Platform: Nintendo Wii
Developer: Visual Concepts
Publisher: 2K Sports
Number of Players: 1-2
Wii Remote and Nunchuk Compatible
With a copy of NHL 2K9 loaded up into my Wii console it was time to take a closer look at the first hockey game to come Nintendo’s innovative machine. This title includes all of the classic hockey gameplay you would expect from a sports title and some features that may interest a variety of players. From the 33 trophies you can earn throughout the game by completing certain tasks to the hockey trivia for the trivia connoisseur, this game has a lot to offer. NHL 2K9 definitely has the potential to appeal to both veterans and newbies of virtual hockey games.
To enjoy the full extent of the graphics for NHL 2K9 I highly suggest that you have the proper cables to get 480p, otherwise the game will look a bit off, and even somewhat muddy. I originally played NHL 2K9 at a preview event in Toronto and the game was played on some very nice demo set-ups with very nice displays. However, once I played this game at my home office, where I don’t have such a set up, I noticed quite a difference.
During my playtime I found that at times you could see a speckling of black dots across the screen that was slightly distracting. I also found the text to be small and blurry making it difficult to read which really distracted me from the game. But as I point out above, this may have to do with the fact that I am not running the component cables as I did not really notice any of this kind of stuff at the preview event. The Wii version of NHL 2K9 is built off of the Xbox 360 build giving the Wii a graphics chipset quite a workout and the overall look seemed like it was definitely downgraded. The graphics are not as a polished I was would have hoped for, and they could have used more work, but in the end this does not affect the playability of the game. 2K9 is a pretty good effort for a first time hockey game on the Wii and I can’t wait to see what visual improvements they make to next years version.
The soundtrack for NHL 2K9 features such artists as Offspring, Nofx, Bad Religion and the Ramones, providing an upbeat in your face tone to the game. My only complaint is that there really wasn’t enough music in the game considering how long you will be playing it once you get into season or franchise mode. It becomes a bit repetitive after a few hours of play. By accessing the 2KBeats menu you are given the option of just listen to the songs if that’s what you’re in the mood for or you can just remove the songs if you just don’t care for them at all.
The commentators feature Randy Hahn, Drew Remenda, and John Shrader of the San Jose Sharks. Being a Hockey Night in Canada boy, I found the commentary lack lustre but yet very typical to hockey. As usual with most games you can customize the various sounds throughout the game to your preference or select one of the pre-set settings of TV Broadcast, In Stands or on the Ice.
And as one would expect, all the sounds of hockey are well represented on the Wii version of 2K9. From the slap of a puck toward the net to the sound of a well timed hit, anything that you would expect to during a hockey game is on the disc. There is no doubt that the game sounds different then its bigger brothers on the PS3 or Xbox 360 given that the Wii does not support Dolby Digital, but nonetheless the game does a good job in the sound effects department.
The gameplay of NHL 2K9 is an action based control system in which selected wrist motions, shakes and swings move your hockey players across the ice. The controls feel slightly unnatural for the seasoned virtual NHL players who are used to button controls. However, as the controls mimic actual hockey actions like taking a swing at the puck they become instinctual once you get your head in the game. Even a novice will have no difficulty picking up the controls as the step by step tutorials with simple instructions and easy to reference diagrams will make getting started easy and pain free.
The Wii Remote is used for most of the basic actions that you perform in the game such as shooting, passing, fighting, and face-offs. To pass you point a circular cursor icon towards the player you wish to pass to. Hitting the A button while doing so will perform a basic pass or hitting the (-) will perform a saucer pass. Specific shots can be achieved by swinging the Wii Remote. To perform a wrist shot you simply need to only swing it. To take a slap shot you hit the B button while swinging, and if you want to do something really tricky, hit the B button without swinging your Wii Remote and your player do a fake shot. After spending some time playing the game the passing system is still one of my major complaints. With a quick paced game like hockey you don’t always have that much time to point to the player you want the puck to get to. An option to have the ability to just pass to a player by aiming the analog stick on the Nunchuk and pressing the pass button would have been a welcomed addition.
