One of my favorite times of the year is the month of September. The kids go back to school, football season starts, the summer and the oppressive central Pennsylvania humidity dissipate, and the latest version of EA Sports NHL hits the shelves.
Imagine my joy when I can actually use my writing at Bleacher Report as an excuse to get the newest game. (Sidebar to Bleacher Report editors: FIFA 13 comes out later this month.....just saying)
I never really considered my self a gamer, but the fact that I have forked out a minimum of $50 each year for the latest incarnation of virtual hockey says otherwise. Even in the early 1990's EA was taking $49.99 so that my Sega Genesis would become the focal point of my college career.
Considering that the price of video games has only gone up ten bucks while the price of gas has increased 400%, I have no problem setting aside some grocery money. Hey Daddy needs some "me" time too, and Ramen noodles for a couple weeks never hurt anyone!
When you look at where the game has come from to where it is now, I can't imagine how much poorer my attendance in class could have been. The NHL franchise and possibly Tecmo Bowl, are the two main culprits that derailed my plans for global domination.
Fortunately for the family that I provide for, I now have enough common sense and will power to moderate my "nerd time".
With the graphics improving with each edition, so has the game engine and the real life physics of hockey. This year, EA has over 1000 new gameplay animations that actually replicate the skating of the players. Stopping and starting in the game actually looks like a legitimate hockey stop and start, complete with ice spray!
Hey, it's the little things.
EA also completely revamped their AI hockey intelligence, which means that the computer controlled players off the puck will actually perform based on their skill ratings and respond appropriately. What this means is if you're skating in a two-on-one scenario your teammate will actually go to the net and get open for a pass instead of lag behind or wander into the corner.
The final noteworthy improvement is the goalie play. Now you've always been able to adjust the sliders if you want your goalies to be better, but the new game has improved the goalie animations to feature the acrobatic and athletic saves that have been lacking in prior editions.
I'm probably not going to be camping out at midnight for the release of the game, but with all the cool new stuff to look forward to, this might be the only hockey on my TV for the next couple months. I'm with you Bart Scott.
OK then, here are your top ten players at each position, twenty for wingers. Don't blast me, I didn't rate these guys, but I'll happily disagree with a rating that I feel is unwarranted. Enjoy now!