As any hockey fan knows, tomorrow marks the debut of EA Sports' NHL 2009. This highly anticipated game looks to build on the recent success of the popular franchise.
We here at Down Goes Brown were lucky enough to get our hands on an advanced copy. Here's one Leaf fan's perspective on the new game.
Here are some of the new and returning features that I'm excited about.
- Thanks to the firing of Paul Maurice, players using the Leafs will no longer find that the "timeout" option is greyed out at all times.
- Thanks to the firing of John Ferguson Jr., players using the Leafs now once again have the option to actually look at a player's ratings before signing him to a massive, cap-killing contract.
- Players now do certain routine actions automatically, making the game much easier to control. For example, players at the point automatically stickhandle to keep the puck in the zone, forwards in front of the net automatically try to tip in long shots, and Jason Blake automatically kills every odd-man rush by taking a weak wrist shot from the far boards.
- The league news section now features an "Eklund" page, in which the game selects a random player, claims he's heading to a random team, and then asks you to send money. This page is updated 50 times a day during the season.
- The game now features a special "Toronto Media Mode". When playing as the Leafs, a window will pop up after each transaction with an article explaining why it was a bad move. This one may need some more work, though, as I noticed the article is always exactly the same with only the names swapped out.
- The player models are so detailed that you can actually see where they're looking. For example, when you take a slapshot you can see the goalie stare at the puck. When you try to deke a defenceman, you can see him stare at your upper body. And when you completely destroy Daniel Alfredsson with an open ice hit, you can see all the Senators players stare at their skates.
It wouldn't be a video game without a few little tricks you can use to your advantage.
- On the main trading screen, if you offer a deal and see the message "That offer is ridiculous, it would cripple my team for five years if I did that", press and hold the Select button. This activates "Fletcher Mode", and the deal will go through. Warning: You can only use this trick about five times, after which it won't work anymore. And also, you will go senile.
- When chatting with an online opponent with a headset, press all four triggers at the same time and a small image of Richard Peddie's face appears on the screen and mouths the words along with you.
- During the game, bring up the Options Menu and choose "pull goalie". This will activate the special Raycroft Simulator.
Unfortunately the news isn't all good. I did find several bugs -- hopefully they'll be fixed in a patch.
- During free agency, I spent hours scouting Kurt Sauer. But when I finally signed him to a contract and checked my roster, some guy named Jeff Finger was there instead.
- There are still some major problems with the computer AI. For example, I had a defenceman on my team shoot the puck into my own net. Another time, a 180-foot clearing attempt bounced into my net without my goalie even moving.
- During a crucial late-season game between the Leafs and Senators at ScotiaBank place, the fans were cheering for Ottawa.
- Possible issue with collision detection: During a game against the Penguins, Sidney Crosby kept falling down and my team kept getting penalties even though I never touched him.
- During the all-star game, one of the computer players actually made some sort of vague effort at playing defense.
- Games played in cities like Columbus, Atlanta and Nashville featured mostly empty arenas, but the league head office still insisted that expansion to the Southern US had been a "huge success".
- In my first game with the Leafs, I was controlling Carlo Colaiacovo and was involved in a minor collision. However on the next shift, Colaiacovo was still available to play.
- During franchise mode, some teams went up to two entire years in a row without changing their uniform design.
- When I tried to open the negotiation window for Mats Sundin, the game froze. Completely. For months. Until I finally lost interest.