In this video game image released by EA Sports, the...

In this video game image released by EA Sports, the Chicago Blackhawks battle the Boston Bruins in EA Sports' "NHL 12." Credit: AP Photo/

This season's NHL 12 builds on previous triumphs, with numerous subtle enhancements that make a big difference.

Computer-controlled skaters now anticipate where the puck is going and are better at reading plays. You can interact more with the goalies by bumping or hitting them. The net comes off when players crash into it, and collisions and hard shots can break the glass. Helmets pop off, and players can be knocked over the bench.

EA Sports has upgraded its physics engine, so size and strength truly do matter. That means bigger hits and more muscling for the puck, and if you line up a skater just right, you can send him spinning.

The new Be a Legend mode puts you in the skates of all-time greats like Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux and Gordie Howe. There are also improvements to the Be a Pro feature that allow you to create your own player from head to toe and lead him from the minors to the big show. In the past, once your shift was over on the ice, you'd have to watch and wait for your next turn. Now, you can simulate the time in between shifts so you can get back to playing sooner.

NHL 12 also features the newest tradition and spectacle in the NHL, the Winter Classic outdoor game. You choose any two teams and watch the snowfall on the ice as they skate around.

NHL 12

RATING Everyone 10 and older

PLOT Hockey season again

DETAILS PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, $60

BOTTOM LINE More realistic than ever

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