Recommended Dollar Value: $70 CAD
I was ready to be so down on this game. I really was. I’m a very skeptical sports game fan. I think they very rarely do a good job of capturing the spirit of their real life counterparts. The thing is that I loved NHL 10. I played the crap out of that game. I thought it was arguably the best hockey game I had ever played and I really couldn’t see how they could even take it to another level. I was bracing myself for a $60 dollar roster update. Alas, I cannot write a scathing review of the game. I love it. It’s much better than last year’s game, and it is certainly the best hockey game I have ever played. Thanks a lot EA Sports Vancouver. You’ve ruined my review.
There are new faceoff options, such as tying up your opponent.
For one, if last year’s game had any issue it was that it played way too fast. You could sort of just glide around the ice like Bobby Orr, skate into the slot with extreme ease, and take undefended shots on the goalie all game. NHL 11 slows things down. Not to a boring degree, but just to a pace where you really have to set up plays and work hard for your opportunities. I grew up playing EA Sports hockey games. The reason those early games work so well is that they perfectly balance realism and fun. It’s something that most sports games today struggle with mightily, but an area where NHL 11 seems to flourish. I almost feel as if the developers have a real appreciation for those old Genesis and SNES games. It’s almost as if they channel the spirit of those classic games.
I’d also say that it’s probably the most immersive sports game on the market, and likely the most immersive sports game ever made. Your skating is controlled by the left analog stick, while your hockey stick is controlled by the right. It’s been honed this year and works extremely well most of the time. One issue is that occasionally your passes and shots don’t really do what you want them to. Sometimes you just want to drop a pass back to a teammate skating behind you in the offensive zone and you wire it back to your own blueline instead.
Opening a star player can earn you a lot of pucks on the marketplace.
The game is also filled with robust features as usual. The Be A GM mode is fantastic. I think an underrated aspect of this game is just how good the management features are. The trading, signing, and coaching aspects of this game are the best I’ve ever seen in a sports game. I’m a big fan of sports management sims like Baseball Mogul and NHL Eastside Manager, and the joy I got out of building a championship calibre Leafs team in this game was completely unparalleled by any other console sports game.
The Be A Pro mode is also rather good. I’m not a huge fan of these types of modes in sports games but I found the mode to be quite enjoyable. Having to make line changes and play good two way hockey is fun and challenging. The online play is also very solid.
A new physics engine lets you really appreciate a good check.
The other big new mode this year is the Hockey Ultimate League. In this you are given a pack of hockey cards from which you build a team. You earn pucks, which you can buy new packs with, or bid for cards in the auction house. You can then take your team and play against the CPU or against another human online. You also have to worry about team chemistry while training and developing your players. This mode has been used in EA Sports games before, but this is the first time it has been included in the NHL series. It is a neat and addictive game mode.
They have also included broken sticks in the new game. It is kind of amusing and cool to see. Also added is a new faceoff system and real time physics engine. These features are kind of neat but what is most important is just the fact that the gameplay is just so refined, and so well executed.
I can’t hate NHL 11 because it isn’t just a brilliant hockey game – it’s a brilliant videogame. It’s one of the best games of the year, and one of the best sports games ever made. If you love hockey it’s an absolute must buy.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Josh Moore is a video game fanatic living in Toronto. He owns a PS3, X-Box 360, and a Nintendo DS. He has nothing witty to fill the rest of this blurb with so he is just going to try and distract you as he fades off pathetically. Hey, isn’t that Weird Al Yankovic…?