New NHL 12 Features Detailed By EA

With the Stanley Cup Playoffs in full swing and E3 right around the corner, EA has sent out the first round of information detailing some of the new changes in this year’s version of their excellent hockey sim, NHL 12.

Over the past few years, EA has surpassed 2K in the quest for the best hockey video game on the market and they’ve done it by innovating and updating the game each year with much more than a few simple tweaks and roster changes.

NHL 11 changed the game last year with a whole new physics engine, breathing new life into the players and making a much more dynamic and realistic game of hockey than ever before. New faceoff mechanics were added, AI was improved and the Canadian Junior Leagues were included for the first time in a hockey video game. All of this and more was detailed on the podcast in Episode 184: Ysy Pronunciation and in my written review of the game.

So what can we look forward to this year? Will EA be resting on their laurels? I don’t think so. When the game ships on September 9th in Europe and September 13th in North America, here’s a taste of what we’ll be seeing (from the press release):

In the revamped Be a Pro mode, experience the pursuit of greatness and legendary moments in your playing career, shatter historic records and cement yourself in NHL history. Additionally, the better you play, the more ice time you’ll get where you can simulate to your next shift with the EA SPORTS Action Tracker so you’re always on the ice as you play out your entire career in pursuit of the Stanley Cup.

The NHL 12 Full Contact Physics Engine puts you in the rink with everything now live on the ice, from players to the environment – everything is interactive and in play. Experience the skill and aggression of hockey from shattered glass to flying helmets to knocking players over the boards and into the bench; crash the crease too hard and you’ll knock the net off and send the goalie flying. Size and physicality will be emphasized as bigger players will be able to throw their weight around as they screen the goalie and battle in front of the net.

This year marks the first time players will face dynamic goalies in the game. Players can knock the net off and make contact with goalies, knocking them down or out of position, as they crash the crease. Watch as goalies battle through screens to make awe-inspiring saves. Additionally, we’re reigniting the beloved fighting engine that first appeared in NHL 10 with all-new goalie battles. When the action gets heated, send a message by leaving the net, dropping the gloves, and trading punches with rivals during fights.

All new gameplay presentation creates an authentic, fresh new look and feel throughout NHL 12 with presentation graphics that mimic real life hockey broadcasts. For the first time ever lace up outdoors under the lights in one of the biggest hockey events of the season, the 2011 NHL Winter Classic® at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, within seconds of putting in the disc. Inspired by the NHL GameCenter Ice Tracker, the all-new EA SPORTS Action Tracker presents game highlights and key moments so you never miss a beat.

So let’s break it down. A revamped Be A Pro Mode sounds like a good start. Putting more emphasis on your career stats as you build your player up could be great. Personally, I’m not sure how I feel about simulating to your next shift. I understand that it’ll keep you in the action and make the games play faster, but for me, the cool part of Be A Pro was sitting on the bench watching the game in anticipation of your next shift. It made it feel like a real hockey game and I’m not sure if this will take too much away from the experience.

The Full Contact Physics Engine sounds like a great step forward. The new Physics Engine in NHL 11 was a huge step forward but it was only the first step. Pushing that to the next level will be a welcome addition and it’ll help make the game that much more true to life. Knocking the net off, pushing players over the boards, jostling for position in front of the net, I can;’t wait to try it all out.

Dynamic goalies? Yes please. Granted, I spend most of my time in Be A Pro Mode playing as a goalie, and the idea of being able to leave the crease and drop the gloves if need be is an excellent addition for the Broad Street Bully in my heart. On the other hand, I do like to spend some time in another career as a speedy winger flying into the crease and causing havoc for opposing goalies. The added realism will certainly go a long way when crashing the net looking for that tying goal.

Finally, the inclusion of the Winter Classic is something that’s been missing from the series over the last few years. It’s nice that they’ve included Heinz Field from the most recent match up between the Penguins and Capitals, but I’d love to see the past few added as well with the sites in Chicago, Boston and Buffalo and why not the Heritage Classic as well?  DLC perhaps?  I’d be willing to pay for those in a package.

Updated broadcast elements will help add another layer of realism to the game as well. Nothing was mentioned here, but I’m wondering if they’ll be using elements from Versus, NBC or the CBC to make it as realistic as possible. My other question is of course about the EA Sports Action Tracker. Will this be tied in to real NHL games for highlights or will it just mimic the NHL Gamecenter to track what going on around your virtual league?

Questions, questions, so many questions. This is just the start of course and you can be sure that I’ll be peppering the developers with questions at E3 in a few weeks. Look for the follow up in our E3 2011 coverage.

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  • Anonymous

    Ask ’em heaps of sports like questions from me!

    Go Local Sporting Team!

    • lol, Just for you, I’ll make sure I get hours of coverage 😉

  • Anonymous

    One thing that I’m finding a bit frustrating about the NHL series is that you can’t just have a non-gaming friend pick up the controller and have fun. I usually go to basic controls so I have the same handicap but the game loses so much when you only have body check, poke check, shoot and pass.  It’d be great if they added an “arcade” version that is perfect for on couch co-op.

    • Interesting.  I’ll ask the devs about that at E3 if/when we see them.

      • Anonymous

        That’d be awesome. It’s why my friends prefer playing NBA Jam (over hockey or football) or the Sonic Kart Racer (over MNR).  Easy to learn and still fun.

      • Anonymous

        Ask EA to stop trying to take all my money on stuff like updated rosters and whatever. I’m fairly sure I can beat up an office full of EA employees but I’m gonna need you guys to help paint my back green so I can Hulk out in the EA offices.

  • From what I’ve heard EA included the Winter Classic because of Heinz Field. Remember that EA has the NFL license. They couldn’t do the ones featured at baseball parks because of 2K Sports’ MLB license. Hopefully 2K does not renew the license next year. Until then, however, there probably can be no DLC for those locations.

    • Anonymous

      The only 2K Sports game I think is good is NBA2K, that game to me has always performed better than EA’s NBA Live series. The new PS Move integration on 2K11 sucks hard though. 2K Sports has done a terrible job with the MLB license. In their defense I couldn’t make a better product…unless I sprinkled crack on it.

  • From what I’ve heard EA included the Winter Classic because of Heinz Field. Remember that EA has the NFL license. They couldn’t do the ones featured at baseball parks because of 2K Sports’ MLB license. Hopefully 2K does not renew the license next year. Until then, however, there probably can be no DLC for those locations.