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OS Scores Explained NHL 12 Overview (Xbox 360)
Pros
Outstanding on-ice gameplay, refinements are subtle and effective, modes are deep and engaging.
Cons
Presentation could use upgrades, technical/sim issues, aspects are getting stale.
Bottom Line
NHL 12 features small changes to gameplay which add a lot for the hardcore hockey observer, casual fans might feel a bit of staleness.
8
out of 10
NHL 12 REVIEW

NHL 12 Review (Xbox 360)

Read about how we complete our reviews. You can check out the review process here, and then you can scope out the scoring guidelines and scoring rubric.

Day One: First Impressions
Day Two: Gameplay Impressions
Day Three: Be A Legend and Winter Classic Impressions
Day Four: Career/Dynasty Impressions


As I said earlier this week, NHL 12 is in a peculiar position. Its bevy of small, but meaningful, changes might slip past all but the most knowledgeable hockey fans, yet its major modes remain relatively untouched. Casual fans might appreciate the new additions like the Winter Classic, but the longtime users may find that the excellent gameplay is no longer enough to keep them interested.

Gameplay

Gameplay is by far the strength of this series. Since the switch to a pure analog mode a few years ago, EA’s NHL series has become one of the most fun to play sports sims on the market. And in the years following, EA has done a good job of tweaking and upgrading the authenticity. In this way, NHL 12 is no different. 

The upgrades this time around are very subtle -- yet ones which do affect gameplay in a meaningful way. The anticipation AI does a good job of making everything on the ice feel much more fluid and dynamic. You’ll see players show hustle through the neutral zone and move more logically to find the puck. Player traits also add to how players react, and ultimately shape how teams perform. To fully understand player complexities, more time with the game will be needed but what is here thus far is promising.

The physics engine continues to be improved, and now everything on the ice is “live,” including the goalies. Hits are now much more risk/reward, and the outcomes are nice and varied. Occasionally, something that looked good live didn’t quite look right upon further review in the instant replay booth. Also there are some bad interactions between players still. So while the system is still an improvement, it is far from perfect.

Other additions, like net battles and goalie fights, didn’t quite do it for me. Everything else remains pretty similar, including the fighting engine which is starting to become the weakest part of the gameplay. Penalties for me (on default sliders) swung from "about right" to "almost none;" I hope that some sliders can keep the number of penalties consistently realistic -- although there are discouraging reports out of the community to the contrary.

Still, this is a very exciting, fluid and fun game to play which hardcore hockey fans will absolutely love to play.

Presentation

The presentation in NHL 12 is one of those areas that’s not bad, yet because it hasn’t been significantly tweaked in a few years, will be criticized (also see MLB: The Show’s commentary as an example of this).

In comparison to other EA games, NHL 12 stands out for appropriate and timely replays. The replay packages, usually occurring durring the third period, nicely sum up an in-game storyline, whether it is a series of nasty hits or key goals. 

The new Action Tracker is a pleasant surprise, and allows you to cycle through key plays with little loading or menu surfing. We’ve seen this type of thing in other games, but it’s still a welcome addition; I found myself often watching my hits post-game using this feature.

Still, the presentation needs to do something to stay fresh. Simply using player intros and replays isn’t quite the industry standard anymore, as MLB 2K11 and NBA 2K11 have shown. The commentary is pretty stale --but again, not terrible -- and could do more to communicate the intensity and drama of the game. 

Online

Since I had the game prior to its wide release, I sometimes had a hard time finding an opponent. Still, I had a lot of problems even staying connected to the EA servers. Though I did not experience it (maybe because of fewer online users), reports of freezing are rampant, especially on the PS3. The freezes I experienced were in the menus, as the game tried to connect to the server. I expect (and hope) that once everything is up and running, we’ll see the smooth online play of the past few years. If you are primarily an online player, definitely wait to see how the bugs are fixed before diving in.

In terms of online modes, Hockey Ultimate Team and EASHL are two of the deepest online modes on the market. EASHL is back, and for those with a strong connection to the game’s social component will find this a refreshing and solid online mode. HUT has seen notable improvements, from injury/healing cards to the ability to switch players’ positions. I really like the HUT 24/7, which allows you to play this mode alone, but versus other user’s created team.

New Modes

The new modes-- the Winter Classic and Be a Legend -- are both disappointments in my eyes, though they aren’t necessarily bad. 

The Winter Classic looks pretty enough, especially the falling snow and Heinz field, but it's also pretty superficial. 

Be a Legend is also slightly superficial, though it adds another layer to the Be a Pro career model. I can’t see too many people playing the mode simply to climb the legend ladder, but it is integrated nicely into the regular career mode.

Be A GM / Be a Pro

These two modes, like NHL 12’s online modes, are very deep in terms of options, abilities and functionality. Yet, outside of one notable addition to Be a Pro, they are relatively the same as last year.

