NHL 11 Review
Xbox 360 | PS3
NHL 11 box art
System: PS3, X360 Review Rating Legend
Dev: Electronic Arts Canada 1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid 4.0 - 4.4 = Great
Pub: Electronic Arts 2.0 - 2.4 = Poor 4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy
Release: Sept. 7, 2010 2.5 - 2.9 = Average 5.0 = The Best
Players: 1-4 3.0 - 3.4 = Fair
ESRB Rating: Everyone 10+ 3.5 - 3.9 = Good

Within these modes, some of the series’ old problems crop up. Computer-controlled teammates often don’t follow you to the opposing goal when you make a run at it, for example, and AI general managers often exhibit amazingly stupid behavior (accepting deals they should decline and vice-versa). Overall, though, EA’s NHL formula has been honed to the point that there are few flaws. For example, we didn’t find any surefire ways to get pucks past the AI goalies, though only time will tell if there are exploitable cheap shots we didn’t come across. (In a hockey title, is there anything more frustrating than a tiny flaw in the goalie AI that breaks the game?)

NHL 11 screenshot

The big addition, of course, is the EA Sports Ultimate Hockey League, and what you think of it will depend on how hardcore you are. It’s something like fantasy hockey on steroids. You start out with a deck of playing cards that represent things like players, staff, and training, and you have to put together a club and play games against online opponents. Some cards are free, but others cost pucks, the league’s currency, which are earned by winning games. The sheer amount of detail is alternately stunning and overwhelming. Your players must have excellent chemistry, and you can choose everything from the arenas you play in to the head coach. Some cards (such as training cards) can be added to a player to increase his attributes, and each player has a limited contract and a limited number of games he can play in his career. To a true statistics junkie, the kind of person who will keep a spreadsheet on his computer to keep track of his team and obsessively pore over the numbers nightly, this is heaven. To most other people, it will require more of a time investment than it’s worth.

Our biggest problem with NHL 11, however, is the middle finger it extends toward renters and used-game buyers. In a move EA evidently plans to repeat with many more games in the future, NHL 11 comes with a one-time-use code that enables the full online feature set. Renters can take advantage of a free seven-day teaser pass, as long as they don’t keep the game longer than that, but everyone else has to shell out cash to enjoy the game to the fullest. This is part of the war on used games, which has even included statements from developers that secondhand dealers should have to give them money by law. (Evidently, they’re not clear on the fact that “copyright” means the “right” to “copy” something, not the right to take a slice of profit whenever an existing copy changes hands. The companies are essentially asking the government to transfer some of the money you make from the sale of your own property to them.)

The pay-to-play scheme is more defensible than the proposed law (EA can charge for access to its online servers if it so chooses), but it’s still a low blow to gamers on a budget. NHL 11 has a lot of features that will encourage gamers to hang on to it rather than trading it in. EA should have felt confident enough in the value they provided not to nickel-and-dime those who obtain the product secondhand.

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The extra charge leaves a bitter taste in our mouth. Still, we cannot deny that NHL 11 is an improvement over what came before it, and truly hardcore hockey fans will enjoy the hours they spend fine-tuning their teams in the new online mode. There are a few improvements yet to be made, and we hope the next installment will take advantage of Move and Kinect to provide even more realism. But those in the market for a new hockey game should be happy with NHL 11.

By Robert VerBruggen
CCC Freelance Writer

RATING OUT OF 5
RATING DESCRIPTION
4.4
Graphics
The new physics engine is truly a great accomplishment.
4.6
Control
It’s the old two-joystick setup, plus some new moves to make the game even more comprehensive (and complicated).
4.2
Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The sound is no better or worse than you’d expect, with decent music, great announcing, and good sound effects.
4.6
Play Value
Those who don’t explore the new mode won’t notice too much of a difference with past entries, but this is still a huge game, and hardcore hockey gamers will have a field day.
4.4
Overall Rating - Must Buy
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.

Game Features:

  • Revolutionary real-time physics engine: Pioneering the next step forward in team sports video game realism, the all-new, real-time physics engine brings real-world highlight reel moments in-game like never before. From face-offs to body checks, real-world puck and player physics trigger true-to-life reactions. Now anything can happen, including the ability to shoot and make plays while lying on the ice.
  • More than 200 gameplay enhancements: An all-new faceoff system, quick dekes, the new Hit Stick, and hip checks are just some of the many gameplay improvements making NHL 11 the most authentic hockey video game experience to date.
  • All-new broken sticks: Broken sticks now affect the action in more ways than one. After snapping your stick on a wicked slapshot or having it broken in two from a hit, the play is never dead. Kick the puck to your teammate or have your teammate pass you his stick if you can’t make it to the bench to get a new one.
  • Be a pro enhanced: For the first time ever, begin your career playing for the Canadian Hockey League’s Memorial Cup. Playing with and against licensed CHL players from the Western Hockey League, Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, and Ontario Hockey League, experience both the highs and lows of junior league hockey action. Get scouted, enter the NHL entry draft, and see if you can become the greatest player of all time.
  • All-new EASHL dynasties: The EA SPORTS Hockey League takes online play to the next level as championship seasons are awarded with banner-raising ceremonies and new user celebrations that allow you to rub it in the faces of your biggest rivals. Prep your team for their playoff run with an all-new Practice mode.


  • Screenshots / Images
    NHL 11 screenshot - click to enlarge NHL 11 screenshot - click to enlarge NHL 11 screenshot - click to enlarge NHL 11 screenshot - click to enlarge

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