|System: X360, PS3||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|
by Robert VerBruggen
Just a few weeks ago, we took a look at NHL 2K11, 2K Games entry in the hockey genre this year. That game, a Wii exclusive, did a decent job of incorporating MotionPlus but didnt make the sport any more accessible to casual fans or change too much beyond the control scheme.
So, what about 2Ks rivals, EA Sports? EAs NHL 11 has been released on Xbox 360 and PS3 but not Wii, so it doesnt have to compete with 2K11 on any single console. Without an opposing player to keep them honest, did EA play it safe, or did they take some chances on the ice?
A little bit of both. Fans of NHL 09 and NHL 10, which are widely considered masterpieces of the hockey genre, will feel right at home in NHL 11. Less serious fans probably wont notice much of a difference, save the updated rosters and the addition of the Canadian Hockey League. The truly hardcore, however, will savor the changes, including a new physics engine and an insanely complicated added game mode.
The physics engine is a significant improvement over what weve seen in past hockey games. When objects interact on the ice, they no longer move using preset animations; instead, the physics engine takes all the various movements into account and animates the players and the puck in real time. The result is the game feels incredibly organic. When players collide, it looks perfectly natural, and when the puck hits various surfaces (the wall, the goalpost, the goalies padding), it bounces off just the way it should. Whereas NHL 2K11 enhanced realism by allowing you to move your Wii controller like a hockey stick, NHL 11 enhances realism by making the entire rink come alive with true-to-life animations presented in high definition. Were not sure which improvement is more important, but we certainly cant wait until someone combines them into a single game competently.
Other than that, the basics are pretty much the same as what we saw last year. The graphics feature good character models, though theyre something less than photorealistic. The sound is on par with the series standards, with great announcing, decent music, and good sound effects.
Also, youll control players on the ice the same way (with the two-joystick setup introduced in NHL 07) for the most part, though there are improved systems for faceoffs and boardplay. These systems allow you more options and make the game more realistic, though also more complicated. Theres also a new passing system with improved accuracy, but unfortunately, its a little too demanding. The aiming is touchy, you have to be in a good passing position to pull it off, and the pass is timed to your release of a trigger button (holding it down longer makes the pass harder). Wed have appreciated a tutorial for it. We cant tell you how many times we passed the puck to opposing teammates (or to no one at all) before the new controls started to sink in.
The game modes from past years return as well. Theres exhibition, Be A GM (in which you play as a teams general manager and have to make trades, etc.), Be A Pro (in which you play out a career as a single player), Tournament, Playoffs, Season, Battle for the Cup (in which you skip the season, and instead just pick two teams and fight for the Stanley Cup), and EA Sports Hockey League (in which you create a team and face others in an Internet league).