NHL 11 Review
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In NHL 11, EA scores off a slap shot built on a strong physics system, a realistic presentation, and a deep hockey experience. Every year it seems EA makes an NHL game that will be hard to top, and this year is no different.
- The exhilarating and realistic presentation
- There's something for hardcore and casual hockey fans
- The new physics system provides big and authentic hits
- The new card-based dynasty can be difficult to navigate
- Passing and other gameplay mechanics aren't always well executed
- Not enough major additions
EA Sports knows how to make a great hockey game. Simply look at the sheer number of awards EA Canada seems to land every year for its NHL games, and you’ll get an idea of just how well the game is received. Every year fans ask for something new and improved, and this year EA has finally given fans what they really want: broken sticks. That says an awful lot about how solid NHL games have been over the years. Sure, EA added a new physics system and a fantasy hockey league, but when all fans really wanted was a feature that adds broken sticks to the game, you know NHL is one of the most solid sports games on the market.
NHL 11 is the latest offering from EA Sports’ popular hockey simulator. It’s a shame the sport isn’t popular across the world, including the US, because it’s fast, fit for only the tough-headed, and usually gets pretty physical and violent. These are all qualities that translate well to a video game, and NHL 11 does a terrific job of capturing all those aspects we love about hockey.
The biggest changes this year rest in the addition of a new physics system, the EA Sports Ultimate Hockey League (EAUHL) and Hockey Ultimate Team, and the coveted broken sticks feature. For devote NHL fans, the Ultimate League offers a comprehensive and meaty experience to really sink your teeth into. You set up a team in the EAUHL using the Ultimate Team playing cards. There are some 4,000 players in 10 different leagues to collect and use. You can use cards to personalize your team, pick a head coach, train your players, and choose your rink. Player Cards include those from the Canadian Hockey League, American Hockey League and across Europe, among others. You’ll start with two decks to build your team, but you can continue to enhance your team by earning in-game currency or by using your hard-earned income (real money).
There is potential for the EAUHL to really take off, but that will depend on how players utilize the system, and if they’ll be able to navigate the often-confusing card system. We’ve had similar thoughts on other sports games, including the recent Madden NFL 11, that this fantasy-style feature is great for the hardcore fans of said sport, but daunting for casual followers. The actual implementation of the card-based system in NHL 11’s EAUHL is more complex than in needs to be, and we found it weighing down what was meant to be a terrific interactive fantasy feature. Of course, people who love building up teams through trading cards will take the time to learn how it actually works; everyone else will likely try it out, and then forget about it.
If EAUHL doesn’t tickle your fancy, you’ll still have plenty to do outside of a basic quick game. NHL 11 brings back classic modes like Be a Pro, Be a GM, Playoff, Tournament, and Season modes, to name a few. We tried them all out for size, and found our favorites were Be a Pro and Season modes. Be a Pro is essentially a single-player campaign for hockey. You create a player and take him up through the ranks, hopefully landing a top draft pick, before settling in with a team and having a nice long career. You use experience points to upgrade your player’s abilities. As in similar modes from other sports games, Be a Pro literally puts you in the skates of your player. When he’s benched you’ll watch the game through the glass.
Sitting on the bench is a real drag because the gameplay is quite exhilarating. For as long as there have been hockey games, we’ve looked for those big hits against the boards, leading to opposing titans tossing off their gloves for a quick swing or two. Sadly, fighting is a drag in NHL 11. Nothing has really been improved on this front. In fact, some of the very early hockey games had more interesting fighting—then again, this is a hockey game, not a fighter.
After you get out of the box for fighting you’ll be rewarded with an exciting and fast pace gameplay experience. The ... (continued on next page)
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