I have to admit, there was a time in my late tens when women, drugs & alcohol were waaaaaay cooler than video games. Wait, they still are minus the drugs - but video games are easier for me to get on a consistent basis than women. Alcohol? 4 package stores in a 5 mile radius. Booya.
I got back into video games when my nephews reached their early teens, remembering how awesome I was at the 90's NHL games - I thought I'd dominate on playstation and original xbox. Man, little kids are freakin' unreal at video games. They would dominate me from the first drop of the puck all the way to the last minute of regulation. My inner-child pride said NO MORE!
It all started with NHL2k8 with a forever switch to EA in NHL09. By NHL10 I was back in the swing of things and with the current NHL12, I make most of my opponents quit before the 3rd period, as for my nephews? I beat their face every time we play. Yeah, I'm proud...
Now for my initial thoughts
I don't play any of the game modes except online versus play and the EASHL club games. So my overall game mode initial thoughts are useless to most, but this is just for fun anyway.
The first thing I noticed were the highly touted new skating physics. If you can find a lane to skate straight without any stick handling, the burst of speed along with your players top speed is unbelievable. I found it greatly helped my dump & chase game, it also made it a lot easier to catch the opposing dmen flat footed, no longer can a Dman skate just as fast as you backwards, this opens a whole new realm of potential plays.
My biggest grip with the new skating physics, the wide turns that are now forced because of your top speed turning ability, yes it's much more realistic but it's not forced upon your player ENOUGH. It is much easier in real life to reach the point in your speed that you lose a ton of your mobility. You really have to get moving top speed to deal with this now. It's under utilized for sure, but still a nice addition. I also noticed the loss of ability to push the puck forward a little and skate to it, unless I haven't figured out how to do it yet, it looks like EA took it out of the game.
The instant turn-around back skate is an awesome feature, at any point in your movement you can turn around, turn sideways etc. It's fantastic now, no long delays and no awkward limitation on how you can move, it has a much more true feel to it.
Your ability to stop is much better, in all skating modes, with & without the puck.
Next up is goaltending, as of right now in demo mode it appears to be MUCH improved. The first thing I did was try the glitch goal, you know, the ol' curl and wrister from your toe, top shelf blocker side. I was shocked when Quick anticipated the shot, aggressively moved out of his crease and just crushed my angle, and deflected it high up over the glass. As of right now, the effectiveness of the glitch shot has been reduced greatly.
Next I went looking for the basic in tight cross crease goals, in about 10 3rd period demo games, I only scored a few - 3 if I remember correctly, the goalie is much better at poking the puck, defenders seem to be much better at deflecting and anticipating this now and if you do slip the perfect pass through now, the goalie almost snaps over and makes the save all the time. I'm sure within a month everyone will find the new cross crease 'glitch', but for a short time it will really force users to look for legitimate plays versus the cheapies.
Next I went for the wrap around glitch goal. I found it MUCH harder to score this goal now. If you get too close, the goaltender will just poke the puck away, before you only had to get about 1/4 of the way around the inside post before you could just reach around and stuff it past the goalie. Anyone quick or with enough practice could score a couple of these a game. Now it seems that you have to skate around the net and get at least 3/4 of the way past the entire crease to make this effective, this appears to give the defenders more time to read the play and get a stick or body on the carrier to help prevent this.
Also the goalies appear to be much better at moving the puck out of the zone, flipping it up the glass & more.
Minor improvements, but they should make the online play much better - that is...until all the kiddies find the easy goals again.
Now onto some complaints - the skill stick - our ability to deke side to side, in tight & out far is still WAY too effective, way to easy and way too unrealistic. The ability to deke through opponents legs & sticks is still there, I really wish EA would spend some time developing physics to turn on stick collisions and make this game harder to player. I found that if you are rushing in with the puck and the defender is positioned correctly to crush you, knock you off the puck or just ruin your play, you can still deke far to your backhand and unrealistically protect the puck. It's stupid, I wish EA would fix this. I was able to deke my way through computer defenders the same way as NHL12, completely unrealistic, never fumbling the puck or anything.
I found it's entirely too easy to control the puck skating backwards and if you can do this and find some room near the goalie, it's WAY too easy to score this way. It just seems to paralyze the goalies and everything goes 5 hole or deflects in off them. I went into free skate mode and consistently did this and before I quit I had 18 goals to the goalies 25 saves. I didn't try it too many times in game, so I don't know if you are more vulnerable to be hit, knocked off the puck, poke checked or stick lifted, but in NHL12 if someone gave you enough room to get turned around to back skate, you were almost invincible.
It's still not easy enough or effective to control your dump & chase game, many times I went to dump the puck and would still somehow put it right on net with right trigger. So I went with the basic wrister low on the ice dump, still fought with a shot on net from center ice. I'm hoping with some more practice I can get better, but I'm not too hopeful for that right now.
The real game of hockey is far chippier, far less position, far less clean & crisp passes, etc. I understand it's still a game and has to be appealing to the masses, but they could do a lot to remove the arcade like feel to this game .
I understand this is the demo and features are exaggerated for hype & demo purpose, so I'm excited for the full release.
I just hope that in my favorite game modes, EASHL computer defenders are smarter and play more like the offline computer dmen, hopefully the CPU EASHL goaltenders aren't incredibly stupid and prone to glitch goals.
Can't wait for the release in September!