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A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this hockey sim closely mirrors real professional hockey, right down to the violent hits and fighting, and the ads displayed all around the rink. While engaging in mid-game scraps is pretty easy to pull off, you're always punished by a 5-minute penalty. The game is playable online, a feature Common Sense Media doesn't recommend for kids under age 12.
What's it about?
Electronic Arts drops the puck on another hockey season with the release of NHL 09, a great sports simulation with an inventive approach to career modes. The two biggest advances this season are Be a Pro and the EA Sports Hockey League.
In Be a Pro, you can create your own hockey player and guide him to stardom in the National Hockey League. The type of player you select determines the experience traits he will inherit. For example, playmakers tend to have high ratings for passing and stickhandling, but may rate lower on strength of power. As you navigate the minor leagues, your player is tasked with specific statistical goals he must achieve before entering the next level of experience. The better you perform, the more experience points you earn toward upgrading ratings. During games, you'll only control your created player. Be a Pro is not only available offline. You can create players for use in the EA Sports Hockey League, an MMO-style career mode where you play on teams and complete seasons with human players. As your skills improve, your player's experience level increases. You can sign contracts, scout players and even demand trades.
Is it any good?
In terms of on-ice gameplay, NHL 09 feels very similar to previous releases. Stickhandling has been tweaked for better control on defense. Players can now use their stick to block shots or passes. If the controls prove too complex, players can now use a simpler layout consisting of only two buttons and the analog stick.
As usual, the presentation is phenomenal. Lights reflect off the ice, while the surface gradually dulls as players zip back and forth around the rink. Players move so fluidly you could swear you were watching a real game of hockey. NHL 09 is an impressive simulation that uses creative career options to take a big leap in authenticity.
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.