and there is definitely an acceleration issue. In fact, if I didn't know any better, the normal speed should have been defined by the speed of the players while holding the turbo button.

There is one fast moment in each and every game, however, with that being the puck during both slapshots and wrist shots. In fact, some of the wrist shots that barely have movement end up jumping off the players' sticks like a superball shot from a cannon. Shooting, in general, is much easier for the layperson than that of a game like EA Sports' NHL 10. I have never claimed to be good at hockey games (in fact, I'm usually downright bad), but even I was able to score multiple goals in my first time out. NHL 2K10 has a very easy to use aiming system, which is a big bonus for players like me, but will likely be too loose for better students of the game.

There are plenty of game modes in NHL 2K10 to keep fans active for the rest of the year, including a few extras that are both fun and humorous. The standards are all present, from Quick Match and Season options to full Franchise and Online League availability. You'll also be able to lace up and directly enter the Playoffs, practice your Shootout skills on both offense and as the goalie (more on this later), and you'll also be able to Practice you moves or go online for some team play. Some of the most fun modes of play, however, come in the form of the extra content. Here, you'll be able to play a normal match within a pond environment or play a 3-on-3 arcade-style match in a mini-rink. With all of these options, you'll be able to enjoy not only the satisfaction of quantity, but also enjoy being sidetracked by things like interacting with other gamers over the network or driving the Zamboni during intermissions. It's funny how such a simple and stupid mini-game can be such a blast (and a challenge to get 100% coverage), yet be more enjoyable than the main game itself to a superficial extent.

One cool feature that I love is the ability to integrate your own music into the game. If you spend a little time setting up your Xbox 360 playlists, you'll be able to use music, anthems, or sound effects that can be injected into specific triggers in the game. I'm not positive, but this may be a feature exclusive to Xbox 360 owners.

While there are certainly a fair amount of modes and options to tweak your experience, I did feel a bit as if there was something missing... that of a mode similar to the My Player found in the recent release of NBA 2K10, where you can bring up a created player to championship status. Had there been something similar, the enjoyability of NHL 2K10 would have likely increased tenfold. As it is, however, the title is simply slightly above average in terms of gameplay.


Difficulty:

As mentioned above, NHL 2K10 actually (by default) feels much more newcomer-friendly than many recent hockey titles. The controls are fairly intuitive from the start, but aiming shots and, in turn, actually getting the puck into the net feels much easier than other games that I've played and reviewed in the past. For some (like me), this is outstanding. It now gives average players the opportunity to compete, or at least feel like they are competing against the computer. The one exception is that I had a hard time with controlling the goalie on penalty shots. Instead of something intuitive, players much match the angle and position of the puck extremely quickly instead of just allowing for freedom of movement as the offensive player closes in. While I applaud 2K Sports for trying something original, it was better on paper than in practice.

When players take each other on, the difficulty of the game can be intermittent, of course. So even when lesser players will have the opportunity against the computer, dominant players will still likely win both online and off. In fact, learning to effectively play defense was the most difficult challenge for me, and I'm still learning. Playing NHL 2K10 did give me a feeling of frustration in some cases because it often felt like human opponents could excessively hook the puck handler and not get called for it, and the puck would either get caught up on players or players wouldn't grab it as you'd think they should.

The computer A.I. does a decent job on both ends of the court in terms of one the ice action and coaching strategy. There are a few options of play-style calling that can be performed on the fly with the D-pad at the human level. On the computer level, the A.I. will actually automatically pull the goalie if a delayed penalty is called so that you don't have to, for example.

Of course, most of the settings in the game can be tweaked to adjust for different play styles and levels of experience through the use of NHL 2K10's sliders. These slider settings can even be downloaded from the network to fit your needs if you don't feel like tweaking them yourself.


Game Mechanics:

Controlling the skaters in NHL 2K10 is actually pretty easy to get into because it is fairly intuitive from the start. Newcomers to the series may have a small learning curve, but aiming shots and scoring can be pretty straightforward. You'll be able to use either the (X) button or the Right Analog Stick, and while using the stick yields more overall control, using this method sometimes felt frustrating when attempting to perform one-timers, only to end with the puck never leaving the stick.

The game's Menu system is pretty cool and it gives you quick access to many types of play and game options, but at the same time, it can be a bit confusing until you get used to using it. In-game, there was a cool little picture-in-picture window that shows players coming off the bench, but it was equally annoying due to the fact that it often covered up the action when the puck was near the boards on the sides of the rink. Again, the remedy is to hit it up in the game settings and turn it off.

Another great feature of the game is that you can basically get online at any time and from nearly any gameplay Menu, eliminating the need to constantly back out of the Menu system. It's unfortunate that the default gameplay felt so clunky because otherwise NHL 2K10 would have enough features to deserve a look at. As it is, unless you are a die hard fan of the series, you may want to look at picking up either EA's NHL 10, or better yet, find an old used copy of the outstanding NHL 09.


-Woody, GameVortex Communications
AKA Shane Wodele

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