Developer: Visual Concepts
Publisher: 2K Sports
Genre: Sports – Hockey
Release Date: 09/11/2008
If there’s one thing I’ve learned since the re-launch of this very site, it’s that a lot of the writers on the staff love their NHL hockey. They’ve got their allegiances and have been counting down for the “09/2K9″Â versions of hockey to hit the store shelves. The strange twist? I’m not one of them!
So why, you may ask, am I the one reviewing an NHL hockey game? Well, among other reasons I thought I could provide a more unique analysis in that I do, in fact, follow hockey – just not the NHL. I live in Omaha, Nebraska – the unofficial amateur sports capital of the world! I love going to games, but they’re primarily at the college level. Since there will likely never be a college hockey game, for me to get a fix, I’m going to have to stick with the pros, and I’m not going to waste any time by saying NHL 2K9 is perfect for a fan like me – if there are others like me out there!
The thing that jumps out, – and the thing that 2K is pushing – is the ability to simply pick up and play hockey. You can play a perfectly acceptable and competitive game using only the “A”Â and “X”Â buttons. I haven’t played a hockey game this simple since the classic “Ice Hockey”Â for the NES. As you get used to the flow of the game, you can increase the level of difficulty of the controls and the AI, and become a more advanced player. For the more advanced hockey fans and veterans of the series, this can also be set right off the bat – but having these options was a great addition to appeal to a broader fan base, and it works perfectly.
Regardless of the sport, 2K and Visual Concepts always deliver solid presentation, and NHL 2K9 is no different. The pre-game introductions, which are often filler that annoy sports gamers with unnecessarily long load times, are actually worth watching! Each team and arena have a custom entrance video that projects off the ice before the game, and they’re remarkably well done. From the Chicago skyline to a pack of Coyotes in Phoenix, each team’s arena and intro is unique.
The graphics package is well done and looks great in HD, although the players and crowds leave something to be desired. Its not that they’re bad, but they just didn’t really stand out as being any different from previous versions of the game – or any other sports game in general. The crowd can best be described as “ok”Â, but overall a letdown compared to the presentation that leads up to the actual action.
The commentary team is solid, and avoids the “Parrot Plague”Â that affects so many sports games. I didn’t notice any repetition, and they didn’t distract from the game; they simply give a solid call of the action, which is all you can ask from a video game announce team. The sound effects didn’t really stand out as anything special – but one particular aspect of the music did – “Bad Boys”Â the theme we all know and love from Cops, cranks through the arena on a penalty. A very nice touch, and unlike the rest of the soundtrack it’s a song everyone will recognize. The rest of the music tracks are little known, but aren’t bad and depending on your musical taste you may love “Ëœem or hate “Ëœem.
Another hockey tradition – the fight – has its own unique twist when the time comes during a game. You can try and pick a fight all you want, and eventually you’ll tick off your opponent and the gloves come off, but sometimes these fights will show up completely randomly. When its time to throw down a “balance bar”Â appears, where you have to manage your punches – and your balance – and try to stay vertical longer than your opponent. Its not an exact science, and while trying to win a fight against your friend in game action is fun competition, fighting the AI in single player action was boring. The end result is a 5 minute major penalty, both teams get a man in the box, and you move on as if nothing happened. I understand the need to include fights for the authenticity, but it really lacks the emotion and motivation needed to try very hard to win.
Online play has plenty of options, including a cool feature where you can fill two entire teams full of players and have a huge multiplayer matchup. It’s a first that I’m aware of, and if you can get enough players signed up for a game its definitely worth trying. There’s also full online leagues if you’re into that sort of thing, and ranked matches give you plenty of enticement for special rewards. Basically it has everything you could possibly ask for, and if the usual offline modes (Season, Franchise, etc) aren’t enough for you, the online options will keep you playing all season long.
Control and Gameplay: Very Good
Appeal Factor: Very Good
Miscellaneous: Very Good
FINAL SCORE: GOOD GAME
Short Attention Span Summary
NHL 2K9 has a little bit of everything that has a good appeal to both the casual and hardcore hockey fan. Its basic controls are simple enough that you could let a friend who has never so much as watched hockey play and understand what they’re doing with no problems at all. While there’s nothing groundbreaking in this edition, it’s a perfectly good hockey game for anyone who wants to a fill a hockey fix, or just play a fun, simple sports game.