Hockey at its best!
Let's start by admitting the facts. I'm a huge hockey fan. I love hockey games. I hate arcade style hockey games..Ok, I don't hate them, because the NHL 3 on 3 game was pretty sweet, but I don't really care for them in a $60 price point. Moving on...
NHL 2010 has taken the bar set by NHL 2009 and raised it to new levels. All the in-game stuff you've read about on the preview sites is there and it works great. In game one of my season I got caught chasing Jamal Mayers down as he got in alone on my goalie, and a desperation diving poke check resulted in Mayers stumbling to his knees while still getting a shot on goal. My netminder stopped the shot, and I got called for a penalty shot in the process. Great stuff. On the other end of the ice, I got to test the new desperation save animations as my shot from the point bounced not once but twice, resulting in a flopping, flailing goaltender stretching out to attempt to keep the puck out of the net. Fortunately for me, he didn't flounder enough and my team was up 1-0.
In other action, the board system works great, and even the passing is more realistic, with passes going just out of reach and players stretching to keep the puck onsides as they set up the shots from the points. All great stuff making the true hockey fan really enjoy the experience. The addition of sticks, skates, helmets, and gloves with boost slots was a great idea allowing players to gain small bonuses with new equipment, and allowing you to concentrate your development points in one area while still getting a little bonus in the less or, in some cases, more important areas of your game. One thing I truly like about this feature is the option to tough it out and unlock all the cool boosts and extra equipment, or to crack open your wallet and use points to get ahead. Some may call this the cheaters way out, but for me, a guy that works 65+ hours a week, I cannot play several seasons of each game mode just so I can unlock a few booster points. I can, however, afford to buy a few of the ones I need. Why? Because I work 65+ freaking hours dude, seriously, the extra money has good use here!
One thing I will complain about here is the lack of customization for the appearance of create-a-players. Standard, cookie cutter faces and hair styles truly take away from the online experience. This is where I take a half star from the game’s overall rating, and only because in this day and age of next gen gaming, it is an area that must see improvement in the next package. I’m not going to demand face mapping with the Xbox Live Camera, but more variation in facial features, such as sliders for chin, neck, forehead, eyes, mouth, etc should be a part of the game. If they are, I missed them, and I will gladly go back and use them! I would also like to see more color options, and transparency sliders for cuts, facial hair, and other finishing touches in the appearance. Color options in the equipment selection would also be a welcome addition.
In all, this is the best game yet in terms of hockey simulation. If you prefer big checks and high scoring, you will still like this game. You will just get frustrated at having to learn about real hockey in order to accomplish these goals. But buy it anyway, because hockey is an awesome sport and you should be watching it regardless on whether you buy this game!