series debuted. Also, you now feel old.
But while gaming fans can find NHL 12 in stores today, DGB spies were able to slip me a beta copy weeks ago. So if you're still on the fence about adding it to your collection, here's an in-depth review of the game's pros and cons.
Everyone wants to know about the latest and greatest features. NHL 12 has plenty, although the results are mixed.
- "Be a Pro" mode returns and is more realistic than ever. When you return to the bench after an extra-long shift while playing as a member of the Senators, you'll need to take a moment to introduce yourself to whichever new coach Bryan Murray hired while you were gone.
- In a nice bit of realism, the "Make an offer to another team's restricted free agent" feature is permanently greyed out.
- As always, the game is extremely customizable. Gamers can control the volume of sound effects and crowd noise, although when playing as Toronto the volume of the music can only be adjusted by Dion Phaneuf.
- The game features goalie fights, allowing fans to send their team's top goaltender after a hated rival. Penguin fans can have Brent Johnson challenge Rick DiPietro, Bruin fans can have Tim Thomas pummel Carey Price, and Canuck fans can send Cory Schneider after Roberto Luongo.
- The good news: The play-by-play commentary is extensive, as the announcers will use thousands of different words. The bad news: The angry fifteen-year-old yelling into your headset in online mode will still only know how to use three different words.
- Players can now read and react to what's happening around them. Goalies read the rush and react by cutting off a cross-crease pass, forwards read the defence and react by overloading the zone, and Winnipeg Jets read the local newspaper's nightlife section and react by demanding a trade to Buffalo.
Most major releases these days have at least a few issues, and sadly NHL 12 is no exception.
- The new Legends mode is fun, but seems to suffer from occasional graphical glitches. After playing through a successful career as Ray Bourque, I noticed that when I finally won the Stanley Cup the Bruins logo on his jersey was replaced by a letter 'A' with snow on top of it.
- The game takes a laughably unrealistic approach to Rule 48. I had one of my players suspended for several games after a head shot; when I delivered an identical hit with a different player a few games later, the league's ruling was consistent.
- The artificial intelligence needs work, as players still make silly mistakes. For example, some players signed long-term contracts with no-trade clauses with the Flyers, and then reacted like they were actually going to get to stay in Philadelphia. Look, they're buying houses and everything!
- This one may not be a bug per se, but is still a major issue: Every time you call up EA Sports to insist on a free copy of the game since you're a very important blogger, all you hear is laughter followed by a dial tone.
- While testing the new Winter Classic mode, my star player was seriously injured on a hit to the head. But when I accessed the roster screen I found that he was listed as "unavailable", so I couldn't keep him in the lineup for the rest of the game and the next one like a real NHL team would.
Cheats and Easter Eggs
What modern video game doesn't come with its share of hidden features and unlockable bonus content? NHL 12 is no different.
- Enter your name as "Donald Fehr" and sim ahead to the next round of collective bargaining negotiations. The game will instantly switch over to MLB 94.
- Here's a nice bit of cross promotion: If you bounce a Habs player off of a stanchion, the detective from L.A. Noire will show up and immediately begin interrogating witnesses for the inevitable police investigation.
- Unlock all of the game's achievements and you'll earn a free download of the world's most popular hockey-themed mobile phone game, Plants vs. Zombos.
- Finally, when you play for the first time the game will search your hard drive for any saved game files from NHL09. If it finds any, it will take the most pathetic team in the league and import half their roster as this year's Calgary Flames.
(Previous DGB game reviews: NHL 11 | NHL 10 | NHL 09)