EA Games @ NYC '08: NHL 09 (Hands-On)
FOREWORD: You may have noticed that we didn't cover any EA game during this past E3. That was all with good reason. You see, EA invited us to their New York City showcase at the W Hotel, and so we chose to save the best for last. At EA's "Holidays in July" event, we were able to go hands-on with all of the games present at E3, in addition to two that weren't.
NHL 09 was the sports game we wanted to check out most during the event, and we're happy to report that the series continues to play well. In fact, based on our gametime with NHL 09, we walked away quite impressed and wanting more.
First off, exploits such as holding the hockey stick out for an infinite amount of time have been removed. Extending the stick has now been limited to just a few seconds. One timers have received further attention, as their tendency to succeed decreased even more over last year's game. The controls continued to feel as intuitive as ever, perhaps feeling even smoother than the past during sudden directional transitions.
That means, skating around the rink feels like second-nature more than ever before, which in turn, makes playing the game less frustrating and more fun. The Be-A-Pro mode returns, allowing the gamer to take his created player through the ranks, until finally reaching the big-timers. As you probably know, you run through various objectives, controlling only your player using a third-person perspective that hones in on him when he's in position of the puck.
Lately, it seems as if Sony's been the only one that's been putting any heart into their commentary with the MLB games. But from what we heard last night, NHL 09 is presenting some solid commentary itself, so fans should be happy to hear that.
We saw visual improvements in the game, as well. Athletes boasted more detail, smoother textures, and great animation. The framerate during the intros is still jittery, but that's where it ends. NHL 09 is set for a September 2008 release.
7/31/2008 Arnold Katayev