I picked this up for a similar reason as to why I bought SEGA Superstar tennis. It cost me £5 from Amazon and I thought it would be a fun game to play with friends. I'll probably make several references to Pro Evolution Soccer as this is the only other sports game that I have owned (That is not a gimmick like SEGA Superstar tennis). I thought I should point out I don't follow ice hockey what so ever, I bought this game on an impulse buy.
NHL 2K9 is an ice hockey game made by 2K sports. It is a long running series and is in direct competition with EA's NHL 09. You have the option of playing a quick match, Franchise Mode, Season Mode, Mini-Rink or Pond Hockey. There is also a practice/tutorial mode to help new players pick up the controls. Franchise and Season mode are essentially the same thing; you pick a team from the NHL and take them through a season and the Stanley cup. You can trade and obtain new players, edit your roster, change tactics, change contracts and generally tinker with your team. The only difference between the two modes is that Season mode is just for the one season, franchise mode goes on for as long as you like (Think Master league from PES).
Quick match is fairly obvious, a one off match between you and the computer or a friend. Mini-Rink and Pond Hockey are two variations on quick match. Mini-Rink see's you play 3 on 3 hockey in a smaller ring instead of 6 on 6. There are no penalties and it's more arcade like. Pond Hockey is a 4 on 4 game played outside, funnily enough on a pond. The rules can be edited to your liking and again is more arcade like. There are 3 sets of controls available depending on your ability; Classic, Pro Stick Evolution and Hybrid. Most will stick with classic controls however the more experienced players will try the other two. The game is fully licensed by the NHL so all the team names, logos, players and sponsors are represented as they would be in real life.
Graphically NHL 2K9 is fairly average. They do not impress, the crowd's are fairly bland and the faces of the players are quite basic. However any sport fan will tell you that graphics are not important. They do the job required and will keep you happy throughout the game. They look good enough to enjoy the game but won't be winning any awards.
The animations are good on the whole here but small faults are noticeable. All the movements are very well modeled; the players perform their moves like they would in real life. The skating, shooting, tackling and goalie movements are all accurately modeled so it looks like a real game of skating. The only downfall comes in the form of the puck. Quite often when viewing a replay you will notice the puck doesn't move in time with a players stick. By this I mean the puck can move towards the goal without the player actually hitting it. It's not noticeable in normal play as the game is so fast paced but in replay modes it is fairly obvious the connection between the puck and the stick doesn't always happen.
The music that accompanies sports games tends to be fairly crap if I'm going to be honest. Music is all about individuals tastes so it's a hard one to get right. NHL 2K9 opts for the teen, punk, new age rock. I noticed a Joe Satriani song slipped it's way into the sound track but on the whole if you`re not into this music you will find yourself turning it down. I personally play other music through my laptop whilst playing NHL 2K9. This is the Wikipedia entry for the game which has the full track list http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NHL_2K9
The commentary was a pleasant surprise here. As mentioned before the only sports game I've owned in the past is PES which has some of the worst commentary going. The commentary is provided by Randy Hahn and Drew Remenda. I thought I'd be annoyed by two American voices however they do a good job here. The commentary is up to date (i.e. on time with what's going on) and makes sense to each situation. It doesn't sound stupid (Like PES) and will not bore you. If you play the game enough you will notice some repeats but that is common for a sports game.
First off ill talk about the ice hockey itself. NHL 2K9 provides a fast paced and entertaining game. It's a lot of fun to play and you will find yourself getting right into it. Don't be surprised if you find yourself shouting at the TV and jumping up in the air when you score (Or is this just me?!?!?). It's enjoyable to play on your own but even more fun with friends. Scoring on NHL 2K9 is a lot more satisfying than on most sports games and is a very rewarding experience. One thing that never gets old would be taking out an opponent. Leaving a player flat on his arse is hilarious and always merits a replay. Not being an ice hockey fan I find myself getting bored after about 3 or 4 games. Unlike PES I cannot play 20 games in a row and still want more. I often find myself playing 3 games, having an hour break, and then playing 3 more. The game play doesn't quite have the addictive feeling that a sports game needs. The whole formula can become repetitive quite quickly.
