NHL 2K9 Hands-On

Revisited control schemes and the introduction of six-on-six online play may be just the thing to revive 2K's hockey franchise.

2K Sports wasn't pleased with where its hockey franchise was headed following last year's disappointing reaction to NHL 2K8. According to the series' new executive producer, Jeff Thomas, the controls had become so complex that they began to compromise the enjoyment of the game. As a result, the development of 2K's latest hockey offering, NHL 2K9, was moved in-house to 2K's Visual Concepts studio. By adding more intuitive controls and six-on-six online play for the first time, 2K hopes to recapture a hockey audience enamored with the old-school hockey experience of the mid-'90s.

Unlike in last year's game, dekeing and shooting will require only two hands in NHL 2K9.

NHL 2K9 features three control schemes: classic, pro stick evolution (last year's controls), and a hybrid scheme mixing elements of the other two. The classic control scheme, which is the default setting this year, removes much of the gameplay dependency on the right analog stick. While more experienced players will still have access to the advanced stick control and deke options mapped to the right analog stick, these are no longer necessary to play. Core controls for shooting, passing, changing players, and checking are all mapped to the face buttons and should make the game more accessible to players new to the series.

Along with the emphasis on improved controls, NHL 2K9 features the updated 2K Reelmaker, which lets you create your own in-game highlight reels. Once a reel is produced, the game will convert it to a Web-conducive video format and automatically post it to your online profile for the world to view. Each reel can be up to one minute in length and should add a new element to online leagues (more on this below).

While the game's presentation has been tweaked to improve on the long load times in NHL 2K8, the gameplay graphics and animations remain unchanged. On-the-fly coaching options are still available via the D pad, so you can change lines for your forwards and defensemen, call plays, and augment team strategy. Like last year, though, using these controls can be difficult considering the game's speed.

Available offline game modes remain unchanged from last year. These include standard quick games, franchise and season modes, four-on-four pond hockey, two-on-two minirink, shootouts, and practice. Franchise and season modes feature the same depth you've come to expect from a 2K title. And like it did in last year's game, 2K will provide roster updates throughout the year to keep players and teams consistent with their real-life NHL counterparts. All of the online game modes from NHL 2K8 return for this year's game, including standard matches, two-versus-two minirink games, and online leagues and tournaments. Records and stats from every game are tracked via 2K's online leaderboards, allowing you to gauge your skill against players around the world.

In addition to tracking stats over multiple seasons, online league functionality has been extended this year through greater synergy with the 2K Sports Web site. Online league participants can manage their rosters, conduct fantasy drafts, and propose trades directly from the Web site. In conjunction with the revamped 2K Reelmaker, the Web site will let you post in-game reels, images, and a textual recap for any game played for the rest of your league to view.

The addition of six-on-six online play makes NHL 2K9's online experience as robust as any available.

Also new this year is the introduction of six-on-six online play, named Team-Up. This game locks user control to a specific position that you select at the start of the game. When 12 human players aren't available, the remainder of the players will be computer controlled. In addition to tracking your stats in this mode, NHL 2K9 will assign you a teammate grade that dynamically updates during the game. You'll be able to view both player stats and grades on a Team-Up leaderboard to help you decide who you want on your team.

While NHL 2K9 on the Xbox 360 doesn't feature groundbreaking changes over last year's game, nothing has been removed and many issues have been fixed. The simplified controls do a good job of making the game fun for casual players, while advanced players have access to the extended stick options from last year's game. The new Reelmaker features, along with 2K's Web site options, make NHL 2K9's online league one of the most polished in sports gaming. That, and the addition of six-on-six gameplay, should add a new twist to the online hockey experience.

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20 comments
hardcorps1110
hardcorps1110

Yea man. The NHL 09 demo was great. People who argue that must just like the 2k arcade style because EA keeps taking steps forward

wogglies5
wogglies5

Yeah...maybe I should. The superstar thing sounds fun.

wogglies5
wogglies5

I have a question. Will it be using euphoria? EA is but only in the animations though. But what game should I get? 2K8 was uhhhh...good. I liked NHL 08 for many things but the fighting was laughable. I think 2K wised up on NHL 2k9 (at least Im hoping) but I wonder what NHL 09 will be like. Moneys sorta' tight so I can probably afford one. Which should I get???

Obliviongeek9
Obliviongeek9

This game is some more old school 2K Trash. This game will sell much less than NHL 2K8 did, get ready for more shelves full of 2K sports stuff and empty of EA sports stuff. This is garbage.

hvypetals
hvypetals

sighs.. yet another set of new controls. why not just make every button mappable and you can set your own completely to your whim?

Mtlhuet39
Mtlhuet39

The demo is terrible, this game is garbage, NHL 09 will blows this crud out of the water!

hardcorps1110
hardcorps1110

Downloading the demo now. Doesn't sound promising. lol

hybrid3214
hybrid3214

I have just played the demo of this and i have to say i thought i was playing 2k8 for a second. OK well its not 2k8 but its still a terrible game nonetheless in 2k8 the goaltending was HORRIBLE 15 goals in a 5 minute period?? WTF And its not much better in 2k9 at least 8 goals is better than 15..... WOW maybe 2k should try to get a bit closer to 09 instead of trying to stay with their crappy graphics and what is beginning to seem like an arcade hockey series instead of a sim.

elite-asthmatic
elite-asthmatic

the graphics and gameplay remind me of an updated NHL Hitz

MFazio23
MFazio23

"The addition of 6-on-6 online play makes NHL 2K9's online experience as robust as any available." The EASHL is way past simple 6-on-6 games...

Thrice8
Thrice8

jesus. yeah... you can play on a huge pond and there is a zamboni mini-game, but what about the actual gameplay propelling this? 2k9 is more garbage from take-two and just screams desperation after having lost so much ground when NHL 08 massively improved upon the revamped NHL 07. i can honestly say these two franchises have swapped places, with EA catering to more complex, fluid and intuitive gameplay (which actually feels more like playing a real game of puck) upon a solid base that is improved every year with more depth and options. 2k on the other hand seems completely reluctant to abandon what is basically the same game as nhl 2k4 with minimal improvements over the years in an effort to pinch pennies and save time.

hardcorps1110
hardcorps1110

The trailer looked great on 2k's website but the gameplay in this video pretty much sucks. At least it looks like it.

unhollykilla
unhollykilla

rachovsk why would u waste ur time posting lol?

pookie2232
pookie2232

I'm just hoping for a much better goaltending for 2k9 this year.There has not been good goaltending since 2k3.Nothing worse for any hockey game is when the score is 12-9 for the home team.

ohjtbehaaave
ohjtbehaaave

Cool. sounds like 2K wised up and dumped that rediculous control scheme. Next thing that needs dumping are the those Maple Leaf OLD FART announcers who are a total Sleeping Pill and awful! That fight scene looked pretty decent too. 2K should concentrate on the online stuff which is rocking... and innovating some new checking physics/engine where the hitting is reacting REALISTIC! How about some nice checking on the boards and cooler animations in general on checks! That would take the game up another notch!