There are many sports titles released on the Xbox 360, ranging from football to tennis and basketball to snooker. One of the biggest companies in the market is EA Sports, who seem to release sports game upon sports game year after year. One of their biggest rivals is 2k Sports, who have failed to knock EA off their high horse, but have they done enough on the series’ tenth anniversary to succeed with NHL 2k10?
On putting the disc into the Xbox 360 and pushing the start button, comes one of the game’s many problems of players being greeted to a bombardment of loading messages. Once this has (eventually) passed, players are introduced to the new-look menu system. Rather than the traditional menu system players are used to, NHL 2k10 opts for a unique animated approach, which would be more suited to the Nintendo Wii. However, the best aspect of the menu, without a doubt, is how it is also accessible at any point during the game. Players can simply press start and the menu is visible, therefore saving time having to trawl back to the main menu to start another match. Regrettably, whilst it looks good, it isn’t the easiest of menus to navigate with the majority of the game’s features spread out all over the place, so it does take a bit of getting used to.
Once players have worked their way around the menu, the first game mode they are likely to play is Franchise mode. As you would expect, the game mode has seen some improvements over its predecessor, with a new contract system and changes to the business side of things put in place. Nevertheless, these changes are fairly irrelevant with players taking little notice of the more in-depth features and being more than likely to plough on through the franchise. Joining the Franchise is a range of game modes making a welcome return to the NHL 2k series, including the regular Season and Practice modes, along with online game modes such as leagues, ranked matches and the new game mode: Online Teams.
The Online Teams game mode plays very similarly to FIFA 09’s Clubs game mode in which gamers take over the individual players as part of a team. This team then takes on opposing teams over the Xbox Live service in an attempt to rank on the game’s leaderboards. The game mode works surprisingly well and is a great game mode to play with friends. Sadly, problems arise when it comes to finding versus opponents as NHL 2k10 is by no means a popular online title.
Nevertheless, some of the game modes are merely disappointing. In an attempt to make hockey less intense and easier for new players to pick-up-and-play, 2k Sports included the ‘Pond Hockey’ and ‘Mini Rink’ game modes. ‘Mini-Rink’ is, as the name suggests, a miniature version of the real thing, consisting of custom-selected teams made up of three players, whilst ‘Pond Hockey’ sticks to the traditional 5-a-side game without all the rules. Despite sounding fairly enjoyable, the enjoyment is short-lived, mostly due to the poor development. It seems 2k Sports simply copy and pasted the Quick Game mode, made a few alterations to the ice rink and players, before passing it off as a new game mode. Unfortunately, the game’s poor elements expands with quite possibly the most bizarre inclusion, making a return to the NHL 2k series, is of a mini-game in which players ride a Zamboni machine to clean the ice…
Initially, the prospect of driving around on a Zamboni machine at intervals sounds fairly entertaining, featuring in a timed mini-game in which players aim to clean as much of the ice as possible within the three minutes given. Unfortunately, 2k Sports made such a fun-sounding mini-game fairly dull due to the machine travelling at an incredibly slow place and, to make matters worse, the handling is appalling. Players will more than likely end up hitting the edge of the rink and have to spend crucial seconds reversing the machine. Fortunately, the mini-game is optional, accessed at intermissions by a press of the ‘X’ button, though it’s more than likely another of the game’s features you’ll play once and never again.
One of the major new inputs is the game’s emphasis on the improved player handling. Whilst it is almost definitely evident and makes the game that much smoother, you can’t help thinking they’ve gone a little bit over the top, especially when it comes to the stumbling shots. If a player is tripped or falling whilst still in possession of the puck, they are still able to pull a shot off. At first hearing, this sounds fair enough, though when the shot almost always leads to a goal; it becomes more of a frustration than a worthy inclusion.
Graphically, NHL 2k10 is fairly impressive. Player modelling has been excellently done and the ice rinks are a pleasure to view in its high-definition glory. Credit has to be given for the excellent lighting, which produces some outstanding shadow effects on the ice. The game’s audio is to a similar level, with some great tracks featuring on the game’s soundtrack, such as MGMT’s ‘Kids’ and Lupe Fiasco’s catchy ‘Superstar.’ Whilst the soundtrack doesn’t live up to the standards set by EA, it is a fairly good listen. It’s a shame the same can’t be said for the game’s commentary, which is on the weak side. A lot of the lines seem to come up game after game and it’s not long before players will be pressing the mute button on their remotes.
Overall, NHL 2k10 isn’t the strongest of ice hockey titles. The game appears to have been rushed for release and whilst there are some great features, they are simply the icing on the not-so-yummy cake.