The difficulty can be adjusted to your own liking. The initial setting is just about right, you may lose a few games before you get the hang of things but after a while you should be able to win most games if you play sensibly. I needed about 3 games before I worked out the best ways of tackling and shooting. A 3 game learning curve sounds like an acceptable amount however those 3 games were mainly trial and error. NHL 2K9 has a tutorial mode but it is VERY basic. It will only teach you a few simple things and the things it does teach you will probably result in you giving fouls away. Any previous NHL 2K players will walk straight into the game but complete newcomers will struggle to understand the point in half the buttons. The manual does explain what every button does but without a decent tutorial mode to explain the purpose of these actions they become pretty pointless.
I only find myself using the A button (Pass/Change player), X Button (Shoot/Shoulder charge), RT button (Speed burst) and LB button (Tricks). The other controls are either not explained or explained poorly so you don't know how to use them. Sports games can be difficult to adapt to as a first timer but even a game like PES have a very detailed training mode to ensure every aspect is covered. The same goes for the explanation of the rules of ice hockey. These are not explained in tutorial mode either. This isn't a major issue as they are easy to work out after a few games and I think it's fair for 2K games to believe everyone who buys the game understands the rules of ice hockey (Such as offside and icing).
So the ice hockey is good, but not great. Previous 2K gamers will get the most out of the game and those who fiddle about with the controls a lot will be able to enjoy the game to the fullest. What definitely lets NHL 2K9 down is a poor menu system. It is a very messy, awkward and frustrating menu system. It's not too bad when organizing a quick game or when playing through some of the mini games but it makes Season and franchise mode very confusing. The way certain menus are positioned, such as player statistics, team rosters, league standings, trade offs, are all frustrating to filter through. It's very off putting and doesn't encourage you to get involved with the features season and franchise mode offer. Master league from PES is similar to franchise mode but does it a lot better. There is no guide or tutorial to help you through franchise mode either. It will dump you at the beginning of the season expecting you to understand every screen. Half way through one season I haven't traded a single player or looked at the team's needs or contracts. With enough time and patience and some trial and error it does make sense but NHL 2K9 doesn't encourage you to get involved. Simple things like a search function (To search for other players) don't exist which would have helped greatly.
5. Mini games
This section is dedicated to Mini-Rink, pond hockey, fighting, the Zamboni machine and the loading screen quizzes. Mini-Rink and pond hockey sound like a good idea on paper but they become boring very quickly. There are no rewards for playing them so playing against the computer is almost pointless. They are especially designed for multiplayer and to be fair they are entertaining for a while. Mini-Rink is great because each outfield player can be controlled by one human player (Assuming you have 4 controllers) which makes for some entertaining matches. They are fun with friends but you will find yourself playing a normal game more than often.
Fighting is a stereotypical view that is commonly associated with ice hockey so every game tries to incorporate it somehow. When a fight breaks out (Only in normal 6 on 6 games) the A button delivers a weak punch, the B button delivers a strong button and RT and LT are used to balance your player (You have to keep an arrow in between a yellow bar). It's funny the first few times it happens but it is SO boring when once you`ve been involved in the first few. There's little skill in it, you will find yourself mashing A and B and hoping you win. It could have been a great addition but instead it's a button mashing mini game. The most frustrating thing about it is there is no control over how it happens. Fights will randomly break out for no apparent reason. I've been racing through 1 on 1 with the keeper about to score and suddenly the whilst blows and I'm involved in a fight. If dooyoo allowed swearing I would put a few naughty words in here because it so unbelievably annoying when a fight breaks out. It's funny with friends but pointless with the computer.