Same doesn’t equal bad, however, and if you are a hockey fanatic you’ll find a lot to like in both modes. Be a GM retains the interesting task/reward system, and is full of authentic touches like retired numbers and multiple leagues. 

Yet, despite a revamped trade and simulation engine, odd things happened in my few simmed seasons. Players seemed to earn too high of overall ratings, and teams didn’t quite perform as expected. I saw postseason favorites miss the playoffs with sub-.500 records. This is one area that has been of serious concern in the past; definitely check our boards to see if any other bugs or roster issue pop up as they are almost impossible to keep track of right up to press time. I also am starting to dislike the clunky user interface.

Be a Pro is relatively the same as well, minus the excellent and overdue ice time system. Instead of calling your own time, and unrealistically gain minutes, your coach now runs the show. This is an outstanding addition, and, along with the ability to start in the CHL and complete in-game tasks, gives longtime users something different to experience.

Final Thoughts

The theme of NHL 12 seems to be one of small change, and that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. You just need to be ready to appreciate the small details instead of being overwhelmed by additions created to simply to sell the game. This lends NHL 12 to be a game which was created with hardcore hockey fans in mind. That said, even hardcore fans may still be disappointed by the lack of innovation in both the dynasty mode and presentation.

In all, NHL 12 is the best playing hockey game EA has made, at least in this generation of consoles. The career and dynasty modes are very deep, and EASHL and HUT continue to be a lot of fun to play. There are a handful of issues that plague each mode, but the gameplay is great enough to bolster the game’s overall value.

If you are a hardcore hockey fan, do not hesitate to pick up NHL 12. For everyone else, you might want to think twice if you already own NHL 11, but this game is definitely still a solid buy for casual hockey fans.


Learning Curve: Very familiar and intuitive gameplay for both veterans and rookies.

Control Scheme: The analog sticks get a work out, and are used to effectively handle the way a player moves the puck.

Visuals: Great in the standard view, a few issues up-close. Would love a practical broadcast view.

Audio: Stadium sounds and crowd are good, as is commentary--it’s just getting a little stale. 

Value: There’s a lot to do--I think HUT, EASHL, and Be a GM are rich, if flawed, experiences on their own--and the gameplay is worth revisiting over and over.
 

8.0 (Great)
What does it mean?

 


NHL 12 Videos
Member Comments
# 1 VladCanada @ 09/14/11 10:32 AM
One thing that bugged the hell out of me in NHL11 was shootout modes online. If you win, you get a loss. Sometimes you lost, and you got a win. It was mind blowing stupid. Never understood why they couldn't fix that. I'll be skipping this years game, not enough changes for me and I'm sure there will be cheap goals that won't be fixed for months which will of course be abused online. I'll try a soccer or a basketball game this year and come back to this one in a couple of years when actual changes come forward.
 
# 2 Retropyro @ 09/14/11 10:34 AM
The bug infested NCAA 12 gets an 8.5, and this gets an 8? I'm speechless.
 
# 3 GrandMaster B @ 09/14/11 10:49 AM
Hockey just isn't appreciated as much as football is.
 
# 4 addybojangles @ 09/14/11 12:05 PM
"NHL 12 is the best playing hockey game EA has made, at least in this generation of consoles."

8 out of 10

Huh.
 
# 5 chelios7 @ 09/14/11 12:14 PM
So its a great game of hockey that improved on things for hardcore players, but casuals will find it boring. But its the best hockey game perhaps of all time. All Time. Best.

8 out of 10.

That makes no sense.


EDIT: We live in a very sad world when a knock against a game is that its EXCELLENT gameplay just isnt enough to keep people interested.
 
# 6 Tomba @ 09/14/11 01:02 PM
Nicely written review and I appreciate a reviewer finally mentioning the need and the omision of a broadcast camera in the NHL series by EAsports.

Just like Fifa I can not fault this game's gameplay...but that is not nearly enough to warrant a purchase year after year. What was n NHL 11 remains though the modes are VERY intriguing to dive into for those wanting a good game life.
 
# 7 MMChrisS @ 09/14/11 01:29 PM
Guys, just as with the Madden review, the links about the new scoring scale and review process are no joke -- we do not score games like other sites so the 8 you are thinking of is NOT what the game is scored.
 
# 8 Retropyro @ 09/14/11 02:49 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by MMChrisS
Guys, just as with the Madden review, the links about the new scoring scale and review process are no joke -- we do not score games like other sites so the 8 you are thinking of is NOT what the game is scored.
I don't have a problem with the score being an 8. I do have a problem with it being an 8 when NCAA 12 was an 8.5. A numerical score means an 8.5 is better than an 8. Doesn't matter what site you go to.

