When you're in a two-horse race and your competitor continues to win year after year, trying to create something that attempts to narrow the gap is incredibly difficult. That's what the folks at 2K Sports have been dealing with in their attempt to overtake EA Sports and the worldwide phenomenon that is the NHL series. EA has the brand loyalty among video game consumers and it's 2K's mission, albeit a tough one, to lure NHL gamers to their side.
2K Sports first began their marketing by naming Washington Capitals forward and two-time Hart Trophy winner Alexander Ovechkin(notes) as their cover boy and introduced the game's theme "Is Party Now?" promising a fun gaming experience. With Ovie in tow, 2K10's initial trailer for the game showed his videogame likeness performing the ridiculous goal-of-the-century from 2006 against the Phoenix Coyotes. Their latest ad entitled "Hockey Moms" features Kevin Bieksa(notes) and Ryan Kesler(notes) of the Vancouver Canucks and is pretty entertaining:
Let's all hope for the best for poor Barb Osborne.
Funny commercials and video game re-enactments aside, how short does NHL2K10 come up in its attempt to challenge EA's NHL10?
Immediately, gamers will notice that navigating through menus is somewhat unusual and a bit annoying. Instead of just moving up, down, left, or right to select your option, you must hold down on the directional pad in whatever direction you want to choose an option, otherwise the cursor will go back to the default center option.
If you're not in the mood for a quick game or want to devote the time to run a franchise, mini games such as Zamboni racing, competing in a shootout, playing a 3-on-3 game in a mini rink, or pond hockey. For those creationists out there, 2K10 allows games to create their own team with a various assortment of logos, uniform templates and colors to choose from. These created teams can be used in both offline and online games.
The first thing you'll notice when you are playing in a quick match or franchise game is how visually stunning NHL2K10 is. Each arena is portrayed with every little detail from the scoreboard to the lighting to the pre-game player introductions. Player models are hit and miss with bigger name stars looking much like their real-life selves.
One of the biggest downfalls of NHL2K10 is how the players feel like they are skating in mud. No matter how many times you press the turbo button, players don't seem to break away from defender and seem move at a snails pace. You don't want to make the game or players too fast, but you'll find it very frustrating as it affects the flow of the game. Puck physics lack realism with players seemingly having magnets on their sticks. Pucks do not react in lifelike fashion after a save or while completing a pass and at times it'll act like a ping-pong ball.
If you like a deep franchise mode, don't expect much from NHL2K10. Other than seeing your players' ratings increase or decrease depending on how their season stats are, you won't find player scouting, the ability to play games with your minor league squad, or the chance to buy players out in the off-season. There aren't a lot of bells and whistles in a mode that many hockey gamers salivate over.
Finally, the online aspect of 2K10 is actually enjoyable with the focus being on player-to-player interaction, whether it be through online games and leagues to allowing users to create their own roster upgrades, draft classes, and players edits that are downloadable by anyone. Gamers will also be able to invite any friend currently online to "team up" and participate in any of the game's various modes. Lag issues weren't much of a problem during ranked games and being able to create updated rosters and draft classes for others to download is a neat addition.
While NHL2K10 hits in some areas, it misses in the most important areas: gameplay and controls. While graphically excellent, gamers would be happy with pretty good graphics, but much more realistic gameplay.
You'll find yourself yelling "Skate faster!" at your screen numerous times.
Beautifully detailed arenas and impressive player animations. Picture in picture displays that show players leaving the penalty box as well as new line changes is a neat addition.
San Jose Sharks announcers Drew Remenda and Randy Hahn do the play-by-play and color. Entertaining, but most of Hahn's contributions come off as him reading too much off of a cue card.
Replay Value 6/10
2K10's online leagues are something that can bring you back to playing the game often, but when stacked up against the NHL series' massive EASHL, it falls way short.
This review was for the Playstation 3 version. For those wondering how NHL2K10 is on the Wii using WiiMotion, please do check out IGN.com's review.