The Zamboni machine is a mini game that you can play between each period. The Zamboni machine is the ice cleaning machine that drives over the rink to make the ice clean for the next period. You don't have to do it thankfully as it is very boring. All you have to do is drive around the rink making sure you cover the whole thing, a % meter will inform you of how well you`re getting on as you play. The only point in doing this is to get a 40G achievement which personally frustrates me as I find it very pathetic when developers put extras in a game solely designed for an achievement (Collecting COG tags in Gears of War is another example of this). One thing NHL 2K9 does get right is the mini quizzes during the loading screen. When loading up a match you are presented with a question with 4 multiple choice answers to chose from. You will answer 1 or 2 before the game loads. Although admittedly I don't know the answer to any of them it's a nice touch for any real NHL fans. So far I've only seen one question be repeated but I imagine if you play the game long enough you will come across the same set again and again.
I find myself playing roughly 2 or 3 games a day. One season consists of over 50 games and I've set a target of completing at least one season. Personally for me I will get at least a months play out of this game, not bad for a fiver! NHL 2K9 is like any other sports game; if you enjoy it there is no limit to how many hours you can get out of it. Franchise mode is endless so you could go on and on and on...............and on and on. Those who aren't NHL fanatics will obtain a similar game time as to me. It also depends on how long you set each match length to. Leaving it on default gives you about 15-20 (Including penalties, celebrations, fights etc) minutes per match which is a healthy amount and guarantees a long life span if you stick with the game.
NHL 2K9 does boast an impressive online side. Again if you enjoy the game you can play forever online. There are leader boards and a decent ranking system to track your progress. Yet again the menu systems online are awful and don't make it easy first time round but once you get the hang of it it's not an issue. NHL 2K9 has its major selling point online in the form of a 12 player match. It is similar to FIFA's 10v10 where every player is controlled by a human opponent. It makes a very entertaining match where everyone must work together to win a game.
Not easy to obtain the full 1000 but repeated play will earn you a fair score here. Most of the points come in the form of winning games, scoring goals, making assists (E.g. Score 1000 goals). The rest involves using certain players and/or meeting certain criteria with a few taking place online. The catch here is that the majority of the achievements can be faked on multiplayer. Most of the achievements are clocked also when playing against a friend so all you need to do is hook up another controller and play against no one to get them! A bit on the cheating side but achievement lovers will no doubt do it to speed up the process (Reaching 1500 assists will take a long time).
A fun game but only ice hockey fans will stick with it. Perfect for an hour or two a day but constantly playing the game will bore you a bit. Awful menu screens damage Season and Franchise mode. I had a lot of fun on master league on PES tinkering with my team, buying and selling new players etc but this game is very off putting in that aspect. Potentially endless fun online or in franchise mode. The game is at its best with friends where all the mini games come to life. On their own they are pointless. To finish the review these are the current prices for the game (All new):
Amazon - £7.29
Play - £17.99
GAME - £17.98
Gamestation - £17.98
At £7.29 this game is worth it however I wouldn't want to pay anymore than £15 for this game. Worth picking up if you have regular gaming friends
NHL 2K9 is an ice hockey sports genre game released for the Playstation 3, XBOX 360, Nintendo Wii and the Playstation 2. The game has been developed by Visual Concepts. It was published by the famous Take-Two Interactive. The game was released in North America on September 9, 2008. The controls of the game are good and helpful. They are easy to learn. NHL 2K9 has been redesigned to include new and more effective controls for veteran players of the game. The game also has more than 1400 new gameplay animations which I found are great. The main game engine is called the skating engine. The game also has improved tactics in its fighting scenes. The developers have also introduced a new commentary team. New crowd voices and animations have also been introduced. The players are also able to save and edit replays. These replays can be shared by them on the Playstation Network. The game also sports a new redesigned menu screen and new introductions before the starting of a game. The game also has historical teams such as the New York Islanders and the Montreal Canadians. I found the game quite interesting and exciting. If you really love ice hockey this game is a must buy for you.