|System: X360, PS3, Wii, PS2||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Visual Concepts||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: 2k Sports||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Sept. 8, 2008||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-2||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone 10+||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Pete Richards
When it comes to hockey titles, only one has ruled the ice for quite some time in the battle between 2Ks and EAs NHL experience. While the 2K series hasnt been as popular amongst NHL fans in years, it has developed a solid following amongst those seeking an alternative to the EA series.
This years installment concentrates on easier to grasp gameplay for those new to the series, while continuing with a more exaggerated, arcade approach to the game. 2K9 is definitely less of a simulation, offering something slightly different from its competitor NHL 09. The question is; does 2Ks less-realistic take on hockey work well?
NHL 2K9 definitely has an arcade feel to it, as turbo is turned up a notch and players whip around the ice like a swarm of bees. It is unrealistically fast, but not so much that it makes the game too un-hockey-like. Heck, I often love boosting up the speed on the other hockey title to make things a little more interesting at times. The problem with this style, though, is it becomes less about setting up plays and perfect passes and more about getting breakaways and shooting one-timers. It is very easy to fire a shot at the goalie by zipping in front of the net or simply blasting a howitzer within range, especially after deking your way to a breakaway. Playing against the A.I. is incredibly simple, and with players who move so fast on the ice, it is definitely not hard to put yourself into scoring situations. Its also noticeable that the goalies let in some very stupid shots at times, and its evident that the A.I. definitely needs some work.
On the plus side, the games speed allows for great hits. While some may not like the fact that every hit is exaggerated and the sound of someone getting checked is a thunderous crunch, keep in mind this is definitely not a realistic simulation of the sport. It is, however, a fun one. Over-the-top animations of players getting rattled and sent to the ice are fun to watch, and its satisfying to slam opponents into the boards, albeit just as frustrating to be on the receiving end. Though things are turned up a notch in 2K9, the game still manages to keep a level of realism. Great character models look impressive up close and from a distance, and overhead shots of bright-lit stadiums make you feel as though youre watching a live broadcast.
One of the biggest disappointments is the half-asleep commentary from Randy Hahn and Drew Remenda, who often sound as though theyre calling a baseball game rather than a hockey match. However, the game is equipped with a great, energetic and ballsy soundtrack featuring artists such as Operation Ivy, Pennywise, NoFX, and metal noisemakers Mastodon. 2K9 gets you into the hockey spirit right from the opening menus, sure to make you wreak havoc on the ice.
Where gamers have seen problems with the series in the past are in its controversial controls. This time around it seems theyve tried to make everyone happy by offering three different control schemes. Basic is the original control setup for the series, which involves using the face buttons to shoot and pull off stunts. Pro Stick Evolution makes a return, allowing full puck control with the Right Analog and full player control with the Left, though how well the system actually works is up for debate. Hybrid is new to the series and combines both Basic and Pro Stick controls for people who arent really satisfied by either. While its nice to have the option of choosing between three different controller setups, it seems 2K still hasnt nipped the original problem in the bud and correcting the thing many gamers didnt like about the Pro Stick to begin with. Simply, its an inaccurate way to shoot that will have you firing the puck in any direction in the hopes of putting it on net.