For fans of hockey who’ve always dreamed of living the most intense moments of the sport, NHL 12 just keeps looking better and better. The first goal of any sports simulation game is to offer an experience as close to the real thing as technically possible, and EA Sports is looking to its brand new physics engine to do just that. The mad scientists behind this year’s edition are now showing how player size won’t just be for appearances with NHL 12, but a real opportunity for players to imitate their heroes like never before.

While the visuals of the NHL series have gone from cartoonish to nearly photo-realistic in the past decade, the same can’t be said for the actual physics. The bottom line is that every player has a unique build, strengths, and balance. To accurately imitate that for over 50 players per game is a tall order, meaning that past games have treated all players alike where momentum and size were considered.

But all that’s changing for NHL 12, thanks to the brand new Full Contact Physics Engine that seems to be changing more than a few elements of the core gameplay in significant ways. Players will be given realistic balance when crashing the net, and even the ability to knock goalies out of their pads. While that’s all well and good, there’s been one area of the game that’s always been unable to mimic the reality of the sport.

It only takes a casual observer of a hockey game a few seconds to realize that the front of the net is not a safe place for an attacker to stand. Why? While the ‘new NHL’ dictates that players not in possession of the puck can’t be mauled by their opponents, the rules change when a defender is trying to clear the front of the crease. The defender and forward shove, cross-check, and go to all-out war for position in front of the net, which doesn’t exactly fit with EA Sports’ past confinement of aggression to a ‘bodycheck button.’

What you usually end up with is a defender that either has to let the opponent sit in front of the net, or make contact and incur a penalty. The newest producer video shows that with the new physics engine, not only will players be able to flex their muscles, moving opponents out of their goalie’s way without being penalized, but use a larger and stronger defender’s size to dominate smaller forwards.

Check out the newest video detailing these ‘Net Battles’ now:


While the past trailers for the game have focused largely on the new and improved AI, it’s the new abilities being given to the players that are the most impressive. Obviously, the amount of contact that’s permitted before a penalty is drawn isn’t detailed in the video, so we’ll have to wait for the final game to get a better idea.

If defensemen have been given this much potential to completely change the face of an opponent’s cycle, offensive strategy, or powerplay, then who knows what else is in store for particularly gifted forwards. There’s likely more additions to see, but for those players who love to play strictly as a defender, your job just got a whole lot more important.

We’re in favor of giving the unsung heroes of hockey a bit more attention, but what do you think of the new net battles? We’ll have the chance to check out the new mechanic in action when the developers release a playable demo, which still is yet to be dated.

NHL 12 will be released for the Xbox 360 and PS3 on September 13, 2011.

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