In 2009, to make the grave mistakes that 2K Sports’ NHL 2K10 does is unforgivable. One example that typifies the game’s myriad problems is in one of the basics of the game of hockey: line changes. When attempting to change lines on the fly during the flow of play, you are presented with your various line options and each one’s corresponding button. Unfortunately, one of the lines is associated with the pass button, and when selecting that line, your player on the ice passes the puck oftentimes to the opposing team.
This egregious and unbelievable flaw underscores a greater theme at work in the game. However, unlike similar sports releases, NHL 2K10 is not about replicating the sport as much as it is about recreating an arcade version of the game. This may be a concession to the resurgent EA NHL franchise and its dominance of the hockey genre, but it feels more like 2K Sports felt compelled to release a hockey game this year because it was another sport that would sell. Either way, NHL 2K10 is riddled with such malfunctions and problems.
NHL 2K10 feels like a game made by people who have never played the game of hockey or even watch much of it. The players are slovenly, destroying the flow of the game, and the problem is punctuated by the lack of a burst of speed when you hit the speed burst button. There are various sliders that can be adjusted to help correct this problem, but this doesn’t change the fact that your players still have difficulty stopping quickly and breaking toward the puck as your opponents move like Transformers on Red Bull.
Even the gaming aspects of NHL 2K10 are poorly executed. Directional passing hardly works. Trying to head-man the puck becomes a futile exercise if there’s any other player in that general direction. Meanwhile, scoring is nearly as easy as it was in NHL 94, which contained the infamous drag across the front of the net shot that always resulted in a goal. When attacking a goalie, you can quickly use the deke stick to one side and shoot as the goalie haplessly comes too far out of the net. And the deke stick is hardly functional, having only a few moves and offering little tangible results aside from, ya know, easy goals.
All is not gloom and doom, though. Visually, NHL 2K10 is the most realistic looking hockey game ever made. Pavel Datsyuk looks like Pavel Datsyuk. After trying to win a faceoff too quickly, players will be pushed out of the circle, casually skate around, and then return to try the draw again. Players can be pinned against the boards to fight for a puck with their feet. And while these are obvious advancements over previous iterations, eventually they get to be tedious and repetitive. Not only do you get tired of having to watch your center skate back to the faceoff dot, but the fact that there are only two or three of these animations makes the realism of the scene increasingly more digital as you continue playing.
The most positive aspect of the game is the slightly (slightly) improved AI over typical NHL sims. The players know their positions and play them well, reacting to the nature of the play, the location of the puck and the general direction that you’re headed. The neutral zone swing works better than it ever has in a hockey game before, and your forwards aren’t afraid to cherry pick and cheat up ice if you have a chance for a fast break.
Ultimately though, NHL 2K10 is a game that takes itself too seriously to be an arcade game but has too many flaws to be seen as a legitimate adaptation of the game. There are obvious advances made to the technology of the game, but there needs to be significantly more attention paid to the physics of players and the puck as well as the general gameplay and button configuration.