I have good news for hockey gaming nuts (like me). Today, EA Sports released the demo version of NHL12 to both the Playstation Store and Xbox360 Marketplace. The game doesn't disappoint.
The demo features three game modes : Play Now, Be A Pro, and Hockey Ultimate Team.
Play Now mode features the 3rd period of a Stanley Cup Finals game between the Boston Bruins and Vancouver Canucks at Rogers Arena.
Be A Pro gives you the opportunity to take control of one player and one player only. It features a different camera view, and shift by shift analysis of your performance.
Hockey Ultimate Team is a fantasy hockey meets trading card hybrid. The system (in the demo version) automatically selects a roster for you, using players from the NHL and the other leagues featured in the game. Once the team is built, you can participate in a bracket style tournament of one period games. In the full version of the game, the cards are tradeable and higher tier players (including legends like Jeremy Roenick, Chris Chelios, Wayne Gretzky and more) are available for purchase with points earned during the HUT season.
Now let's get to the important stuff.
When I play NHL, I'll play a season or two with 100% accurate rosters, so I spent most of my time in the Play Now mode. Those of you who have played the NHL series since 2008 will feel right at home with the game. It still plays the same way, but with some pretty substantial upgrades.
The first change that really stood out to me was the physics and momentum of the game. In NHL11, checks seemed to either put a guy in the hospital or go completely unnoticed. There was really no middle ground. This year, the hits feel so much more natural and organic. The canned animations are gone (or at least severely minimized) and no check goes without effect on the puck carrier. Sure, certain guys can battle through checks and carry the puck, but every check has an effect, just like in the real game. Players seem to have more "weight". It takes an extra tick to change direction or accelerate. All in all, it makes for a much more realistic feel.
Also new to the game is goalie interaction. Now, you can play the role of Dustin Byfuglien and bump, disrupt, and annoy Roberto Luongo. Goalies who get hit react accordingly. I had a moment with Milan Lucic. He was crashing the net, and was pushed into Luongo. Luongo's helmet flew off and he hit the ice. The play was whistled dead.
From my limited time with the NHL12 demo, it's safe to say that long time NHLers like me will not be disappointed. There aren't any major changes, but there shouldn't be. NHL has been the gold standard of sports gaming for the last 4-5 seasons. NHL12 is no exception.
Look for my review when the full version of the game is released September 9th, 2011.