Before getting started, I think that it is only fair for me to say that my hockey history is very limited. I’ve played my fair share of street hockey and watched all three Mighty Duck movies, but that’s nowhere near enough to consider myself a hockey fan. So, this review is coming from a guy with little hockey knowledge. However, that’s not to say you won’t get a good review. I’m still a gamer, and NHL 11 is, after all, another game. Plus, many sports game reviews are all about comparing it with the previous year’s iteration. I, on the other hand, will be able to give you a good look at the game, rather than giving you a history lesson.
Everything that comes to mind when you think of hockey is included in NHL 11. Passing the puck, shooting a goal, fighting, deking and broken sticks are all part of what make up EA’s latest hockey title. The majority of what happens on the ice is done with the two thumbsticks. This set up gives you full control of the two things you would want to be in control of. The left thumbstick controls the player and the right thumbstick controls the hockey stick. That being said, full blame on missing a shot or an opportunity is put directly on the player. Where you want to shoot the puck into the goal is also entirely up to the player, and it requires much more thought and strategy than simply pressing a button.
However, this control scheme does get a little sloppy. For example: the right thumbstick controls the hockey stick for things such as deking, the left thumbstick is used to aim which direction the player wants to shoot the puck. The left thumbstick is also used to move the body, and this causes a problem because the player may not want to move a certain direction while taking a shot. This only applies to snapshots, as this is not a problem for slapshots because players are locked in place while winding up and taking aim. It is a very small problem, but may be big enough to throw a game off in a completely different direction. After all, hockey is a game where points are scored very rarely, and NHL 11 lives up to that.
Hockey is also known for being a game where fights break out, and not having it in NHL 11 would have been unacceptable. Players are thrown into first-person view when punching and jersey tugging ensues. After the brawl has ended, it adds some energy to the players, but other than that, it is really just a fun thing to do to your opponents if you get a little frustrated. My only suggestion is to have more knocking out of teeth.
Modes included in this package include playing through seasons, tournaments, and chase after the Stanley Cup with NHL and CHL (Canadian Hockey League) teams. There is also a very involved mode called Hockey Ultimate Team. There, players can create an all-star team of the best players and take on the computer or players around the world. The team can be built by collecting various cards, and this is done by using earned in-game currency or by one’s real money. It is a bit annoying that someone with a bigger wallet than others will be the better player because they will instantly have the better team, but working hard usually makes things a bit more satisfying in the end. Cards include players, skill buffs, contract extensions, coaches and other factors that make a team better. It is a deep system that will surely keep you occupied with this mode for a long time.
The graphics of the game is as good as you could ask for, and the soundtrack definitely gets your adrenaline pumping during the pre-game menus. The announcers also keep things interesting with the help of NHL 11’s incredible AI and physics. The game isn’t repetitive or systematic. Each moment and decision feels unique, so boredom is kept down to a minimum. More often than not, you would want to watch the instant replay instead of skipping them over.
NHL 11 is a fun hockey game that should be an instant buy for anyone who is looking to finally jump into the franchise. To those who have been with the series in the past, if there is anything that I mentioned that sounds appealing, it may be worth your while to pick it up, too. I am sure graphical upgrades and some tweaks have been thrown into this latest version that are noticeable to NHL veterans, but how much you care about the little changes is entirely up to you. In my opinion, the upgrades in yearly released titles are never enough to warrant the full price tag. However, as a standalone title, not comparing it to anything else, NHL 11 is a good game.
- Title: NHL 11
- Platform Reviewed: PS3
- Developer: EA Canada
- Publisher: EA Sports
- Release Date: September 7, 2010
- MSRP: $59.99
- Review Copy Info: A review copy of this title was provided to DualShockers Inc. by the publisher for purposes of this review.