Blueshirt Banter Exclusive: NHL 12 Review!

As promised for our viewers, we would be reviewing a copy of NHL 12 for the Xbox 360. Our review will consist of in-depth analysis of each game mode, and some of game play refinements, and much, much more!

This year marks the first year that Legends will be integrated into the game, for the users choice. That will be one of the main topics of discussion for many people. Also, there has been an increased interest in the Be A GM mode improvements.

So before we make you wait any longer, go ahead and follow me after the jump for the entire NHL 12 review! Trust me, it's a good one.

Be A Legend/Legend Team:

Probably one of the biggest additions to this years game is the nine NHL Legends. Those Legends include Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, Gordie Howe, Patrick Roy, Ray Bourque, Steven Yzerman, Borje Salming, Chris Chelios, and Jeremy Roenick.

Each Legend must be unlocked by completing a certain task, which will allow you to use them. The requirements for each Legend are primarily based off of your Be A Pro performance tracker. Legends can be placed on any team within the NHL, and you have the ability to relive their NHL careers.

I personally enjoy this mode a lot; the fact that you can skate along side current players with past Legends is pretty sick. Back in NHL 09, EA gave us the Centennial Montreal Canadiens, which was a mixture of Habs Legends. This would be the first time since then, that we actually have Legends included within the game. Let me tell you, it sure is a blast!

Stepping away from Be A Legend mode for a second, but there also is an NHL Legends team. The team is a mixture of all nine Legends along with some current NHL superstars. While some may think this is pretty ridiculous, I think it's pretty cool. The fact that you have current talent mixed with past talent is pretty much unstoppable.

Overall Grade: 9/10

Be A GM:

One of the most talked about game modes included in the NHL Series has to be Be A GM mode. However, there has been some glitches and bugs that people asked to be fixed. I'll tell you one thing, EA definitely made sure those issues did not go unnoticed.

One of the main bugs was that free agents (both RFA's and UFA's) went unsigned for an extended period of time. The CPU would almost never make a free agent signing during the season. Since than, EA has been working on fixing this issue, and they did just that. You will now notice that every so often, teams will make a signing here and there.

Another issue people shrived to be fixed, was more logical trades. Again, EA went ahead and made us all happy with this one. You will no longer have ridiculous trade requests from teams. For example, I received a trade earlier (I'm the NY Rangers of course) and they (Calgary) offered me a 5th round pick and Chris Butler for my 3rd round pick and Shane McColgan.

While that does not look that great, it's definitely much better than what would have been offered up in NHL 11. Both players were around the same skill level, and there was two draft picks involved. To me, that seems like pretty good trade logic. Also, within the trading screen, they have added a "League Approved" status bar. This is based on the both teams current salary caps, and let's you know when the trade is invalid.

Also another small addition that caught my eye was the league logos next to players on your roster. For example, next to Christian Thomas' name it shows a CHL logo, letting you know he is currently in Juniors. As well as showing which prospects are currently unsigned, but you still own the rights to. In my opinion, this makes it MUCH easier to keep track of where your players are at all times.

Now for some of the different things I wish would have been implemented. You still do not have the ability to re-sign or extend players during the season. If this is somehow implemented down the road, it would be a drastic improvement.

Also, something that isn't really a dire need, but would be pretty sweet, is the All-Star game draft. The NHL tried it out last year and it was a success. Now, it would be pretty awesome if we had the ability to have fantasy draft for All-Star teams. It's definitely something to look into for future versions.

Although it was confirmed a couple months back, the game will randomly choose two teams to compete in the Winter Classic on January 1st. I have not had my team selected for it as of yet, but I can assure you that it is indeed in there.

Overall, I'm liking the new improvements within Be A GM. A lot of the errors have been fixed for the most part and it plays out well. I know what I will be playing for the first couple of weeks!

Overall Grade: 9.5/10

Be A Pro:

Be A Pro has evolved drastically over the last couple of years. Now, for the first time ever you can start out your career playing four years in the CHL. Of course, you also have the option of going straight through the NHL Entry Draft or choosing an NHL team to start out with.

