|System: X360, PS3||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: EA Canada||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Electronic Arts||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Sep. 15, 2009||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-12||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone 10+||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
Modes of play are nearly identical to last year's offerings. All of the tried and true options are back with only minor changes. New modes include Be a GM, Battle for the Cup, and Playoff Mode. Be a GM is really just a re-skinning of the Franchise mode - you take on the role of your favorite team's GM, coach, and a top player over a 25 season period. This mode features a detailed, more in-depth way to play the game for the simulation strategists among you, but it doesn't seem to be as streamlined as it needs to be for the console experience - if you like wading through interminable text screens with your D-pad, you probably aren't planning on picking up NHL 10 anyway. Battle for the Cup features classic gameplay, letting you pit two teams against each other in a 3, 5, or 7 game series and control all the outside parameters including cup type. Playoff Mode is essentially the same kind of mode, but you get take part in the entire post-season from any professional hockey league featured in NHL 10.
Outside of those options, other modes are more or less untouched. Online play is identical, except technical performance is notably enhanced - one of the few complaints experienced in last year's version. Be a Pro now lets you customize your player character significantly more, going as far as including the Hockey Shop. This store lets you purchase unique equipment, customizing items, and even attribute enhancing packs for your Be a Pro and online player. While all these can be unlocked through in-game accomplishments, impatient players who want an edge can purchase the goods (such as RPG-like, attribute pack-slotted sticks) with real money - a smart economic decision by EA that may or may not play well with series vets.
Graphical presentation during play, on the surface, is the same as last year - in other words, it is excellent. However, stadium ambiance and player animations are far superior. EA claims they have injected "Playoff atmosphere" into every game, and I can attest to that. Crowds are unique, excited, and really add to the overall presentation. Loads of new player animations have been added to the mix, so the game really looks and feels like a true game of hockey. The only graphical hiccup is found in some of the player likenesses, not all of them have been given game-face treatment. On the aural side of things, EA always puts together a competent mix of contemporary jams. Furthermore, the commentary is once again spot-on (Gary Thorne's got a golden voice), and stadium and on-ice sound effects are brilliant.
NHL 10 is one hell of a good hockey game. It nails playability, presentation, gameplay variety, online options, and realism. It also is one of the best local multiplayer sporting experiences available. As is the case with any annual update, the differences implemented, while significant, may not be compelling enough for many NHL 09 owners to upgrade. However, any self-respecting, hockey-loving gamer would do well to stay up to date.
CCC Editor / News Director