NHL 10 is the latest installment into the EA Sports Hockey franchise. Sporting some of the great physics and gameplay from last year's title, including some extra features for the 2010 season, the main features of NHL 09 are still intact throughout. However, this review will try to look at where the game has improved, or indeed, if it still requires it.
A lot of the core mechanics from last year's title have been finely polished and appear better than before. One shining example of this is in the "Be a Pro" mode, as there are new options to pick. For example, whether or not to be on the ice at all times, or to speed up time while off the ice. These options can also be chosen before any individual match, making for a faster match if necessary.
Game modes in NHL 10 are pretty much all standard fare, with Season mode, Be a Pro mode, Be a Superstar mode, and general quick match. Despite being two separate modes, Be A Pro, and Be A Superstar are actually quite similar. The only difference being that in one mode, the player plays with an AI team as a user generated player, and in the other, he plays as a pre-existing NHL player. There are also a couple of online modes including a mode that lets players create their own league and play online seasons with friends. This mode is a really great feature, but it does require a lot of friends who are dedicated to playing at the same time and scheduling events with one another weekly, which in itself poses a pretty obvious problem. However, for those who can manage this, it's probably the greatest feature of the game.
Another area that's more polished is the appearance of the game as a whole. Stadiums are nicely rendered with the audience in the background showing enough variance to be interesting, but not in a way that detracts from the overall experience. The character models on ice are all fairly accurate looking in comparison to their real-life counterparts. One gripe with the character models is that there are sometimes very generic looking stock faces for the custom creations allowed in-game. That and there are some awkward collision between players, which causes arms to go through legs and vice versa. It's a relatively minor issue, since the rest of the game looks really nice, but it can make the experience less enjoyable if it happens a lot. The game does feature a solid frame rate that rarely slows down much at all, and this helps to keep games fast paced without becoming frustrating.
The game also has great sounds present, as games are filled with enthusiastic crowds cheering. There are also on ice calls between players, and full announcing. The announcing is probably the weakest part of the audio though, considering a lot of it just feels kind of recycled from last year's title. There always seems to be chatter going on though, which makes the game much more lively. The other downside is that the soundtrack is rather poor, that is a matter of taste, but it's just too generic to be truly enjoyable for a wider audience.
In terms of new features present in NHL 10 there is a new first person fighting mode, extra play features, like playing a puck against the boards, and improved goalie response and physics. This may not seem like much of an update, and to be honest it's not. Most of these features are interesting additions, but they don't really break the mould. For example, the board play is a nice addition to have, but it just feels buggy. The puck often sticks between the feet in a weird floating position until either the player kicks it out or it gets poked away. The fighting also suffers from feeling like a last minute addition. It's interesting, but it doesn't really feel all that responsive.
Thankfully, the rest of NHL 10 controls very well. All the players feel very smooth to control and vary by their speed and aggressiveness when checking. The two stick controls are back again this year as well and still work really well for aiming shots and is especially fun to use when on a breakaway.
The features that really stand out with NHL 10 are pretty much the same that were already implemented in last year's game. This means the game certainly isn't bad, but it's essentially just the same. Unless there is a big need on having a roster update and some basic features added, NHL 09 is very similar. It may leave owners of NHL 09 feeling a little cheated, but for those looking for a new NHL game, it's definitely a title to pick up.