I typically write a ridiculously long review of EA's latest NHL game, but so little has changed since last year that there isn't much worth mentioning.
First and most importantly, this year's game looks awful. Most of the new animations are really bad, especially when physics are involved. The physics engine is just crazy. Players spaz out in the most unexpected ways, and there are already a good many screenshots and videos of unrealistic lunacy on the virtual ice. You can headbutt your opponents into oblivion with this year's overpowered hip check. It's gross.
There's also the issue of Be a Pro's changes. The action tracker and simming between shifts are actually great ideas, but BAP games actually take longer now than before. You can only play with 20 minute periods, which means you'll be averaging at least 20 minutes per game if you're on the top line of your team. Conversely, you could theoretically finish a game in about 15 minutes in previous releases, even without skipping your teammates' shifts.
The interface is mostly unchanged and, as such, mostly inadequate. Adjusting your lines and roster in Hockey Ultimate Team is tedious, and any sort of roster management interface is in need of a total overhaul.
I also think the new camera cuts look ridiculous, as players make impossible leaps in space if you really pay attention to the continuity of what you're seeing. It isn't helped by the fact that we've been looking at the same cutscenes for the past few years.
NHL 12 isn't all bad, though. I really love the new puck physics and forehand sneak-past-the-goalie-pad animation, and being able to play a full CHL career is something I really appreciate. I still think it'd be nice to be able to play BAP overseas, though.
That's mostly it. I don't hate the game; I'll probably spend just as much time with it as I did NHL 11. I just think it feels unfinished and I think the step from 10 to 11 was a much more impressive one than 11 to 12. This is either the beginning of the end of excellence in this franchise, or the foundation for a really great product next year. If you aren't like me (and absolutely can't not have the latest NHL game), just skip it this year. Just buy 11 or wait until next year.