In terms of controlling your players movements on the ice the Nunchuk’s analog stick will enable you to move your player about, while the available buttons control boost and skating backwards. The Z button will give your player a speed boost while pressing the C button will allow your player to skate backwards. You can perform a neat trick by shaking the Nunchuk up and down while in possession of the puck. This trick is your Superstar Move and it varies from player to player as it is based on their skills and abilities. These can range from dekes to special skating moves that can come in handy when trying to score on goal.
Fighting in NHL 2K9 really gets you off of the couch and into the game. I have to admit I got quite a few penalties trying to test out this feature as it was a lot of fun. You throw punches at your opponent swinging your Wii Remote forward alternating between weak punches and strong punches with the addition of the B button. Make sure to keep your balance by rotating your Nunchuk though as you don’t want to end up on with your butt on the ice.
The goalie controls take some good hand eye coordination and really get you into the game. You must keep the goaltender within the identified green area to cut down the possible scoring positions. Also somewhat interesting is that you also have to recreate goalie positions that the game displays on the screen in order to make a save, again using the Wii Remote and Nunchuk. You will need to become somewhat proficient at this as you take on the role of goaltender when you get into a shootout. The Shootout practice mode really comes in handy to practice this gameplay aspect.
There are several modes of play available in NHL 2K9 including Franchise/Season, Pond Hockey, Mini-Rink, Shootout and Practice. If you just want to jump right into the game Quick Game is the option for you. Before playing you can adjust how the players in the game play by increasing or decreasing their skill in a variety of categories from pass accuracy, puck retention, goalie saves, shot and blocking. You can also adjust your view using one of four camera modes: Parametric, ¾ Camera View, Action and Goalie Cam. All four views can be adjusted by height and zoom and really depend on personal gameplay preference. Along with the current NHL teams, Visual Concepts has added a variety of International teams as well as some franchise NHL teams for you to choose from. There are nice selection of the latter including a collection of Detroit Red Wing Teams between the years of 1952 - 2002, the 1993 Montreal Canadians, Quebec Nordiques, Winnipeg Jets, and Minnesota North Stars.
Franchise/Season mode plays much like any typical sports game. In the Franchise mode you take on the role of General Manager of an NHL team where you are responsible for such things as roster changes, analyzing team needs, signing contracts with players (keeping in mind salary caps), signing free agents and trading players. There are the typical coaching options you can play around with that will allow you to edit your lines, study and implement strategies and practice. NHL.com is a feature that tracks statistics, standings, recent transactions, injuries, reports. Season mode is much simpler as you pick your team and play through a regular season on your way to the Stanley Cup playoffs.
You can play some hockey on a smaller scale by playing the Mini-Rink or Pond Hockey modes. Mini-Rink involves 2 on 2 hockey (Center, Winger and Goalie) on a small indoor rink and Pond Hockey is 4 on 4 (Left wing, Right wing, Left Defence, Right Defence and Goalie). Pick your teammates from any of the NHL teams and build your own dream team. Personally, apart from being able to mix and match your players, I did not find either of these modes to be nearly as enjoyable as I had hoped as you feel as though you are constantly skating in circles on the Mini-Rink while Pond Hockey felt like any other hockey rink with just different scenery. .
The Practice mode allows you to hone your on-ice abilities. Improve your shootout skills as player or netminder or take your chances scoring on the opposition. As mentioned earlier this mode is very useful to get familiar with the goatending controls and practice in game shootouts. Practice mode also allows you to run through different game scenarios including Power Plays, Break Aways, and Offence/Defence conditions. You can vary the practice by changing the number of players and the duration of the practice.
One key feature missing from NHL 2K9 for the Wii is online multi-player. This feature was sorely missed from the game, as going head to head against friends with this type of game would have been quite enjoyable. That being said, the local multiplayer is somewhat pleasant. You can play with up to four friends on the same Wii and it can get pretty crazy.
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