Monday, January 4, 2010

Top 5 of 2009 - #5 NHL ‘10

Yeah, I know. Yet another in an endless series of end of year “best of” posts. You’ll just have to deal with it because I’ve pledged to myself to blog more this year and that means writing on topics I’d normally pass over because they’re boring as shit. ;) 

Anyway, my top 5 list is unique (but not really) because it’s the top 5 games I've actually played in 2009, which doesn’t necessarily mean games that were released in 2009. You see what’s going on? I can claim not to be cliché because I’ve added a twist!

If only twists weren’t so cliché.

Ahem.

So here we go with #5. The rest should follow on a daily basis. (Yes, I’m using this as an excuse to fill up five day’s worth of posting. Just because I’m pledging to blog more doesn’t mean I won’t find new ways to be lazy about it)

#5 NHL ‘10

In 2006, following years of incompetent neglect, the NHL series really started to improve. NHL 2007 wasn’t all that, but if memory serves, it was the first to start using the right analog stick for shooting, which was revolutionary in terms of hockey games, and it did add some other nice improvements to the gameplay. Like the 2009 iteration of the Detroit Lions, there was really nowhere to go but up and NHL 2007 did just that. NHL 2008, which I reviewed, was a considerable improvement over the previous edition. I skipped 2009, but I dug back in with ‘10 and there’s just no way to conclude that in term of on-ice gameplay it’s anything but the single best NHL video game ever done.

I think one of the hardest things to reflect in sports games is the variable nature of the games they depict. Good teams need to win more than they lose, but the results of most games played should always be in doubt, and that’s not even factoring in the hugely variable skill of the individual player. NHL ‘10 dances on that line as well as any sports game I’ve played, both in terms of letting the user find a difficulty and style of gameplay that fits them and in making sure every game feels unique. I love it. The only real downside, and it is significant, is that the franchise mode is just awful, but I’ll take what I can get from a console sports game.

I was enjoying NHL ‘10 so much during the fall that I attempted something I’ve not accomplished with a sports game since Bases Loaded on the NES when I was a kid (football games excepted), which is to manually play out a single full season. Yes, that project was doomed to failure and lasted just over a month, but I blame Dragon Age. In fact everything in my life that didn’t get done last November –vacuuming, laundry, feeding my kids something other than PEZ- is pretty much Dragon Age’s fault. Nonetheless, I was having a shitload of fun with NHL and will probably go back to it as the winter doldrums officially set in.

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