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NHL 12 review roundup: Is it the best game yet or has the series reached a plateau?

Sep 17, 2011, 9:30 AM EST

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With training camps starting up around the NHL, the hockey-starved masses are already being thrown some meat to chew on. For those who might not be satiated by rookies trying to nail down roster spots and new players/coaches getting acquainted with teams, there’s another option to try to satisfy that hunger: video games. This time around, there’s only one major title to choose from: EA Sports’ NHL 12, which released on September 13.

While there are other reviews that haven’t poured in yet, a good chunk of reactions filtered through blogs, gaming Web sites and various other outlets already. For the most part, the reviews have been very positive, but there also are some naysayers – including one whose negativity might qualify as extreme. With a few days for experts to digest the game out of the way, let’s take a look at how critics reacted to the new game.

A sampling of emphatic praise

1UP.com called it “the series’ greatest achievement” in their A- review:

This is the best version of NHL in the past three years — it’s like the previous versions were simply leading up to this release. Everything looks and feels and plays as it should; a fine balance of entertainment and realism.

Gaming Excellence gave it a 9.2 (“Excellent”) rating:

To be honest, I’m usually in the camp that skips every second NHL title because it’s hard to justify what seems like a few enhancements and a roster update for the price of a AAA game, but this time they’ve done a fantastic job with improvements that are very hard to resist.

Gaming Age gave it a 95 percent (“Superlative”) score:

What more can be said other than, NHL fans need to buy NHL 12 if only to play the best representation of the sport ever created. I don’t think I can praise it any more than that.

Are the improvements too subtle?

There aren’t many major criticisms of the game (at least as far as giving it a bad “score”), but the most consistent line of complaints indicate that the tweaks, new features and improvements aren’t enough to justify a purchase if gamers already own NHL 11. Metacritic captures many of those “it’s a great game and all, but … ” reviews, including this one from GameShark.com.

To be fair there are a lot of changes and tweaks made to the NHL 11 design, but many of them are so small to be nearly unnoticeable. As great as NHL 12 is, and it is a great game, it’s not a giant leap from NHL 11. Is that enough to warrant another $60? Only you can answer that one.

Adam Najberg of the Wall Street Journal blog Speak Easy goes as far as to wonder if EA should put the series on the shelf altogether in what must be the harshest major review for the series in a long time.

Maybe a deep cleansing breath or a hiatus would help. It certainly has for other EA Sports game franchises. On the basketball side, EA has taken a breather for a couple of years, trying to retool and reinvigorate a tired NBA game franchise that wasn’t up to snuff.

(snip)

It’s not really for me to say, but until EA Sports can really come up with something new and refreshing, maybe it should consider putting its NHL game series on ice.

(Quick aside: however you might feel about the direction of the NHL series, bringing up the NBA Live/Elite hiatus won’t improve the odds for a hockey break.)

NHL 12 producer Sean Ramjasingh addressed the question of NHL 12 being a big enough improvement over NHL 11 in an interview earlier last week.

“I think this year is probably the most authentic game we’ve made; it’s leaps and bounds over NHL 11,” Ramjasingh said. “The incredible team we have here busts their butts all year to put over 300 gameplay refinements in, so as you play the game, all that depth is going to start to come through. The real game-changer for me is the hat trick of game innovations.”

***

This post provides a solid rundown of that “hat trick” of alterations, which seemingly impressed most critics. The ultimate criticisms come from peoples’ wallets, though, so tell us how you feel. Does the game seem worth your money, whether you already paid for it or are primed to buy it in the future? Let us know in the comments (and expect PHT’s take soon).

  1. t9tookey - Sep 17, 2011 at 10:02 AM

    I’ve had it for a couple days, just starting to delve into it. It is great stuff and the addition of the Winter Classic and the hockey legends is worth the money.

    Another hit by EA sports…now, if they could only update the game to include new announcers. Loved Gary Thorne and Bill Clement but I’m kinda tired of hearing their voices saying the same thing for 3 years now.

    The only improvement I don’t like is when you sim a game, you pretty much still have to watch the close roll and the stats come in. You can speed it up, but I liked the way it was done in NHL11: it would update the scoring after each period and then w/5 minutes left in the game incase you wanted to intervene.

  2. sknut - Sep 17, 2011 at 11:32 AM

    To me EA does it right, it doesn’t have to reinvent the wheel just add to it, and for me its the subtle things that make it worth it. For instance the inbetween period screen with the rink and where your goals/shots/hits come from is a nice touch, even the 3 stars of the game screen has added info and its a clean look.

    As far as the gameplay the physics engine seems to be realistic, I took Bouchard from the Wild and tried to check a guy on the boards and the guy skated by like he should as Bouchard is small. Also it seems more realistic when clearing the puck while on the PK, in past versions it was really hard where the O team would knock it down but now its more realistic.

    I appreciate the subtle changes and I do think its the one sports game where its worth upgrading every year, I can’t say the same about Madden.

  3. muttbolts - Sep 17, 2011 at 4:01 PM

    They fixed the mics.worth every penny.dido on the annoucers.but they need to fix offsides,nhl rule if a player is across the blue line but controls the puck over the blue line not offsides

  4. farvefromover - Sep 17, 2011 at 7:37 PM

    you can play in the Winter Classic with any team, and play with a handful of NHL legends. How is it not better than the previous year?

  5. trbowman - Sep 18, 2011 at 12:15 AM

    The gameplay is great, but Be a GM mode is still AWFUL.

  6. wez99 - Sep 18, 2011 at 12:37 PM

    Best NHL game in years, the hitting is way more realistic then ever before, and the computers actually give you a challenge instead of being a body out on the ice, change the announcers and it’ll be even better, just don’t downgrade next years edition

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