Ice hockey isn't the best known sport down here in sunny South Africa, especially with the fact that snow and ice are seldom found in places other than the top of a mountain peak in the heart of winter. So a video game based around ice hockey will have to appeal to South African gamers with something other than reams of stats and up to date rosters. Luckily 2K Sports has seen fit to make NHL 2K10 a game that does just that.
The NHL 2K series has always been known for its technical gameplay style where an in-depth knowledge of hockey was a requirement for even coming close to winning a game, so it's a welcome relief that this year's iteration is much more arcade-like. Goals flow freely with games always ending in tight, high scoring results - no matter how good you are at defence as the AI always seems to score on you. NHL 2K10 allows for quick sessions of hockey with a multitude of modes that cater for any length of attention span, with a full franchise mode on offer all the way through to mini games and pond hockey matches. The franchise mode is where you'll spend most of your time and it manages to be relatively engaging although the menu system they use can get a bit confusing with many of the useful settings hidden away.
2K's focus this year has been to make their game more social, and with that in mind, it's possible to play against a friend over LIVE in any game mode, as well as blog and upload screenshots or replays straight to 2K Sports' website. There's also the opportunity to download rosters or settings from other users, so if you find that you'd rather have a more realistic hockey game, then you can search online for some more realistic slider settings.
Having played EA's NHL offering this year it took me a while before I acclimatised to 2K10's style of play. Shooting from the blue line is almost always rewarded and it seems the best style of attack is to shoot often, and from anywhere. It gets to the point where you almost wonder if having a goalie is worth the effort. The AI also seems to have the uncanny knack to get breakaways and will almost always score no matter how good your goaltender is. It can get a bit frustrating to get three or four goals up only for the AI to respond out of the blue with 4 goals of their own. As I mentioned earlier, downloading more realistic difficulty settings can remedy the affect but be prepared for hundreds of goals on the default settings.
The presentation is an odd mix with customised match entrances and interesting intermission reports being offset by some terrible in-game commentary from Randy Hahn and Drew Remenda who cover the San Jose Sharks. The commentary just seems stilted and doesn't manage to keep up with the on-screen action. The selection of indie music used throughout NHL 2K10 is a great break from the usual hardcore rock and emo music that seems to be in every ice hockey game these days, and the option to use custom music for certain events is a great addition.
Graphically NHL 2K10 looks very dated with player models that just seem to reek of PS2 or Xbox 1 days. After playing NHL 10 it's even more evident that 2K needs to revamp their graphics engine before next year. The animations also don't seem to be spot on with players sometimes not moving as you'd expect them to and animations that need to play out before you can complete moves. The stadium crowds and rinks on the other hand are well rendered with small details such as banners showing the teams' previous Stanley Cup triumphs hanging from the rafters.
Looking at 2K10 it's a game that can definitely be recommended to the casual sports game fan or someone who has only a passing interest in ice hockey. It doesn't get bogged down in trying to replicate the sport to perfection and lets even the most ham fisted player have a fun time playing it. For those of you out there looking for a straight simulation, then you'd be better off buying EA's NHL 10 for a more realistic approach to NHL. While there are a few issues that need to be ironed out before next year, 2K Sports has given us a game that's more about fun than anything else. So grab a few beers and call over some friends for an evening of slapshots and goals galore.
- Easy to jump into
- Great multiplayer experience
- Multitude of modes on offer
- Commentary needs some work