Coming off of the physically updated NHL 11, NHL 12 better be lacing up some big skates.

As we enter the next evolution of the EA Sports NHL series, the main question is always... does the new game have enough new content to make it worth the upgrade? or should we wait for the next digital to roll in after the one. The answer is a yes, NHL 12 is a worthy upgrade.... if you're a die-hard fan. If you're not, if you you fall into the casual market, then your not so old NHL 11 can still get the job done. Still, NHL 12 is a bang out solid representation of hockey, one no fan would be ashamed of owning. EA Sports is good at what they do, and when it comes to hockey, well really, who does it better?

The refinements this time around are less obvious then last year. This is mainly because NHL 11 employed a new physics engine that made a big difference in the way we played the game. Busting through the otherside, NHL 12 still manages to makes some improvements, or should I say tweaks rather than major updates.

These upgrades start with a tweaking to the physics engine. The newly built “Balance Control System” accounts for the balance and strength of each player by using rebuilt physics. This causes the outcomes to more various with hitters to fall over, players spinning in the air, and more unpredictable behaviour. Agility and position matter as well, which mainly helps the smaller players line-up and move on the bigger guys with a little more precision. All this adds another level of realism and player control that is probably the biggest metamorphosis to the game. Bottom line, NHL 12 just feels right.


Graphically NHL 12 seems on par with last year, accept for the fact that the “Broadcast” feel has been slightly thickened. This is a natural given because EA Canada is constantly striving to improve their presentation. The improvements are mild, but new team intros have been added along with higher detailed replays and live “authentic” Jumbotrons that actively track the clock, goals, shots and penalties in real-time. No doubt NHL 12 is a looker and stepping cloer to the real deal in every edition.

Also added into the mix is a new intermission and pause screens. When paused the 'EA Sports Action Tracker' is accessed to give real-time information of where shots are hitting, where penalties and hits are interacting and most importantly where the shots are coming from. This not only gives you some great feedback on a current game, it is a great tool to change up your tactics to defeat the other team. This one's worth noting.

The announcers might get the most slack this year because it's the last section that has been truly overhauled. At times the announcers play well of one another, however, the per-recorded lines can feel too “gamish” a times. There is a lot of content here, so it's an obvious spot that would take a lot of care to move above its current condition. Aside from this, the audio department does a great idea making NHL 12 sound genuine, if its been improved, it is damn hard to tell.

The action on the ice is fast paced and extremely fun to play with friends. Like the real sport, games can be tense filled with exceptional moments that make you realize why you loved this game in the first place. Bringing all this together in one first-rate package is NHL 12, and like other editions, purists and non-fans will not doubt find their brand of hockey entertaining.

A strong contributor to “liking” NHL 12 out of the box is the ease of the control scheme. The default dual analog stick scheme is worth getting used to. The game falls into a slight simulation category, but it is very accessible. Memorizing the controls is the part that will take you a few minutes, especially given all the varying offensive and defensive controls. Net battles do take some time to get used to, which leads me into our next section, “dynamic goalies” and A.I. Improvements.

The new focus on goalies allow the players to come in contact with the goalies. Knocking them down, goalies knocking the net off its pegs makes crashing the crease that more intense. Full contact in the crease, you better believe it. Although keep in mind interfering or running for the goalie will cause penalties. Risk and reward, comes into play here. Goalies have also been given a A.I. Boost to handle circumstances better and replicate the pressure of being a “real” goalie in the NHL. Finally, goalies can fight, umm, goalie vs. goalie? why not.


For A.I. Improvements players will now move to where the puck will be heading rather than moving to where the puck is. Shooting has been slightly redefined including one-knee shots and each player has been given “Signature Traits” making them closely replicate their real-life counterpart. Some “Signature Traits” including Net Presence, Finishes Hits, Shooter Slot, Drives The Net, Non Physical, Peripheral Players and more. Having more personality in each player is the wave of the future and will the little boost to the A.I., players matter and do a better job complimenting each teams' dynamics.

The game modes all have slight tweaks in this edition. A new “Be A Legend” mode has been introduced to go with the already popular and addictive GM Mode and of course, the multi-year career creation in the “Be A Pro” mode. On top of this everything else wraps up NHL 12 to the total package. Season, Shootout, Play Offs and Online Play. Yea, that's a lot of hockey!

Notable improvements are the touch ups to the simulated engine in the “GM Mode” along with the addition of the 'EA Sports Tracker' to the Sim Intervention. The “Be A Pro” mode now has numerous ways to start you game. You can now start in the CHL with the ability to be send back down to the CHL at any time. You can also start with as a 20 year old undrafted player who is trying to make his last impression for the scouts. If you want something a quicker you can simply pick a team and start in the preseason to see if you have the mojo to make it to the NHL. Want something even quicker? Then just pick “Be a NHL pro” and get in the game.

The new “Be A Legend” mode places the player in the skates of hockey legends such as Steve Yzerman and Wayne Gretzky, or play against them. Add them to your team, stack them up to the current players, hit the ice as the great 'All-Legend Team,' the choice is yours, but it is exciting and a fine switch up from the normal game modes. Even the “Be a Pro” mode lets you “Be a Legend,” setting you up to break milestones set by the greats. Who doesn't love the greats, after all, its pure inspiration.

Online the “EA Sports Hockey League” allows you to hit the ice in 6 vs. 6 games using your created player. Playing as a club you will enrol in monthly seasons looking to win the championship. The player can also have different saved presets for each position, apply different player times, use XP no matter if its EASHL or ranked OTP matches. The levelling system includes more levels to apply XP more frequently with 6 card levels (amateur, pro, rookie, super star, veteran and legend.) From friendly competition to watching the EASHL leaderboard rankings, fans will no doubt what to hit the severs for a few games.


NHL 12 is an improvement over last years, but instead of a full out overhaul, subtle modifications have been done to enrich the little bits. This makes NHL 12 a must-have upgrade for the die-hard fans only, casual gamers will be fine sticking with their old NHL game until next years review comes in. However, keep in mind, NHL 12 is the better overall game. Not judging in comparison, NHL 12 is a stand-up representation of the sport of hockey with more than enough content to keep you busy for a year. If you haven't purchased a EA Sports NHL product in a while, NHL 12 is your best bet. Be a Pro, lace em' up and enjoy some sweet on ice action.

  • Lots of subtle, yet needed improvements
  • Massive amounts of content
  • Dynamic goalies, more action from within the net
  • Improved intergration of the EA Sports Action Tracker
  • EA Sports adds Legends
  • Signature traits, sure why not!
  • Broadcasting is starting to drag behind
  • Not as innovative as the last edition
  • Presentation could be improved, more camera angles anyone?
Quote: "NHL 12 is an improvement over last years, but instead of a full out overhaul, subtle modifications have been done to enrich the little bits."
Reviewed by DowntownJimmy | 09.27.11

Similar Games: NHL 14 (7.8) | NHL 10 (8.5) | NHL 11 (9.2)


NHL 12

EA Sports

EA Canada


US Release
Sept '11


PS3, X360

Players 1-4
Co-Op 2-4
Online 2-12
5.1 Surround
HDTV 1080p
Custom Sndtrks
D/L Content