What Be a Pro and NHL Pro have in common is the ability to provide in game guidance as to positioning. Never been a defenseman? Don’t worry; the game gives you a general idea on where you should be by drawing blue arrows on the ice to tell you when it’s time to adjust your position. You only get the arrows when you are out of position, so if you’re doing it right, you’ll never see them. I haven’t had a chance to ‘Be a Pro’ goalie, but I’ll provide a later update on this feature.
Also character creation in the game has been greatly improved. Not only can you choose the look of your character, his build, position, and style of play, but you can also choose his equipment brand for each piece of equipment he wears or uses during the game. You can now even choose the curve of the stick he uses which can have dramatic effect on the accuracy of shots.
As with most games, NHL 09 is not without its flaws. Not surprisingly, those flaws center mostly on the two primary new features. Using the Defensive Skill Stick, you still don’t have the ability to really control the defenders stick when in close on an opponent, to tie up their stick. This is a small, but important piece of playing defense. In real hockey games, tying up the stick stops a great many goals, especially in the low slot (the area directly in front of the goalie).
The Be a Pro mode is surprisingly quite well done for a first iteration, but does need a few tweaks. To begin with, from certain camera angles, if you’re trying to play the whole game as just your character, and observe the game when your character is on the bench, there’s a pretty substantial bug. You’re supposed to be able to hit X to be able to return your character to the ice when he’s ready to play again. However, if you do this as a defenseman when he isn’t ready, the player on the ice will skate over to the bench, and simply stop on the ice against the boards. This happens most often when the puck is in your offensive zone. It has a serious effect on play, as it always leads to the puck eventually leaving the offensive zone. Additionally, it shouldn’t require any button presses for the player to watch the play going on when your character is on the bench. In fact, it should require a button press in order to choose to play while he rests.
Also, while it’s time to update the in-game commentating. There were additions for this years version, but the majority of the recorded segments were clearly carryovers from last years edition. And perhaps even more in need of update is the crowd noise. The game has so many strong points when it comes to realism, could it hurt to go record some real crowd noise for the rally chants at the 30 NHL arenas? A primary example is from right here in Columbus. The fans chant “Let’s Go Jack-ets”, not “Let’s go blue jackets” or other variations. It might be a small point, but NHL fans notice these types of small details.
In conclusion, there’s not a lot wrong with this game, and what is wrong is mostly small stuff. I thought it would be really hard for the developers to outdo last year’s effort, but they did it. Now, I’m going to be playing this version all winter and wondering what to expect from NHL 10.
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Whether you’re a two-way center, fourth line brawler, or an offensive defenseman with a nose for the net, NHL 09 is the hockey game for you. Create a character and go to it in Be A Pro mode or just help your goalie record 82 shutouts in a season with the defensive skill stick. Either way, you can’t go wrong with NHL 09.
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