EA Canada continues to accommodate the hockey fans around the globe with their most in-depth simulation of hockey to date, NHL 11. Hockey Fans, prepare to fall in love.
For those who love the NHL series, NHL 11 provides the most robust entry in the series, including several upgrades to core mechanics while adding even more content to this already stacked game. It is obvious that EA Canada loves the game of hockey and servicing their fans. From a newbie stance, NHL 11 might be a little too much. However, for everyone else who loves playing their game, you will be ecstatic in all the alterations made this year.
Lately, starting up a EA Sports games can take some time. Although once you weed your way through the legal notices, new online voucher redemption, and enter some personal information, you are off. Like previous EA Sports titles, NHL 11 kicks into the action introducing gamers with a friendly tutorial that explains all the new chances made in this year’s edition. It's important to pay attention to the tutorial since NHL 11 has a number of new adjustments that include some new thumbstick flicking controls. NHL 11 is much more then a carbon copy of last years entry with some update graphics.
The Philosophy of the Flick
Maintaining with the trending philosophy that all sports games should be played by flicking the thumbstick, NHL 11 gives the user a quick lesson on how to correctly flicking your stick in NHL 11. This "innovation of sorts" takes awhile to get used to; however after a few periods of action, things will start to fall into place. Just be prepared to lose a few matches before you get your mojo.
Understanding the need for change, flicking the thumbstick to shoot and place your shots actually feels more natural, and is the best way to play the game. Adjustments have also been made to deking along with a new face-off system that has you flicking your stick when battling the puck away from in your opponent. Flicking your stick for a face off really works and is more exciting then the standard button press. If any flicking was necessary, this is where it belongs.
If you're an old stickler for the vintage days of hockey games, you can still set your controller back to the two button setting of pass and shoot. But keep in mind that the goaltending A.I. has been boosted making it really tough to score in NHL 11, which means it's nearly impossible with the old, less precise settings. Having the goaltending strengthened makes the virtual game of hockey more realistic by staying in the lower numbers. Like the real sport, setting up the play, positing and timing is important factors in making the puck visit the back of the net. So all those tricks you have perfected, it is time to go back to the drawing board because there is no such thing as a sure thing in NHL 11.
Let's Get Physical
The physics engine has also been rebuilt in NHL 11, which makes the action flow and play naturally without any artificial styled animations loading up. This means all your shots, hits, deflections, passes, are reacting in real-time, making NHL 11 feel more organic. Having the system so "loose" means you see a lot of strange action on the ice making the game feel more like the real unpredictable game hockey can be. Expect some strange behaviour like the puck bouncing around on the goalies back, or odd rebounds in the defensive zone, and more bouncing puck surprises. The bouncing back puck might be a little strange, but the system really feels the part. All-and-all, the new physics system is utterly outstanding and the right direction for the series.
In the other side of the graphical department, EA Sports continues to deliver an outstanding showcase of broadcast style presentation. It's not as deep as this years Madden, but it is still staggering good. All the arenas and little nuances from each team are highly detailed, along with lifelike animations that make you feel like controlling "real" miniature players. Equally solid is the commentary from Bill Clement and Gary Thorne that dissect the on ice action. NHL 11 has outdone itself looking phenomenal in full motion HD.
Also included in the new graphical package is the ability to break your stick. Yes, you can now play hockey like soccer pinging the puck off your skates. Even though I'm not a huge supporter on these lightweight sticks the players use nowadays, broken sticks are a reality of today’s game, so it's good to see them added to the worlds premier hockey simulator.
Building the Ultimate Team
For content, NHL 11 is stacked with all the modes from last year, which provides more then enough content to keep you busy all year. In NHL 11, EA Canada has also added a new mode called the 'Ultimate Team,' a card based system, similar to Madden, that has you building the ultimate hockey team. This mode inlcudes its own in-game currency (EA Pucks) that allows you to purchase more packs of cards (peewee, standard, jumo, consumable) to increase your team’s strength. It also goes beyond players to include coaches, arenas, and more. Of course there is an auction system where you can trade and purchase new cards. Not surprisingly, EA also allows you to buy new packs with real cash, something you might consider if you become totally engrossed in creating the "ultimate" team. The whole system is a little "out-there" for the average gamers, but it will grab a small percentage of the NHL players. It's good that EA Canada is broadening the spectrum of the game, even if it’s a little non-traditional.
In another first, the CHL (Canadian Hockey League) has been added which now allows you to play from the juniors all the way to the NHL in the 'Be a Pro' mode. Playing in the junior’s means you will be able to partake in the Memorial Cup tournament to become the next breakout star. Representing your home town or your favourite team’s farm team and playing all the way up to the pros is extremely rewarding and a nice expansion for the NHL series.
EA Canada offers up another big hug of hockey love in NHL 11. Simply put, this is how you do hockey! The new emphasis on thumbstick flicking and the new physics engine creates a game that is extremely fluid, feeling more natural then before. NHL 11 is an outstanding entry in the long running EA Sports series, and it is definitely worth the annual upgrade. Like I said in the introduction, "Hockey Fans, prepare to fall in love."
Reviewed by Downtown Jimmy | 09.14.10
- New physics engine highlights the unpredictable nature of hockey
- Controls make the game feel more organic
- Lots of depth, one of the most detailed sports games ever made
- The ultimate team mode provides a new way to play
- A.I. has been beefed up and is more believable
- CHL represents
- Controls might be too overwhelming for new players
- Ultimate team will not appeal to everyone
- Not a fan of the fighting mechanics
- Replays don't always match the commentating
Similar Games: NHL 10 (8.5) | NHL 12 (8.6)