The game is lacking in some area's, I'd like to see more off the ice type stuff in the Be A Pro mode like NBA 2K has. But at the same time, being able to play a CHL career starting as a 15 year old before going onto the NHL is pretty cool. Imagine if NBA 2K included the ability to play a full college career before being drafted?
 
# 9 jwilphl @ 09/14/11 03:27 PM
A game can be great, and even parts of a game can be the best version of those parts this generation (such as the gameplay in NHL '12), but that doesn't mean the game is an automatic 10/10. Let's face it, this game is far from perfect--the gameplay may be the best, but that doesn't mean other parts of the game don't hurt its overall score and appeal.

An 8.5 for NCAA '12 is extremely generous, no doubt about that, but I don't believe a lot of the bugs were relevant/known prior to publishing the review. I think reviews would better serve the public by being released perhaps a couple weeks down the road, but I definitely understand why they are released right when the game is, so it is unlikely to change.

I have no problem with any scores--let's face it, reviews are 100% subjective anyway. The reader will almost never agree entirely with the writer, if at all. I may think a game is valued around a 6, but Joe Schmoe will think it is worth an 8. Everyone has their own opinion. At the same time, I'd say those reviewing in a more visible manner, such as media personalities, probably have a greater responsibility in carefully scoring their reviews. Inevitably, developers look at scores and it probably affects what they do the following year. If you are interested in change, give the game a lower score, and perhaps you'll be more likely to see some.

Regardless, just ignore the actual number and read what the reviewer has to say--that's all that matters. If the game is good it will come through in his writing.
 
# 10 MMChrisS @ 09/14/11 04:43 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by Retropyro
I don't have a problem with the score being an 8. I do have a problem with it being an 8 when NCAA 12 was an 8.5. A numerical score means an 8.5 is better than an 8. Doesn't matter what site you go to.

The game is lacking in some area's, I'd like to see more off the ice type stuff in the Be A Pro mode like NBA 2K has. But at the same time, being able to play a CHL career starting as a 15 year old before going onto the NHL is pretty cool. Imagine if NBA 2K included the ability to play a full college career before being drafted?
NCAA was rated too high for the new scale for sure, that was one of the discrepancies i talked about in my blog today on the homepage. But I feel 100% confident that starting with Madden, every game will be held to the same standard -- something we've not done a great job of (and most sites don't either). However, I'll continually fight the perception that an 8 is a bad score, it's not a bad score on this site under the new scale, it's closer to what a 9 used to be.

An 8 means the game is 'Great'. I don't think we're arguing different points, NHL 12 is a great game. It's not a classic (which is what our 9.0s and above imply) and I think most would have to be fooling themselves to think that. When you boil it down, NHL simply didn't innovate and simply refined. That's fine, but the games we remember the longest in our genre are the ones which are polished, innovative, and realistic/fun. The base line for a 9.0 'classic' is great presentation AND great gameplay, and NHL 12 ONLY has the latter. I'd suggest you just read the scoring rubric and ask where does NHL fit for you in the scale. We are going to be honoring the scale going forward to the upmost degree, and while there's always a subjective nature to reviews, we'll always be trying our best to be the closest to right
 
# 11 hf199 @ 09/15/11 10:27 AM
I will continue to say this. Gameplay tweaks 4 years running since a major overhaul in 08. Presentation needs work till this day. It won't be realistic on the ice until you have all 4 referees (2 linesmen/2 referees) on the ice! WTF! How long will it take to do this?! I don't care about goalies fighting! maybe 10-12 years old do!
 
# 12 hf199 @ 09/15/11 10:28 AM
How about classic teams like in NBA2K12, now that would be awesome! 80-84 Islanders, Oilers dynasty, Canadiens, etc.
 
# 13 hf199 @ 09/15/11 10:42 AM
Quote:
Originally Posted by hf199
I will continue to say this. Gameplay tweaks 4 years running since a major overhaul in 08. Presentation needs work till this day. It won't be realistic on the ice until you have all 4 referees (2 linesmen/2 referees) on the ice! WTF! How long will it take to do this?! I don't care about goalies fighting! maybe 10-12 years old do!
NHL2K10 had all refs on the ice! Maybe not the greatest game but it was authentic
 
# 14 FBeaule04 @ 09/15/11 11:08 AM
I'm falling in the same trap again I should say. So far, my NHL 12 experience is pretty fun. I would say that out of the box, I have more fun than with NHL 11 mainly because it took me around 3 games last year to see some AI dumbness that made the game unplayable for me.

Problem is that the more I play with this game, the more I find things that are close to what I was seeing last year, just not as terrible. For exemple, the AI D won't pin themselves on the board without pressure, but they will do odd things this year like shooting at their own net to change side.

