The sequel to one of the greatest games of all time (NHL 94), has returned! This time with legends! For the first time since retirement, you can play as such greats as Wayne Gretzky, Jeremy Roenick, Patrick Waaaaahhhh, Chris Chelios and Mario Lemieux. Play as them in the all-new Be A Legend mode, (which is Be A Pro mode, but rather than use a created player, you use a legend) and they can be placed in any team you wish. Have you ever wanted Super Mario as a Chicago Blackhawk? Or Gordie Howe scoring goals for the Toronto Maple Leafs? Or Gretzky back playing for the Oilers? All this can happen. However, don’t play as Roenick, and send him to the Dallas Stars to play. After just four games of the regular season, JR had 11 points (7 goals, 4 assists), and 25 PIM (mostly due to a game-misconduct I received five minutes into one game), and yet this was more than enough reason for the Stars management to send him down to the second line, because I wasn’t good enough. I knew the Stars hated star centres in the past (see Richards, Brad), but this is ridiculous.
However, with that saying, there isn’t really much wrong with this game. The gameplay is more refined, so it plays like a real hockey game. Players now jostle in front of the net for that tap-in or vital block. Goalies can now fight, be it Goalie on Goalie, or Goalie vs Skater. The Winter Classic is modelled to look just like the real thing. The commentary is still the same however, with Gary Thorne (who can also be heard on MLB 2K11), and Bill Clement, saying the same old things they used to, with a few minor differences. The arenas still don’t really feel like the actual arenas. I know it says that the Stars play at the American Airlines Center, and that the Buffalo Sabres play out of the Brett Hull Memorial Arena, but it just doesn’t feel like the arenas. The music played before, during and after the game isn’t the same as that played in real-life. They made an effort to fix this stuff for Madden 12 (even though that sucked), why couldn’t they do it for NHL 12?
The controls are similar to NHL 11, so fans of previous incarnations will find it easy to play. However, the CPU has been amped up a little, so you’ll find it a little harder to smash teams 10-0. The same leagues from NHL 11 are still in the game, and the national teams still aren’t licensed, which is a shame, because it would be fun playing in the KHL (which is Russia’s #1 Hockey League), especially considering the tragicness of the plane crash that killed pretty much the entire team of Lokomotiv Yaroslavl, which included former NHL stars Pavol Demitra, Ruslan Salei and Karlis Skrastins. It would be a good way to honour that side, by being able to play as them in the game, maybe EA will add that side in, as a bonus for NHL 13, as a memorial.
The graphics improve each year, with the legends looking like their real-life prime counterparts. The breaking of the glass is a nice new feature, in which you can now break the glass, with the opponent’s head. The gameplay is as slick as an ice-hockey game can get, it’s seamless regardless of which mode you play. The lifespan is long, with Be A GM, Be A Pro, Be A Legend, Hockey Ultimate Team (which is my favourite mode, where else can I have a second line of Derek Roy, Joe Thornton and Paul Stastny), plus the EA Sports Hockey League returns for those fans of playing online.
Even if you own NHL 11, buy this game. It may not be the game NHL 11 was, but it’s the closest thing you’re gonna get to it.