The Best Did Get Better

User Rating: 9.5 | NHL 09 PS3
Last year I was a K2 player who converted to the EA ways for NHL 08. I was amazed by how realistic the game was, the amazing developments with the skill stick, and the hours and hours of game time I put it. Pretty much the only game I played for months when I had the chance to play. That said NHL 08 didn't come without some flaws however. I could list a few but I'll name the ones I really hated.

• Homing missile hip checks
• Instant goal slap passes
• Online glitches such as the faceoff loop

Now we come to the year of NHL09 where EA promised that the game would become even better and you know what… it did.

Gameplay: The game play is very similar to 08 but there are some dramatic changes in my opinion. For one the defense is a whole lot stronger now. You can now give little checks to that guy in front of the net to push him out of the way. You can now stick lift! As a hockey player, you don't know how happy I was to see that feature in the game. It literally interferes with the puck handler and if you get a little too lift happy and hit the guy you get a slashing or high sticking call. Another defensive plus is the 180* poke check now. That was another great plus. The checking is a whole lot more realistic now and the physics seem to be almost dead on but the best part is that there are no more homing missile hip checks! On the offensive side of the puck you have to be more strategic now. I don't know if I should feel sorry or laugh at those who abused the slap pass last year… I think I'll laugh. The slap pass is all but dead now. The passes are slower and the shots don't always go on net. In fact I've missed the net quite a few times just on a regular passing one timer. Which brings me to another thing… the shot aim is pickier now. So if you are taking a shot and you have the aim on the edge of the left circle… you'll probably miss the net more. Also to counter the defense upgrade you can now protect the puck using the X button. It will put your body in front of the puck protecting it from stick lifts but you can still get checked. Along with that you can also dump the puck now, which can be used for dump and chase style hockey. This is perfect for the 3rd and 4th lines. For the 1st and 2nd lines there is *I hate to use this word* "speed burst." Basically you push the puck forward in front of you and you can get from point a to point b quicker. However, this feature allows the puck to be free and can easily be stolen. If you know how to use it right, it's a great attribute. The goaltending in the game is pretty much the same but it is stronger than it was before... well as far as blocking the shot. Rebounds are more frequent now I think, which are always up for grabs. Also the goaltenders will now make more sprawling saves, which if he does you better pick up the rebound or the next shot will go into the net. The final part of the game play is the flow of the game. Now that the PS3 version has the 60 fps, the game does feel 10X smoother than last year. Also the game is a lot slower, I don't know if it's the fps at work or what but the game runs smoothly and slowly.

Now for features. Online play, Dynasty Mode, Create a Player, Create a Team and the world tournament returns to the game. However this year we have a few new features; Be a Pro. Mode, European Tournaments, and the EASHL. I'll start on the Be a Pro mode. This is probably the mode I've spent most of my hours playing. From the start of the game you create your player and when you start up Be a Pro you pick the AHL team you want to play for. For me I choose Lake Erie since I'm an Avs fan. From there you pick what kind of player you are and in my case I choose play maker so instantly my passing abilities were greatly higher then my other abilities. You have experience points to spend and you add them where you like… checking, shooting power, accuracy etc. You then start up the game and you take control of yourself and that's it. You have to play your position at all time and you have to take your man or else you will pay for it. Every time you come back to the bench for a line change or when the game is over the way you play will be graded by your coach. What they grade you on is position, team play and stats. You are also expected to accomplish certain things before the end of the season. Make so many passes, make so many goals, etc. Over time and the more games you play you will gain more experience and you can those experience point to where ever you feel needs to be better. Like an RPG pretty much. Main goal is to make the NHL, become a star and win the cup. This mode is a ton of fun and as a hockey player, I appreciate this the most. The EASHL will work pretty closely with the Be a Pro mode. You take yourself and you play on a team of guys or gals who are your friends or from an online gild. I joined a team called the Jets a while ago and haven't played a game with them yet, so I can't say much at this time on the EASHL. What I'm worried about is the online lag that is expected from this though. The other tournaments such as the world and the European leagues are pretty straight forward. One other tournament is the Montreal Canadians Cup where you play against 7 NHL teams and earn the right to play EA's special Canadians team consisting of the best Canadian players ever. Create a play, practice and shootout mode are also included as well from last year. I have a little bit of a problem with the shootout mode, it seems like your goalie like ghosts into the goal itself. It's weird and shouldn't be there. 08 never had that.

Online Play: It's the same as last year pretty much, I haven't seen any online glitches yet which is good. What I'm really hoping is that EA fixed the damn faceoff loop. Another thing I hope for is the disconnect glitch to be wiped out.

Graphics and Audio: The graphics haven't changed much but we do now have game intros and 3 stars of the game. Those are nice to watch. I haven't won the Cup yet but I'm hoping it's longer then last years. There have been reports by IGN of frame rate issues within between play movies but I have yet to experience one. It runs just right on the PS3 so far. The game audio is good to. What you expect in a hockey game is there from the checking on the boards to the PING of the post. There is one thing that pisses me off though and that's the fact that PS3 players won't get the custom soundtrack. It ticks me off that once more 360 users will get a superior copy of the game even though it's a small thing. I just want Kern Kraft 400 to play when I score. I'm sure others feel the same way. At least we PS3 owners don't have to pay to play online.

I have used the special feature in the instant replay system where you can literally upload game highlights onto the EA servers. It is such an awesome feature. What you do is link up you EA account onto the EA Sports World website and make sure you are logged on your PS3. What you do next is when you find a play you love; you crop your video and upload it onto the website. When it's all said and done you should have your play on your profile page. There is nothing to it really. This feature just stunned me.

To wrap it up… EA Sports raised the bar once more and I have to wonder, what they could do to make it even better. This is the most realistic hockey game I've played to date and it really does make you feel like you are the main player of the game. Be A Pro is freaking sweet, and the tune ups in the game play are a huge plus.

+ Positives +

Be A Pro Mode is the ultimate hockey game experience!

Defense is way better then it was before. Especially with stick lifts and 180* poke checks.

Much tighter and smoother game play.


PS3 user gets screwed out of custom soundtrack.

Still not much of a fan of the create a player… they could of added more to it like more hair styles and facial features. Also there is not as much equipment as they made it sound.

Also the create a team still sucks. You're very limited to what you can have on your jerseys. I think the problem is they try to match it to the new stream line jerseys too.

One other thing I just hate is that they still don't have regular Playoff or Regular season modes. I don't want to play a whole season. I just want to pick certain teams and play a regular Stanley Cup playoff.

Suggestions for NHL 2010

If they can put all these European teams in give me my NCAA Division 1 hockey! It can expand on the Be a Pro greatly. I want the chance to wipe the ice with the losers from Colorado College or those goons from North Dakota with the University of Denver Pioneers! Give Canadians their junior teams. You don't have to update the roster, just make it a set team.

Maybe they can start working on the goalies to make them better to control.