EA putting on the foil, bringing NHL Slap Shot video game to the Wii

NHL Slap Shot cover boy Wayne GretzkyWith the Stanley Cup coming to a close, Kings fans now face two options to get their fill of puck: watched their backlog of TIVO'ed games from the previous season, or pop in a hockey video game.

It just so happens that Electronic Arts' latest version of their NHL franchise, NHL 10, was able to improve on its predecessor, NHL 09. Whether or not it will eventually join the Hockeywood Video Game Hall of Fame remains to be seen. But there's definitely potential there to certainly be considered one day.

I view it like this: Drew Doughty has the potential to be one of those once-in-a-generation players that graces the league, but I'd like to see his career play out before we erect a statue. It's the same thing with the EA franchise. NHL 09 was so widely agreed upon as the one of best hockey games ever, it's amazing to me that they improved the game. But they did.

And here's the best part about hockey being over: used copies of both NHL 09 and NHL 10 are widely available to pick up cheap. So in case you haven't picked up a copy yet (guilty as charged. Hey, I don't have a next-gen console yet. I'm still rocking my PS2), now's the time to strike.

EA Sports is hardly sitting on their laurels, as they are currently working on a new game that just might blow both of these games out of the water. And best of all, it's releasing a game that's exclusive to a current system I do have, the Wii (Hey, I got kids.).

NHL Slapshot is coming to stores in September, and is EA's first Wii-exclusive game. Turns out, EA has smelled blood in the water and wants a bigger piece of the pie (I was going to write Pii as a joke, but realized it would be pronounced 'pee,' so I passed.)

Wayne Gretzky as a kidEA's main competitor, Take-Two Studios, announced it was taking a season off to "evaluate" their sports portfolio. Bad decision, because EA announced NHL Slap Shot for the Wii. But in my opinion, the actual game is second to the peripheral that will accompany the game: a Wii hockey stick.

That's right, the Wiimote and nunchuk controller will fit inside a three-piece hockey stick. According to EA lead producer Joe Nickolls, with two signals coming from both the nunchuk and Wiimote, the signal becomes triangulated, allowing for more control. The stick will be able to detect slap shots and wristers, as well as checks(using the stick in a cross-check motion! Come on, that's cool...). The trigger on the Wiimotewill apparently be used to passes, dekes and other moves. Interesting.

Another interesting feature of the game is its "Peewee to the Pros" career mode, which you start playing pond hockey as a 12-year-old and evolve into an NHL player who can play until the ripe old age of 40. It is the most in-depth career mode EA has ever done, according to EA creative director David Littman. And I thought the 20-year franchise mode for my old PS2 NHL 06 was cool. That's the definition of a career mode, and is dizzying in its possibilities.

And if that wasn't enough to get you excited, Wayne Gretzky has signed on. Not only to be the obligatory cover boy, but as an in-game playable player. Which means you can play as the Great One... as a kid. (That's him over there --->)

Whether the game is any good remains to be seen, but I am certainly interested in playing video hockey... with an actual stick. Granted, it may take some getting used to, but no more than going from a three-button Genesis controller to an dual analog Playstation controller with 12 buttons. The stick might be as useless as pile of useless plastic crap I was suckered into buying for the Wii, like my plastic golf club and my steering wheel.

But it does seem like it has the potential to lift NHL Slap Shot into the stratosphere of videogaming, by redefining they way we play puck as gamers. It could be as innovative as the one-timer was for NHL 94 and the spin-o-rama in NHL 96.

EA is still putting out their yearly installments for the PS3 and XBox, NHL 11. And it turns out that the Kings were involved. Kings center Jarret Stoll was asked by the company to help re-jigger the face-off features of the game. And it just so happens that Heidi Androl and the good people from KingsVision tagged along when Stoll was being featured on the Spike TV show, GameTrailers.



• Gamespot: NHL Slapshot winding up on Wii

• Canoe.ca: EA hockey comes to Wii with NHL Slapshot
 

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