Platform: Xbox 360
Developer: Visual Concepts
Publisher: 2K Sports
Cooperative 2-4 Players
Online multiplayer 2-12
Online Cooperative 2-6 Players
Game Content Downloads
Like most red blooded hockey loving Canadians I love my hockey and can’t wait for this time of year when the fastest game on earth makes a return from the long hot summer. The NHL 2K series also makes its annual return giving its’ loyal fans of the series something to look forward too. The series has been battered and bruised by EA sports long running NHL games in recent years though and developer Visual Concepts is looking to make amends in this new installment with new animations, new modes, and updated graphics. Can NHL 2K10 rebound this time out?
The new animations in the game are plentiful. That being said players get stuck too long in these animations while the play develops around them. This does have its own set as issues as it leaves defences out of position and offenses stuck in slow developing pivots. These animations are glaring and look a bit funny as the play begins to move up or down the ice. I also noticed the almost robotic nature of players. They seem stiff jointed and lumbering, rather than sleek and fast. It is a problem that has plagued the series for quite some time and I see very little done to address it. The game’s stars may be recognizable but fringe players look nothing like the real life counterparts. I must admit that the players look light years ahead of how they were last time around, but still not quite right.
I found the menu & option screens easy to navigate. The pop-up screens during the action are a welcomed addition. One thing I found neat during the game’s presentation was the camera that showed players leaving the penalty box and either heading into the play or back to the player’s bench. It kind of gives a chance to take advantage of the situation. Time it right and you may be able to make that long pass to a streaking player fresh out of the sin bin go in alone and one on one with the netminder.
The overall visual presentation has really improved over last year’s version, even with some of the hiccups, and I would say that they are definitely on the right path in this area.
On one hand NHL 2K10’s sound has taken a bit of a step back in the audio area. The rink sounds, while serviceable, really sound amateurish and lack any type of excitement or punch. I did like the crowd sounds as those in the seats would show their pleasure or displeasure with whatever was happening on the ice with great regularity and flair. Unfortunately wrist shots and slap shots hammering off of bodies, glass, or boards sound quite generic. It leaves you feeling as if NHL 2K10 is playing on a last generation system. It is as if most of it was lifted from a game almost a decade ago when Sega handled the publishing duties. It is too bad because the game has had some very good and intense sound effects and tracks in games of past. Along with the recycled sound is the pretty bland and sometimes humorous commentary. I laughed out loud when the play by play team said “okie dokie, Johnny-o”. It’s pure cheese at its best. The commentary team of Randy Hahn and Drew Remenda can be great for the most part and very on-the-spot with their commentary; however much of what they say gets repeated quite often. I think I lost count how many times Remenda said “he must have a four-leaf clover on him!” Finally, the soundtrack is good with music by the likes of Joe Satriani, 20 Pound Shovel or The Faunts, along with some oldies that we have all heard before.
There was a time early in the 2K franchise when the gameplay was second to none. Unfortunately the series rested on its laurels and the competitors caught up and eventually surpassed the once king of hockey video games.
As ironic and unbelievable as it seems, this game is the antithesis of the style of play that Alexander Ovechkin, 2K’s latest cover athlete, employs. I found very quickly that the skating experience is like that of trying to skate in quicksand. Players skating backwards skate faster than players rushing down the wing with the speed burst trigger pulled down. There is no such thing as a quick turn in this game. Players pivot so slowly that it creates odd-man rushes and puts defenders out of position. The sluggish and unresponsive controls make for a frustrating experience. Many times when trying to shoot or pass, the play on-screen happens a second too late. Breakaways are rare occurrence, not because the AI plays good defense, but because players almost never receive a pass in stride. I continually found passes were a step behind my players, with my character having to stop and turn for the puck. Of course the AI never seemed to have this problem. The animations, while improved in some ways, have a very clicky or wooden feel giving the players a completely disjointed action. This results in gameplay lacking in any type of flow. I am not sure if Ovechkin himself would approve.
After some gameplay you'll want to immediately bump up the standard game speed in order make the game feel a bit better. I did find this helped in the short term, but the sluggishness is an overlying problem, that should not have to rely on being fixed with the sliders.
On a more positive note, the game’s control is better this time around, with some minor tweaks, but it still pales in comparison to its competitor. The right stick shot control returns, while the stick works well enough I found the standard button press to be more consistent shot control method. The stick control is still not up to par with EA’s stick control which is outstanding. 2K10’s stick really does not have the 360 degree of control it should and it makes you work far harder than you should. The standard control scheme feels more solid and makes passing easier overall. Unfortunately, many of the other controls, especially for dekes and checking, feel inconsistent and unresponsive. Often you will press the appropriate button for a sweet move or big time hit only to be greeted with a delayed player reaction or no reaction at all. The main reason I can see for this is that once your player begins an animation he is locked into it until the move completes. Obviously, this can lead to frustration when attempting to wrestle the puck from the other team or when attempting to set yourself up for a one on one. The delay in pressing buttons and the move occurring can only magnify your frustration; in fact I threw up my hands in disbelief many times as I played.
Despite the slow game speed and imprecise control, the somewhat inconsistent goalie AI often leads to abnormally high scoring games. Even on the higher difficulty levels I was able to score an amazing 14 goals on a notoriously defensive team led by the games number one goalie in New Jersey. The stat had me wondering how much work the developers did to the gameplay side of things. Control and gameplay is the most important part of any sports game and this is the area that 2K needs to focus on most for next year’s version.
2K10 features a wealth of other game modes; this is the one area in which the game actually beats out its EA counterpart. The game brims with options like Quick Game and Franchise modes to diversions like Pond Hockey and Mini-Rink. I played through a season as an NHL GM and I feel confident in saying the mode has seen the most progression over last year's version. The mode still feels a step behind where it should be for a modern sports title, but it can be very enjoyable. One glaring fault here though is that I happened to build a superpower team in the course of one full season despite a lack of depth in terms of staff, player interaction, and scouting. It seems to me that the road, or build if you like, to the top is way too easy. You can easily manipulate the GM’s of the league to suit your team and standing. This almost reflects on how the series has gone from its realism roots to a more accessible and arcadish game that it is become today.
I would be remiss if I forgot to mention the cool ability to drive the Zamboni between periods. Trying to clear the ice in the time allotted can be a really fun diversion. It is not as easy as some may think, and getting close to 100% coverage will have most pulling their hair out more often than not. You will eventually find a happy medium in the driving characteristics of the Zamboni and getting the achievement just may be attainable.
One of the big pluses of 2K10 is that online gameplay permeates nearly every corner of the game. You can pull friends and other players into just about every game mode, including your franchise. The Team Up quick game allows you to play with a full rink of online players, which can be a bit of a harrowing event. Having a full team of online strangers really does not make a great team right off the hop. I found some guys rude and down-right nasty as they fought their very own teammates for puck possession. I recommend that you with friends first as you must communicate to be successful and they may not bark at you like some of those public gamers would. You can also share your rosters, created players and teams, and sliders online. So, for those players that want to use their uber skilled custom players can finally use them online in non-ranked games. Perhaps the coolest online functionality in the game is the Reelmaker feature, which allows you to share user created highlight reels.
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