Monday, September 26, 2011

NHL 12: Acceleration

Last year speed and acceleration had limited effect on the game so by the end of NHL 11 I was putting very little of anything in them. This year though speed definitely has an effect but how important is acceleration? Acceleration is an expensive attribute and eats up a lot of valuable points. Are you better off spending them elsewhere? I am going to say yes. The main reason is the introduction of the hustle button last year. The hustle button allows you to press the LS in up to three times to get an extra burst of speed. Used creatively you can basically eliminate the need for acceleration altogether. To make sure your player isn't winded from using the hustle button so much you should spend the spare points in endurance which is far cheaper than acceleration. The spares can go into agility, speed, strength or balance.

I will admit if you don't use hustle a lot you may be better off just using acceleration but I would urge any serious player to use hustle. You are at a comparative disadvantage if you don't.

Friday, September 23, 2011

NHL 12: Less is more?

In most games typically if you have a higher number in an attribute or skill it is better. 18 strength is better than 17, level three hacking is better than level two, and higher shot power is better than lower shot power. Well in the NHL series sometimes down is up.

Shooting attributes have always been kind of wacky in the NHL series. One year having a lower accuracy was better. If you turned your accuracy up you started ringing pucks off of iron in no time. Last year the dev team said they tweaked accuracy to matter more but by the end of the year I was running a 90 wrist shot power and 80 accuracy and having a lot of success. It still seemed like the high shot power and low accuracy setup was the way to go.

Fast forward to this year. I am slowing getting points every 5 or 10 games and building up my attributes on my power forward. As I get to around 85 power and 75 accuracy on my wrist shot I am starting to score a lot more often. I keep adding points over more games and adding strength as well and before I know it I am sitting at 90 power and 80 accuracy and 90 strength. At this point I am almost back to where I was the year before and figure I should be scoring a lot. However now I am shooting too high a lot and scoring a lot fewer goals. As an example of how bad it got I managed to shoot the puck over the net from two feet outside the crease using a flat stick curve.

Needless to say I was rather irritated at these results. So I adopted a back to basics approach. I swapped to playmaker and balanced out my shots as much as possible. My wrist shot is 75 for both power and accuracy and my slapshot is 75 accuracy and a meager 57 power. With those shots* I had a great night last night even scoring a game winning goal in OT by sniping a shot over the goalies left shoulder from just outside the hash marks. One other highlight was a slap shot one-timer from around the left dot/left hash marks.

Once again EA has flipped the importance of attributes. Aside from my own experience, I am reading about and talking with other people who are even using lower power and higher accuracy with good results. So if you are like I was last year (high power low accuracy) flip those attributes around or knock them down a bit if you aren't scoring like you think you should. Sometimes less is more.

Note: This may not apply to defensemen and slapshots.

*This is basically the build I used. 5'9" 175lbs, 11 inch skates, regular flex, and second lowest stick curve.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

NHL 12 First Impressions

I have had NHL 12 for about a week now and so far I am really enjoying most of it. I have played around 70 or 80 EASHL games so far so most of my comments will relate to that mode.

At a very high level this game feels like a hybrid of NHL 10 and NHL 11. It was built on NHL 11's physics engine mixed with what seems like NHL 10's precise passing. One of the biggest issues with NHL 11 was the passing really really finicky. You could have someone with 99 passing throwing a medium length hard pass to another player with 99 hand eye and puck control and the receiving player would fumble the puck. Also, trying to aim passes was very touchy and passing out of the corners was hampered by built in "aids" in the passing system. In NHL 12 this is not the case you can pretty much wind up passes with a 75 passing and rifle them to your teammate with a 70 hand eye 15 feet away and he is going to catch it for the most part. I have noticed at times you will put the puck behind or in a player's skates with lower passing but overall the passing is far nicer. The corner problems seem completely gone as well.

The physics engine while started in 11 is far better in 12. Last year you could get run from behind very easily and now I have been hit several times from behind and not only not been knocked over but also retained control of the puck. Everything feels more organic as well. Two players can hit one another and both fall down or the smaller one can fall down trying to knock over a large brute. The tie up in front of the net move for defenders gives them another tool in the toolbox but it will be interesting to see how that develops as players get more games in. Protip: you can get out of being held by tapping LB.

Another fun improvement in NHL 12 is the ability to shoot slapshot one-timers as a forward. You could do this last year but now even with a base slapshot power and accuracy you can possibly score. It isn't guaranteed but it is a lot of fun.

Other miscellaneous odds and ends are that the poke check seems toned down, which is good in some respects and bad in others. Also, there are definitely some cheese shots (hello short side from a bad angle) but once you know how to defend them, much like any year, you can compete. The best bet there would be a human goalie but good luck finding one with the goalie card requiring separate games played.

