A guest review by Gegsy.
When trying to figure out how exactly to do this review I approached some people. You see the thing is... I don’t know a great deal about Ice Hockey... I know that it is played on ice, I know that there tends to be a lot of fighting in it, but the sport in general has passed me by. I asked around and someone said to me ‘it is like football on ice’... hhmm.
Well I can testify that no, Ice Hockey is not like football on ice. See the interesting thing is with EA’s other football venture I always felt like the players I had control of felt like they WERE on ice! I could never get away from that aspect of FIFA. So what EA managed to do on grass surely they could do it on...well...ice? I am glad to say ‘yes they have’.
Not being a big hockey fan it took me a while to get my head around this game. I started off with a quick match and decided to pick the team with the best stats and pitted them against the team with the worst. I was playing on the default difficulty and as you can imagine I was pretty atrocious at it. I went 3-0 in the first quarter and really had no idea what I was doing. So I buckled down and tried to get my head around the control system. The player’s movement is superb, you glide around and it all feels very realistic. You cannot just spin around and do an about right turn but have to slowly edge your way around in a circle but this is not so wide a circle that you can make your way around Toronto. You can pass the puck quickly around your team with the left button and make some headway to goal. This is where it all falls apart for me though. EA have incorporated shots into the right analogue stick. You simply pull it back to pull the hockey stick back and whack it forwards to take a shot. Call me a simpleton but I just could not get my head around this. I am not good at multitasking at the best of times and moving in one direction while using the right stick to shoot in the opposite one just felt weird.
As my time wore on playing the game though I eventually managed to get to grips with it and at the end of the match I had a pretty respectable (well, awful but I state again I am a complete beginner to this game) 4-4 draw. In usual American fashion there had to be a winner so we went into a penalty shoot out. This made me smile to begin with, being from a football background I thought you had to shoot from the spot and my first effort went dismally into the opposition keepers hands. Imagine my surprise then when the opposition forward set off on his merry way with puck in hockey stick towards my keeper! ‘Ref’ I cried out before managing to pull off a rather clumsy save with my keeper. Basically the guy seemed that fat in all his gear that he filled the goal anyway. It ended in defeat to the other team of course, my ham fisted use of the right analogue stick to try and pull off a trick and out fox the keeper just wasn’t happening.
After my abysmal start I went on further into this game and realised that if you like Ice Hockey then this is a must purchase. You can play through an entire season as a team or even coach them. Included now are the AHL and the NHL so you can sign players from the AHL and build them up into the next Gretsky or whatever his name is. Not having a clue what any of this means or even who half these teams are you can imagine this was lost on me, but the depth is there for the true hardcore fan.
The game play in this game though is really it’s true core though. It does sometimes feel like you are watching an actual game because graphically it is spot on. The movement of the players, the puck bounces and rebounds realistically and doesn’t just fly off in any direction. You can increase your speed on the left analogue stick by pushing up further but you have to realise from this felt pelt skating motion that if you try to pull off one trick too many it usually ends in disaster.
The all new AI that is being harped on about this year is also there to see. If you try to take one form of attack and try to repeat that move over and over the computer wises up to it and counteracts it. If you learn a certain trick and keep trying to pull it off the computer will be there to hook the puck out of your mitts and leave you looking silly. There is some leeway there though so you don’t just feel like you are playing against a brick wall of defence; I mean I scored 4 goals in my first match so it shows that there is room for error in there as much as there is room for judgement by defence about your plays.
If you don’t like Hockey then this game is not for you, in order to have some enthusiasm for the game you have to have that background in how it works and what is going on. However for the hardcore fan this is a must and the closest to a real life hockey experience you will get on a console.