If there is one American sport (when I say American, I don’t suggest the game was invented there) that is well and truly misunderstood in little old New Zealand, it would have to be Ice Hockey. Hell, I teach sport for a living and I have no idea about the majority of rules in the game. However, the sport (or game) seems to enjoy quite a cult following in Aotearoa.
For the uninitiated, Ice Hockey involves sliding around ice wearing ice skates (funnily enough), using hockey sticks to control and strike a puck into a small goal which is tended by a goalie. Teams are 6 aside and the flow of the game allows for forward passes (unlike familiar NZ ball sports) and players can also use the boards surrounding the ice to their advantage. As such, bodychecking is allowed and makes for some pretty violent, yet interesting times on the ice. This in game violence often leads to brawling between players, and while fighting is penalised, it is unofficially condoned in the professional game.
Fighting features well in the video game version, with EA Sports adding first person fighting to this years game. The mode seems pretty rushed and feels a little tacky to me. The experience is very unnatural, particularly after playing games such as Fight Night! Punches tend seem to have very little behind them and besides the occasional flying helmet there is very little to get excited about! The other addition to NHL 10 which I quite liked is the ability of board play. This refers to two players battling against the boards (like bodychecking someone against the glass) and grappling for the puck. This was a nice addition, but I did struggle to intentionally come away with the puck. Things just seemed a little too random, but it is a welcomed addition that will flow well as improvements are made over the next few years.
The standard gameplay modes that you have come to expect with EA Sports have made a reappearance in NHL 10, with Be a Pro and Be a GM mode here, as well as the 6 on 6 online play (awesome!). EA Sports have done little with the game to bring it up to par with it’s other big franchise sport titles, with in game presentation seriously lacking here. This just highlights the relative obscurity of the sport outside of the Northern Hemisphere and an apparent reluctance to dump mega dollars into the title. While EA Sport’s NHL game has been around a long time, I have never felt curious enough to invest any time into the title and this years game did little in the way of enticing me to continue to play. I could do with a quick refresher in the rules of the game, but in all seriousness, ice hockey, even on a console, just does not do it for me.