What seems to be a common concept for all EA Sports titles, is the inclusion of a specific set of successful aspects from recent years, whilst continuing to incorporate new ideas that add to a growing list of what the user would want from a sports title. From simple team play, to taking over a team of players, playing the game can be as simple or as complex as the player prefers. NHL 10 has exceeded expectations by bringing this concept to the the latest edition of the Ice Hockey simulation series.
EA Sports has created a somewhat generic appearance for all titles in the annual range, not that it is unwelcome, and in fact it is without much flaw. The simple menu system shows everything clearly and concisely with everything navigated through one analogue stick. In-game the stadium scenes are authentic, although the figures in the crowd have mechanical and repetitive animations. The combination of music, genuine American commentary, and detail in ice and stadium objects presents a convincing atmosphere. Sports titles also tend to bring contrast to other games developing a dull and dark theme and this game does not differ from that with bright colours, lively character models and overall presentation.
The range of game modes encompasses large and small scale features, from a single shootout session, to manager and team seasons. The amount of custom options offers a number of different scenarios that allow for accessibility for those with interest in the sport, and include the small details that enthusiasts are looking for. Manager mode includes everything that is expected, but excludes the usually found ability to play with the team that is being developed. Instead, it is a more akin to a managing simulator where control over transfers, scouting, and management is emphasised – replacing actual gameplay with team lists and statistics. Season mode is the team management scenario that follows through successive seasons of hockey with championships and playoffs. Alternatively, there are playoffs and ‘battle for the cup’ modes for those looking for an end-of-campaign thrill.
The ‘Be a pro’ mode is the most valued part of NHL 10, with a character creation tool and surprisingly addictive gameplay. A management comment section shows evaluations of a particular performance of the player, whilst the feedback system presents grades and statistics that are coupled with targets for the player. Taking a solitary player from an affiliate team and guiding him through the ranks to a first choice NHL player is what drives this particular game mode and is especially good at dragging you in to loosing track of time. The only disappointment that this game feature brings forward is the ability for the artificial intelligence of the other players to become less fluid with stop-start motion. This makes the game cut back from reality and is especially apparent when motionless, and also in the new fight scenes, where the jagged movement can often make it frustrating.
The flow of the game can be measured by the controls, which are becoming increasingly drawn to one stick. The animation becomes corrupted with the directional analogue stick punch control, and the because of this the fighting mini-games are very disapointing. The fighting instances lack in complexity, and seem as though they haven’t been given much attention, which is a shame because physical contact is such a large part of the sport.
Most of the single player experiences are available to play competitively online. The inclusion of the small and large scale online features mirrors the single player modes, which includes leagues with a single or multi person team. The online features add to depth to each of the single player aspects, extending the life of the game and adding a social, team- building aspect.
NHL 10 is an all round solid sports game with plenty of different areas of play to explore. It has arguably shown the most improvements of any title across the series, and has seen plenty of attention despite the title not being as much of a successful as others. As a complete sports game, it supplies surprising entertainment value for those who may know little about the sport, and is a must for any fan of Ice Hockey.