Hockey Stars' Brains and Brawn Matter More in NHL 12

Hockey's video game superstars will perform more recognizably like their real world counterparts in NHL 12, anticipating turnovers, powering their way to the goal and playing a more proactive defense, the game's producer said at Electronic Arts' Summer Showcase this afternoon.

In past editions of the ice hockey simulation, players perfomed very reactively, producer David Littman said. This year they will be more cunning on ice with what the EA Canada team called a "hat trick of gameplay innovations," — an AI that anticipates the play, a full contact physics engine, and finally, goalies that are dynamic and involved more in the play.

In past games, Goalies "had been immovable objects," Littman said. For NHL 12, they can be shoved out of the crease, struck, crashed back into the net, and of course, can get into fights. "Authentically, you will get penalties," for slamming into the goalie, Littman warned, "so make it look like an accident."

In NHL 12's physics engine, "size and strength matter more," Littman said. Using Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby as an example, he said the Penguins center did not keep his balance more exceptionally than any other player in the game. "He would get knocked off the puck like any other player," Littman said, "but if you know Crosby, he has legs like tree trunks." Thus, he and similarly-built stars will be able to withstand checking better and power their way to the net.

As for the artificial intelligence, Littman said the game had not done a good job of creating players that knew where to go. Typically they would move into an offensive or a defensive posture right after possession had changed. In NHL 12, they will anticipate the play more. On the demonstration screen, Washington winger Alexander Ovechkin anticipated a turnover, turned up the ice, and was in stronger position to make a play on the goal.

NHL 12 will release on Sept. 13.