Well I whipped over to the mall after work and plunked down the $60. So far, so good!
I've only played the much hyped "Be a Pro" mode so far...I'm hooked! Took me a good while to create my guy, I went through every option and every piece of gear. Good stuff. Nothing like seeing myself suit up for my first game on the Marlies! I'm not usually one for Create a Player modes, but this year is the exception, cause this mode is very revolutionary and it's not like you just make yourself and pop onto the NHL team. You start out in the minors and work your way up, kinda like real life!
I've played just 5 games so far, 5 minute periods, on "All Star" (2nd highest) difficulty..."Pro" is probably too comfortable, but "Superstar" (highest) would have the CPU pulling all kinds of cheat moves I bet. I want it difficult, but not impossible. :)
"Be a Pro" mode features a couple different ways to play. I'm playing the mode where you actually have to sit on the bench in between shifts, hoping your teammates can get it done! :) Using default settings so far, dunno what I would change yet. I've seen a few penalties, haven't taken one yet, but I assume I'll have to sit in sin bin for 2 minutes or less at some point!
It's fun to get used to calling line changes when you're on the bench...I totally blew it in my last game, left my goalie high and dry and Bridgeport scored a tying goal two-on-none in the last minute. :(
I've only scored a couple goals (really have to work for them!): one I was left all alone in front of their net after a turnover, and the other was more of an own-goal that one of their guys put home for me. :P LOTS of different ways to score in this game! Mostly I whip it wide of the net, if I make contact at all, but I'm getting the hang of it.
Most importantly, no show-stopping bugs so far. 4 hours of gaming and no freezes. I'm hoping Dynasty mode is as robust as this seems to be, but I don't wanna jinx it!
The menus are so much better than NHL 08...nice and smooth, not the jerkiness of last year. The goalie animations are much improved, I love them. The atmosphere of the arenas are also well done.
The only wacky thing I saw so far was Marlies goalie Justin Pogge making a save and then the puck shot out of our zone at superspeed...watch it here if you like. I'm going to make good use of the new replay editor, long overdue feature! Finally I can show off the wacky stuff without digging out my digital camera. You can also take screenshots, nice.
As far as negatives, the file system is kinda odd when you go to save something...it pulls up a keyboard interface so you can name your file, but you can't seem to give your files a useful name. They get named "Beapro1", "Beapro2" and "Video1", Video2" etc. It is possible to erase the text, but then you can't type in any letters, only numbers, so "01", "777", etc. Maybe I'm doing something wrong, but all the alpha keys were greyed out. I'd much rather label a replay as "turbopuck" than "video3". And "BAPWellwood", instead of "Beapro02", if I want to play Be a Pro with a current NHLer, alongside my created guy, etc. Oh well, I can write them down I guess...?
Anyway, extreme nitpicking aside, I truly love this game! Bravo EA, you have rescued the franchise in a Big Way! This could be the year that succeeds longtime champ NHL 2004 as my favourite, but I'll have to put several more hours into it before we go crowning anything around here. Fortunately, the weekend is approaching.
I didn't check out any online stuff. But even if that's all a complete train wreck, the offline alone could well be worth the purchase.
I can definitely tell the AHLers have less skill than the NHLers. Slower, less accuracy, etc. Awesome. Crosby is much better than some minor league rookie.
Anyway, that's a taste. Ahh, so nice to be able to talk hockey again, even if it is a video game. Judging by the Leafs roster this year, I'll probably be playing more than watching...
See you next time with more thoughts.