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Exactly a week ago Nintendo of Canada and 2K Sports invited me to check out a Canadian-exclusive preview event for the much anticipated NHL 2K10 for Wii, and I was more than happy to oblige. The long-standing hockey franchise has plenty of new moves and unique features to please diehard sports fans and newcomers alike. Developed by Visual Concepts and published by 2K Sports, the game is expected to release on September 15, 2009.
At the lounge-style preview event, I sat right next to Nicholas Shewchuk, the Game Producer for NHL 2K10, and was given a workout as he showed me the game modes and gave me some hands-on play time. Since we were trying out the Wii version of the game, there were plenty of control schemes available including (1) Wii Remote & Nunchuk; (2) sideways Wii Remote (no Nunchuk); and (3) Wii Classic Controller. During the time I had with the game I opted to go with the first control scheme since I was most interested in testing the pick-up-and-play controls.
I made sure to ask Nicholas to elaborate about the decision to have Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals as the cover athlete for the next iteration of the popular NHL 2K franchise. He told me that 2K Sports is always looking to sign the best talent for their games and that "Ovi" has quickly become one of the most recognizable faces of the NHL in only his forth season. Ovechkin is the 2008 & 2009 Maurice "Rocket" Richard Award winner which is given annually to the leading goal scorer in the leagues. He's also been named the Hart Memorial Trophy winner in 2008 & 2009, an award given to the played adjudged most valuable to their team.
We also chatted about the 2K Sports' first-ever outdoor hockey motion capture session that took place last month at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. To create an authentic hockey experience, synthetic ice was laid down to create a special hockey rink and San Jose Sharks, Randy Hahn, was brought in to provide play-by-play commentating. Signature styles have always been a main feature of the NHL 2K series, and at this event Ovechkin, along with Vancouver Canucks center, Ryan Kesler, were put through a number of dynamic drills to capture their signature style data for NHL 2K10. Nicholas let me know that 2K Sports is big on getting players moves as authentic as possible and the company has a continuous database of motion captured athletes.
NHL Superstars - Alexander Ovechkin (Washington Capitals) and Ryan Kessler (Vancouver Canucks)
During the demo of the Wii version of the game, I was shown how the motions controls work and allow you to control your stick when on offense. The game is compatible with Wii MotionPlus which adds an extra layer of true-to-life authenticity, allowing you to control your puck shot speed with high precision. When on defense, you can use your Wii Remote to sweep your stick and attempt to steal the puck.
For the first time ever in a Wii hockey game, there's a full online mode including multiplayer match-ups, downloadable rosters, online leagues, tournaments, leaderboards and Create a Team mode. The game will also include WiiSpeak support, allowing you to enjoy voice chat capabilities with your friends online.
After the gameplay tutorial was over we had a look at some of the game modes including Franchise and Create-a-Team. Nicholas mentioned that the focus on social gaming extends to the 2KSports.com website where each registered hockey team will have a personal blog space that will publish your franchise stats and standings online. You'll also have the ability to take screenshots during gameplay and upload your favourites to your personal page. While I didn't have a chance to see this integration demoed live, it certainly sounds promising.
All in all, it was a fun event and the game is coming along nicely. The build I played was "about 90% complete" according to Nicholas, so it looks like the game should be going gold soon. There is one Wii-specific feature that I'm not allowed to talk about just yet, but believe me, it's going to add a lot of value to this version. Ask me in a few weeks and I might be able to tell you.
I'll be back in September to do a full review of the game for everyone here at the Tech Blog!
Here's the new game features for NHL 2K10 provided to me by 2K Sports:
NEW GAME FEATURES (All Platforms):
New Gameplay Mechanics – NHL 2K10 features many gameplay improvements that enhance the overall hockey experience, includingcompletely rewritten AI, enhanced defensive controls and stick lifts, stumble shots, a new defensive skating model and new incidental contact and small animation systems.
Enhanced Presentation – All-new rink intros for each arena, improved goal celebrations, enhanced visuals and greatly improved, true-to-life character models. Plus, Randy Hahn (play-by-play commentator for the San Jose Sharks) returns with new broadcast commentary.
Improved Franchise Mode – NHL 2K10 features a new contract/free agency system, improved roster management, an updated financial model, dynamic player progression, and fantasy drafts.
New Franchise Co-op Play – Play a franchise season game with or against a friend on- or off-line, or play a traditional game against the CPU.
Franchise Blog / 2KSports.com Integration – Publish your franchise stats and standings, and upload game highlights and screenshots to your personal page at 2KSports.com.
Enhanced Online modes – New seamless online integration connects players in Team Up and Party up games, tracks your progress with My Player Card, and offers full league, leaderboard, tournament and 2K Share support.
Create-a-Team Mode – Create a persistent team with friends by designing your uniforms and creating a unique team identity and competing against other created teams online.