I chose to spend a lot of time with this mode, to take in all of the changes and revisions that were made. First off, there is no more choosing when you want to go back on the ice, as it was in past year's. Just like a real rookie hockey player, you have to earn your ice time. During the course of a game, your coach will often ask you to complete certain tasks. Completing these tasks will help earn your coach's trust, thus playing in more important situations.

I'll admit, I had a blast playing this mode as well. In past versions, you only had a single game to prove yourself before the NHL Entry Draft, which left no room for error. Now, you have a full four seasons to show NHL scouts what you're really made of. Also, if you're that good during the year, you could be chosen to play in the CHL's Top Prospect game.

Now onto the games presentation. The menus seem to be very crisp this year, and add a great effect. EA also implemented a lot of new players that appear on the main menu. Our own Brandon Dubinsky happens to be one of those many players. The arena's seem to look much better this time around, along with the crowd presentation. Overall, it was a great overhaul by EA, and I hope they continue to further improve it in the future.

Overall Grade: 9/10

Winter Classic Mode/Presentation:

EA really promoted this new mode during the summer. For the first time ever, the game had a fully playable outdoor Winter Classic. Right from the start of the game, they place you into the Winter Classic, and you either have the option to play it or quit. The presentation of this event is absolutely amazing; EA really did a nice job putting this together. The game takes place at Heinz Field, which was last year's venue, between the Penguins and Capitals.

However, you do have the option to replay last year's Winter Classic or use custom teams for the match-up. When you first enter the game, it displays both teams walking out side by side with the flames blasting on either side of the walkway. Just as it would in the actual Winter Classic.

As I stated earlier, EA really went all out with this and represented the exact scenery of the Winter Classic. Fans also have gloves and scarfs on to add to the actions. Although, we cannot forgot the coaches in their leather jackets and Fedora's. With the snow falling the entire game, it really puts you in the players skates, and makes you feel as if you are really there.

I really enjoyed playing this mode, and would HIGHLY recommend it to anyone getting the game. Overall a great addition to the EA NHL Series, and I look forward to further versions in later releases.

Overall Grade: 10/10

EA Sports Hockey League/Online:

Probably one of the most played modes on this game, the EA Sports Hockey League. The place were you can team up with friends, and take on other teams from around the world. I'm an avid EASHL player and even run my own team with a few people. Although there wasn't much improvement to this mode, the minor changes are what count.

While in an EASHL game, you can now scout your opponents. On the pause menu it will list "Player Scouting" as an option. From there you can view all of the players stats along with their performance tracker grades. This will help you get a feel for your opponents before actually playing against them.

Also, there was often a wide spread case of win trading between teams. EA countered this with a cool down timer, which makes people wait a certain amount of time before joining another EASHL team. This will most definitely counter win traders, and help clean up the EASHL. Another great addition here by EA Sports.

We've all been through it where you have too many people, and someone has to switch to defense or goalie. EA implemented a great new feature, that allows you to have a separate build for each position. That way, whatever position you pick, it will auto-load that build, without having to chance your style of player.

Again, this is a fun mode to play if you have friends/people to play with. The improvements made this year, greatly increase the enjoyment of this game mode.

Overall Grade: 9.5/10

Real Time Physics/Dynamic Goalies:

On the second year, of EA's three year physics plan they added puck physics. Also, they made their contact engine fully physics based. No longer will you see an animations based hitting and contact system. The rink is fully live, and for the first time, even the goalies!

On to the puck physics. In past years, the puck would always been "glued" to your stick and never actually fall off. This year, the puck is fully live, and can even roll on edge when following through with a slap shot or wrist shot. Rebounds will bounce out and cause mad scrambles in the crease. Although, don't get to close to the goalie, or you may be sitting two minutes for goaltender interference.

Both the added puck and contact physics makes this game play and feel much more realistic. These alone make this game that much better to play.

Overall Grade: 9/10

Final Analysis:

I would full recommend this to anyone who has never played the EA NHL Series before. They made drastic improvements to their physics engine, which makes it much more realistic. The new puck physics and dynamic goalies make for a great time. Overall, I will rate this game a 9.5/10, in my honest opinion. Now go out and get your copy of NHL 12!