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NHL 2K9 review

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery

Pros

  • Pro Stick controls
  • Just-deep-enough franchise
  • Nifty party mode games

Cons

  • Choppy visuals
  • Lousy default camera angle
  • Lonely online lobbies

Several years back, the 2K Sports team built one of the finest hockey games ever – the sublime NHL 2K5. Sporting a silky smooth on-ice experience complemented by solid franchise and online modes, it stands out as the high watermark of the PS2/Xbox puck era. Ever since then, the PS2 iterations have slowly regressed; between a clear focus on next-generation titles and a hodge-podge of unnecessary bells and whistles tossed into the mix, each year’s version has just a bit less enjoyable.

Unfortunately, NHL 2K9 continues this unhappy tradition. The core gameplay has become noticeably choppier, as your skaters no longer glide seamlessly across the ice. Instead, the action is a herky-jerky mix of unnatural animations and stop-start motions that detract significantly from the overall presentation. Considering where this franchise was just a few seasons ago, it’s both shocking and sad.


Above: Image from Wii version

There is a bit of good news, though, as 2K hasn’t completely abandoned innovation on the PS2 in favor of just tossing a twenty-dollar roster update into the marketplace. NHL 2K9 has implemented Pro Stick control – or, for those of you who haven’t gone to PR school, a virtual copy of EA’s long-since-awesome Shot Stick. In this case, we’re big fans of outright plagiarism. By admitting that EA might be onto something and letting gamers use the same kind of control, 2K9 immediately becomes much better for it.

Everything else you’ve come to expect from 2K sports titles is still here, including the traditionally expansive online options. Unfortunately, more than 2 weeks after release, we were surprised to find virtually empty online lobbies and leagues. Surely there must still be legions of PS2 fans that haven’t made the move to next-generation systems?


Above: Image from Wii version

If it weren’t for the introduction of the Pro Stick, NHL 2K9 would be a rental at best; even with it, the creaky game engine and sub-par visual fidelity make it hard to recommend. At least the price is right, as you’ve spent a lot more money on items you could get a lot less enjoyment from. Between the just-right-amount-of-stuff-to-do-without-overwhelming-you franchise mode and nifty mini- and party games, there’s plenty to do this fall. While you’re at it, do yourself a favor and dig NHL 2K5 out of your library, just to be reminded how good things used to be.

Sep 23, 2008

More Info

GenreSports
DescriptionWhile it's far from perfect (and more than a little unpolished in places), NHL 2K9 still packs plenty of hockey punch that will keep us in the game for awhile this year.
Franchise nameNHL
UK franchise nameNHL
PlatformXbox 360, PS3, PS2, Wii
US censor ratingEveryone 10+
UK censor ratingRating Pending
Release date8 September 2008 (US), 1 January 1970 (UK)