Puck Daddy - NHL

From the moment we saw the trailer, EA Sports' NHL 09 looked like a game that would build upon the enormous success of its predecessor with new bells, whistles and a "Be a Pro" mode that will shackle puckheads to their home gaming systems.

Writer Nate Ahearn of IGN.com has gotten the first hands-on test run of NHL 09, and his review features several rather interesting bits of information on the game, starting with what we all really care about: checking and fighting.

Get a little over-excited with breakouts and dekes and some lowly defender with missing teeth is sure to plant you on your ass. From my time with NHL 09, it's obvious that the checking physics have been reworked. Now slamming someone into the boards yields a nice rag doll effect with limbs flying around and skates lifting off the ground in perfect harmony before crashing back down. Bruise enough egos and there will surely be fights; yet another aspect of NHL that has been retooled for the '09 edition. While it didn't seem to be working as well as it was intended, I could see that the idea of "just make it fun again" was beginning to come together. Fighting was simple, only using a few buttons, and short, thanks to fights that lasted only 30 seconds or so.

Some of the other improvements that will have you salivating:

• There are 20 different helmet variations to pimp out your player, from a Jason Voorhees goalie mask to a Wayne Gretzky helmet.

• NHL 09 allows you to design your own plays and send players on "streaking routes up the ice."

• The "Be a Player" mode allows you to choose a specific style of player (a sniper, a grinder, a playmaker, etc.) and the depth of analysis/evaluation after each game trumps that of the Madden NFL series, according to Ahearn.

• Finally, for those of us who appreciate good defense as much as flashy offense, the game allows defenders to positions their sticks to guard against and intercept passes. Take a gander:

Is it OK if we're as excited for the dynasty mode of this game as we are for the start of the actual NHL season?

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