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NHL 12: Panthers Specific Review

Yes, that is John Vanbiesbrouck on the cover of EA Sports’ NHL 97′. 15 years later, 15 seasons (including the year of the lockout) had their own EA Sports titles. The European version of NHL 2005 (the lockout season) featured captain Olli Jokinen. EA Sport’s NHL 12 hit store shelves on Tuesday, with Steven Stamkos on the cover. That doesn’t mean that the Panthers, along with their recent transformation (We See Red), isn’t well represented.

     Before I dig into the Panthers representation, lets take a look at the game as a whole. The last  hockey game I bought was NHL 10, and one of my biggest gripes about 12, is that some of the animations and commentary have not changed. This is why I avoided NHL 11, but I really find it fascinating that 12 has some animations left over from 10. I realize they wanted to add several new game modes, and the animations are “updated,” but when you shell out serious cash you want serious change.

What they did modify; the gameplay, game modes, stadium atmosphere, among a myriad of other small things, has me accepting the fact they reused a few animations. Think of it as a novel from twenty years ago that someone revises every year. It gets better, but it is still a hockey video game.  The team at EA updated the “Be a Pro” feature where you create an avatar and play either with the AI, or take on friends online. They also  improved the physics engine, making hits, bounces, and shots, much more realistic. Is it perfect? No. I like what they did though, among the small changes, are broken sticks (similar to NHL 11), the net can be moved off the moorings, and the artificial intelligence is smarter (better at staying on-sides, better at the anticipation of your moves).

Another one of the new game modes this year is the addition of a recent tradition that I would love to see the NHL keep around for awhile. That is the Winter Classic. EA is proud of the inclusion, enough so in fact, that when the game loads you are brought straight into the tutorial during the 2011 Winter Classic. Heinz field, the ice, the jerseys, all look good. Then I became curious, could you play as the Panthers outside in NHL 12? I don’t think its an option currently on the NHL’s radar, but who knows? I sure would enjoy it. I don’t think you will see an ice sheet at Sun Life Stadium, but possibly a northern location? I’ve heard about some rivalry with a team from Denver? Anyway, yes, you can play as the Panthers at Heinz field against any other team you want in the game.

One of the major reasons I buy a new revision of this game every 2 or so years, is that the rosters are only updated through the playoffs of the year the game is named after. For instance, I had played NHL 10 up until Tuesday, playing as the Panthers with the final roster update for 2010. So I was stuck with a roster that included Ballard, Campbell (Greg), and Horton. It was okay for summer 2010, but not so much during 10-11.

So what does the new roster look like? Truth is, it looks like it’s going to be an exciting year. I haven’t connected my system (360) to the internet, so I haven’t downloaded any roster updates that I hope they have released. There are a couple of players, Sergei Samsonov for example, that I don’t think we will see on the team this year. Also, the lines are similar to what I assume they will be, but I’d rather see Versteeg on the first line rather than Dadonov. I would really like to see Dadonov prove me wrong though, he certainly has potential. Overall, the roster that comes with the game is surprisingly accurate, and they must have waited until at least some time after July 1st to start preparing to ship the game. Vokoun starts for the Capitals, Bryzgalov starts in Philadelphia,  but Tomas Fleishmann must be in the first roster update.

The ranking system isn’t perfect. The Panthers were given what I consider “appropriate” rankings. On a system that ranks players and team aspects on a scale from 1 to 100. The Panthers rank an 82 on offense, 85 on defense, which is fairly accurate, but only 73 in goal. That is rubbish. It is based on an algorithm that factors the age and stats of Theodore and Clemmensen. That ties Toronto for worst rating in goal in the league. (The Capitals have 95 with Vokoun starting) I don’t know what to expect from Theodore and Clemmensen this year, but I don’t expect that.

I cannot wait for this season to start. A lot of people have talked negatively recently about the Panthers. The NHL facebook page was filled with ignorant comments (scroll down to the post) about the team we have here in South Florida. When this team proves all of them wrong, several of those people who had positive comments and I, are going to feel pretty good. By the way, my first goal playing as the Panthers in NHL 12? Kris Versteeg.

Follow me on Twitter, @PatrckMcLaughln … And the rest of the “Rat Pack”  Frank Rekas @TheRatTrick … David Lasseter @davidlasseter … Josh Luecht @joshluecht … and Scott Mullin @ScottFMullin

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Tags: EA Sports Florida Panthers Gregory Campbell John Vanbiesbrouck Jose Theodore Keith Ballard Kris Versteeg NHL '12 Roster Evaluation Scott Clemmensen The Rat Trick Facebook Fan Page We See Red Winter Classic

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