A couple of weeks ago it was all about football; now it's hockey's turn in the video game spotlight.
NHL 12 (EA Sports)Strapping on its pads this week is the latest in EA Sports' storied NHL franchise, and it's boasting the usual bevy of new features: goalies can fight other team members, a slate of legendary NHL players are included and playable in every mode, and the create-a-player mode now supports female faces.
As fans will already know, it's an evolutionary rather than revolutionary game -- and with a range of approving reactions from critics, NHL 12 is clearly keeping its stick on the ice.
"NHL 12 takes the ice with its predecessor having just completed a stellar shift," says GameTrailers."It's hard to imagine the gameplay improving, but it's been a productive off-season. Many changes may seem skin deep, but they immediately make an impact between the boards."
Like smarter computer-controlled teammates, for example, or the improved physics engine that no longer sees the puck sticking to players quite so closely. It's not as hot in the presentation department, says GameTrailers, seeing few improvements over last year -- but the overall "staggering" depth of the whole package elevates it to a very creditable 9.3 mark.
"Where NHL 12 really shines," according to IGN's Colin Moriarty, "is in terms of how much game you can delve into. There are more options and gameplay modes in NHL 12 than you'll know what to do with."
We'd list them, but as Moriarty points out, "going through everything would take this review into New Yorker Magazine word-count. And that's a good sign, especially for fans of the series and of hockey in general."
"It's the best hockey game on Xbox 360," says Official Xbox Magazine's Hilary Goldstein -- although he does take the shine off that accolade by pointing out that it is, in fact, also the <em>only</em> hockey game on the platform. Still, Goldstein joins his colleagues in praising NHL's physics and broad selection of game modes, and marks it an 8/10.
So whereas this year's Madden was anything from divine to disaster (depending on who you were talking to), stablemate NHL has produced a clear consensus: good physics, good features, good modes -- and with an 87 rating on Metacritic, good news for EA.
Also new this week
God of War: Origins Collection (PS3)
The bloody adventures of scar-faced Spartan warrior Kratos are among the Playstation's most popular action hits -- but have you played his lesser-known PSP outings? If the answer's no, today brings the perfect opportunity to remedy that, courtesy of Sony's latest re-release. The Origins Collection includes both God of War PSP titles, Chains of Olympus and Ghost of Sparta, reworked to run on the Playstation 3. That means high-def visuals, revamped controls, 3D support, PSN trophies, the whole kit and caboodle. Hard to go wrong with that, really.
The Gunstringer (Kinect for Xbox 360)
If you've been known to rock the finger-guns from time to time, this discounted Kinect release is right on target -- it lets you point your guns and shoot by just pointing your finger. Critics are lapping it up (unusually, for a Kinect-only game) and the zany undead/Wild West theme doesn't hurt. Blow the dust off your Kinect sensor and check it out.
Hard Reset (PC)
Ready for a challenge? This gorgeous PC shooter will put your abilities to the test. Harking back to the glory days of first-person games -- when gamers played without using quicksaves -- it's an explosive sci-fi thriller with some of the best visuals in its class. If you're up for some old-school punishment, and you have the system to see it in its full glory, snap it up.