I guess that with reviews, you have to be carefull too. My NHL 11 review last year when I got the game would have been a 7.5. This year, it's more of a 8.5 simply because I have fun. Come January last year, my review of NHL 11 would have been a 6.5, no more. With NHL 12, I will have to see, but at least, so far, I not see myself playing while making asbtaction of things ruining the game experience since the AI is doing just enough to prevent it when lock.

Reviews are like movie ratings. You have to take them for what they are, the view of the person writing it.
 
# 15 nddurst @ 09/15/11 11:20 AM
Quote:
Originally Posted by Retropyro
The bug infested NCAA 12 gets an 8.5, and this gets an 8? I'm speechless.
I think NCAA deserves a better score because, despite gameplay AI issues and bugs, which could possibly be patched, its dynasty mode is LIGHT YEARS ahead of NHL's Be A GM, IMO. It's much deeper and does a better job of immersing you in a virtual dynasty. NHL's version is clunky and issues that have plagued it since its inception in NHL 10 are still there (bad trading/roster AI, lack of depth).

So, while NCAA might have its bugs, overall it's a better product IMO and deserves a better score. I agree with 8 out of 10 for NHL. Great game, but severely stale and lacking in areas for a couple of years now.
 
# 16 Spanky @ 09/16/11 12:43 AM
Quote:
Originally Posted by MMChrisS
Guys, just as with the Madden review, the links about the new scoring scale and review process are no joke -- we do not score games like other sites so the 8 you are thinking of is NOT what the game is scored.
Makes no sense. If 8 is not what the game is scored then what the hell is the game scored? And was the numeral 8 placed there?

If 8 out of 10 qualifies as "great,'' then what is 8.5, or 9.0 or 9.5?

I'll give this scoring system a 3, but that's not what this scoring system is scored.
 
# 17 CPRoark @ 09/17/11 09:48 AM
Quote:
Originally Posted by Spanky
Makes no sense. If 8 is not what the game is scored then what the hell is the game scored? And was the numeral 8 placed there?

If 8 out of 10 qualifies as "great,'' then what is 8.5, or 9.0 or 9.5?

I'll give this scoring system a 3, but that's not what this scoring system is scored.
Spanky, the rubric is right there at the top of the page, and answers what an 8.5, 9, and 9.5 would be.

I think Chris meant that the 8 is not what you are used to seeing on other sites; sites that typically only use the top five or six numbers of there scale.

In other words, this isn't school. A 7 (or 70%) isn't average. 5 is average, making an 8 a pretty good score. Check all of the links at the top of the page...your questions have all been answered.
 
# 18 CPRoark @ 09/18/11 05:56 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ceteris Paribus
I appreciate the reasoning behind the change. But when your scores fail to convey what you mean to the reader, then the rubric is just wrong. And since gamers have a different scale for every other site they read, it just mens this will never be intuitive, and always convey the wrong impression to your readers.

Just drop to a five point scales if this is so hard. Your 8/10 would be a 4/5, and no one complains. Your 8.5 would have been a 4, as I doubt you would have gone to 4.5 for NCAA 12. Or you could go 4.25, but that would be weird.

In fact,the main issue is not what the score is, it's that you have a score. Scores are the least descriptive part of the review, but it is the one readers obsess about the most. By using a scale that is so far out of line from the rest of the industry (as you guys admit) you are just drawing more attention to something that shouldn't really matter.
Well, that's the conundrum, right? Scores ARE the least descriptive part of any game review, but the one that carries the most weight with many readers--and game companies. And one reason that they aren't descriptive is that the whole industry has been using a system that's really evolved to be so.

The problem with the 10 point scale as you know it are that only 6-10 mean anything. Could you really tell me what the difference between a 2 and 4 reviewed game is? Pretty much any thing under a 6 is not worth buying. And your suggestion of a 5 point scale is not really different if you proceed to then break it down as far as .25 hundredths of a point.

So, since the scores are so important, OS has tweaked the system to make it more descriptive than the way other sites currently do it. Yes, it is out of line, but that's sort of the point. Why continue to use something that has become so...limited?

To your point, my score conveys exactly what I mean to a reader who has taken the time to understand what our scores mean. More than if I were just using the top four numbers of a scale, anyway. And I trust that our most vocal and passionate fans are committed and intelligent enough to understand that this score adjustment better fits our in-depth coverage better than the traditional method.
 
# 19 jayenomics @ 08/15/12 02:55 PM
Twas a good game it was...just god something was lacking.
 
# 20 Reiny09 @ 08/15/12 04:26 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by jayenomics
Twas a good game it was...just god something was lacking.
Like presentation that immersed you in the game? Or physics that were somewhat believable? How about defenders that had any idea what they were doing? I was lucky enough to find some sliders that made it somewhat playable towards the end of the year but I will gladly throw this one to the curb once 13 releases if it lives up to what they're saying even a little bit
 

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