And finally the moon sized elephant in the rink crouching in the corner taking out your entire team ... the hip check. This is the single worst thing about this game this year. They have made the hip check almost an I Win button. I hated it last year but this year it is probably 10x as bad because you can run at people and use it. Also, with base checking, strength, etc. you can knock anyone down. Here are a couple of the more outrageous examples of hip checks in NHL 12:

I really hope EA is paying attention to this and patches this ridiculous move out of the game. Our team is learning to avoid these idiots on the rush by cutting laterally and even just stopping but if you go into the corner with someone they are just going to use the hip check and take the puck.

Overall though the NHL 12 experience is great. It plays smoother, has a better physics engine,  and the passing is amazing which is good for teams that like teamwork like ours.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Newbie Guide to NHL 12

So you just popped in your NHL 12 disc and are itching to get into some EASHL or OTP (Drop In) action but you have no idea where to spend your meager points. I will attempt to help make that decision easier.

Since you start off with very few points you need to figure out what to put them in and what can be ignored (for now). As a forward here is what I did. I think the only choice early on is playmaker. The playmaker's base stats are almost good enough without adding anything to get by. What I did on offense was crank up puck control to about 90, deking to about 90, and offensive awareness to about 90. You could drop some points from deking or offensive awareness and throw them in pass or shot accuracy but I liked this setup. Even with the base 75 passing you can fire the puck around no problem. I would ignore hand eye and shot power at this point. Defensively, if you are on wing, get your discipline to 90, then put everything else in stick check. As a center dump everything into faceoffs and throw the rest into discipline. For athletics I think the most crucial thing is at least 75 in balance so you won't fall down easily and for the way I play 75 in endurance ignoring anything else. Now if you don't use hustle a lot (you really should) you can split out the rest of your points into speed/agility/acceleration trying to keep them fairly even. I suggest being no more than 6' 195 lbs and if you want more speed go 5'9" 175 lbs. Definitely use the 13" blades early on if you want to have a hope of keeping up. Use whatever stick you are comfortable with.

With this setup you are really going to be looking to use your quickness to get into open space with the puck and feed teammates. You can tap in one timers but you are not going to be lasering the puck in from all over the ice.

On defense I suggest defensive defenseman. The offensive stats are pretty bad and your best bet is probably just focusing on shot power, passing (70s), and hand-eye. On defense I would go discipline, stick check, defensive awareness, and then body check in that order. The defensive dman has very good defensive abilities to start so you can pick off some passes and have a pokecheck that doesn't totally suck. Athletically again balance at 75 then spread your points out how you like, if you play proper positional defense you shouldn't need a really high endurance. I would say stay around 6' 195 lbs for this build and maybe use the 13" skates but those do keep you from turning well so you might want to play around. I would also say stick to one of the lower two curves for your blade on defense since you want to keep your shots lower and have plenty of room to roof it from out at the point if you want to try that.

On defense you should be able to play a positionally sound game and pick off a lot of passes, make a decent outlet pass, and occasionally fire a one timer or lay someone out.

So there is your newbie guide for NHL 12. I will have some early impressions of NHL 12 later in the week.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

EA Sports Season Ticket the case for it

I have seen a lot of people talking about how EA Sports Season Ticket doesn't really give you any value for your money. If you just wanted to play Madden 12 early I would say sure $25 is pretty steep for four extra days of Madden. However, if you play in the EA Sports Hockey league the pass was worth it in spades. In the four days of prerelease here is what I did:
  • Played 57 games online --  This got my player to Veteran level. I am not sure how to quantify this monetarily but I have always complained about not having games right before weekends and this made the weekend great. 
  • Unlocked $40 worth of slots/boosts for my player -- during the prerelease you couldn't purchase DLC at all so I managed to unlock quite a bit. I figure I still need to buy maybe 10 more boosts/slots but even those I get for 20% off.
Other benefits I noticed for retail are if you are into the Hockey Ultimate Team (HUT) mode you get an extra 20 slots for player cards (80 vs. 60) and an extra card pack per month until February (worth $1 each). Plus you get 20% off any DLC you buy in that mode as well.

One other hidden value from the Season Ticket was making my decision to not purchase Madden 12 pretty easy. That saved me $60 right there.

So let's throw some math together on all of this.

-$25 for the Season Ticket
+$10 for getting to play NHL early (this is pretty conservative for me)
+$40 in boosts unlocked
+$4 for savings on boosts
+$60 for not buying Madden 12
+$6 for free card packs in HUT (probably wouldn't have bought them but hey)

That is a ton of value. Even if you throw out the Madden decision and HUT packs you are still looking at a net benefit of $29.

Update: Found out the free HUT card packs are roughly equivalent to the $1 12 card packs.