2K Sports recently released NHL 2K10, bringing lifelike NHL action to the Wii. Does NHL 2K10 hold its own and leverage the unique capabilities of the Wii, or is it compromised by the platform’s limitations? Read on to find out.
Since we bought it, the Wii has been used pretty much exclusively by the kids. Since they range in age from seven to nine, that means the games library is dominated by the likes of Mario, Raving Rabbids and Animal Crossing, while sports has been represented by Wii Sports. When 2K Sports sent me a review copy of NHL 2K10, I suddenly realized that I haven’t had a new hockey game in the house since EA Sports NHL 2003 for a PS2. That’s a long time to wait for a new hockey fix. I was curious to see how things have improved in the world of fake hockey and the boys were thrilled about having some competitive sports available for the Wii.
Aidan and Jon had been happily playing for an hour or so before I wandered down to the playroom to take one of them on. Not wanting to get thoroughly thrashed, I flipped open the instruction booklet first and had to do a double-take. 2K supports such a wide range of controller options (Wii Remote with Nunchuk, Wii Remote with MotionPlus and Nunchuk, Classic Controller and Sideways Wii Remote only) that I counted 169 different control combinations in the manual. Even narrowing it down to our configuration with Wii Remotes and Nunchucks (MotionPlus controllers were previously wrapped as gifts and not available), there were still 37 combos to keep track of.
Despite the initial intimidation of the control scheme, I picked it up reasonably quickly. The boys had figured things out on their own after a few minutes so I suppose I shouldn’t brag too much. They also adapted to the Wii Remote control nuances much more quickly than I did; for example, a poke check is accomplished by poking the Wii Remote forward while a stick sweep requires moving it left to right. As someone who once played a lot of ice hockey, you’d think I would have immediately felt more comfortable with those realistic actions, but I’ve been playing button pushing hockey for long enough that I had to really think about it to wave the remote around instead. Of course, by then it was too late and one of the boys would be coming in on a breakaway. I wasn’t able to test out the MotionPlus functionality, but everything I’ve read suggests that this adds significantly to the realism of the controls, for example in modifying the strength of slap shots based on how high the remote is raised while winding up for the shot. The AI seemed reasonably balanced -tough enough to keep games entertaining, but not too lax to consistently allow easy goals- and games were fast paced. The only frustration I ran into repeatedly was a Speed Burst function that really didn’t seem to have much of an effect; perhaps I was using it on the wrong players…
The X-Box 360 and PS3 versions are the route to go if you’re fixated on HD quality visuals, but I was pleasantly surprised by the Wii version of NHL 2K10. Graphically, it was probably closer to PS2 era hockey games than to the hi def console versions, but I hardly noticed -it still looked good. Player animations were realistic, especially during gameplay. In closeups, they could be a little creepy, with semi photorealistic faces sometimes looking awkwardly placed, but the visuals really were impressive for the Wii. I suspect the graphics and sound effects push the Wii to its limits; I could hear the optical drive thrashing almost nonstop during games, but the action never lagged waiting for loads.
One Wii-specific feature that the boys kept coming back to is the ability to play a series of mini games using their Miis. Based on skills competitions during the NHL All-Star Game, the Miis can be used for five different SuperSkills mini games: Hardest Shot, Fastest Skater, Breakaway Relay, Accuracy Shooting and Goalie Supersave.
Is NHL 2K10 a worthy hockey purchase? I can say that the Wii version is definitely a worthwhile addition to the library of anyone who enjoys hockey. It has something for everyone, with multiplayer and online capability (including WiiSpeak support), franchise and create-a-team modes and the Mii SuperSkills mini games for younger kids. As a parental warning, there is fighting capability, but the rating is still E (Everyone). A huge range of play options including quick games, pond hockey and shinny, as well as full seasons keeps things fresh.
NHL 2K10 by 2K Sports
Rating: E (10+)
Wired: Graphics are impressive for Wii, entertaining gameplay, Mii SuperSkills mini games great addition for younger set, up to 10 players via multiplayer online, are there any other NHL hockey games available for Wii?
Tired: Control scheme may be a little complex for younger kids (and some adults).