NHL 2K11 Review
NHL 2K11 box art
System: Wii Review Rating Legend
Dev: Visual Concepts 1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid 4.0 - 4.4 = Great
Pub: 2K Sports 2.0 - 2.4 = Poor 4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy
Release: Aug. 24, 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

This year, 2K Sports bet the success of its NHL series on its ability to make MotionPlus work for hockey. Unlike its multiplatform predecessors, NHL 2K11 is a Wii exclusive, and far and away, the biggest change since last year’s entry is the improved support for the Wii-mote’s tiny but powerful extender.

NHL 2K11 screenshot

Is the experiment a success? It depends what you’re looking to get out of it, and whether you even have the option of turning to EA’s NHL 11, which is scheduled for release only on PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.

Those looking for a truly realistic and user-friendly experience, one where players intuitively move their hands like they’re playing hockey and the on-screen players move along, won’t be happy. MotionPlus does not make this game any simpler or easier to learn. Hockey, when played with any degree of seriousness, simply requires too many different moves, and even a souped-up Wii controller can’t detect them all by motion alone. So, if you want to go with MotionPlus (you can still use the Classic Controller or an unmodified Wii-mote), you’re forced to learn a fairly complicated system. A decent tutorial is provided, and we highly recommend it.

If you’re on offense, for example, you’ll need to draw from this massive list of moves. The Nunchuk’s joystick moves your player. The A button, combined with a direction on the joystick, makes you pass the puck. Holding down the B button puts you into shooting mode; winding up to the left and swinging fires off a wrist shot, and winding up to the right and swinging performs a slap shot. Letting the B button go before your follow-through makes you fake the shot. Waving the Nunchuk performs a “contextual open ice deke,” except when you’re skating toward the goalie, when it makes you deke and then automatically shoot. Up on the D-pad dumps the puck, and holding it performs a slap-dump. Left on the D-pad drops the puck to the player behind you. Holding down on the D-pad lets you deke the puck with MotionPlus without shooting it. You can even juggle the puck in the air by holding C and moving the Wii-mote up, and you can take special kinds of shots by moving the Wii and the Nunchuk up at the same time.

NHL 2K11 screenshot

Got all that? You’d better, because there’s a similarly complicated move set for defensive players, and still more moves to learn for goalies. Fortunately, driving the Zamboni between quarters is much simpler, though the ice-cleaner doesn’t handle well.

The upside is that while the motion controls don’t make the game more accessible, they do provide a bit more immersion. Once you’ve mastered all the moves, a process that takes an hour or two at minimum, you’ll realize that you’re just a little more “into it” than you normally are with hockey games. Once you get the timing down, it’s especially exhilarating to thrust both your hands forward while on defense, slamming an opposing player into the boards.

NHL 2K11 screenshot

That’s not to say things are perfect, however. We felt the skaters took too long to change directions, and once in a while, our inputs weren’t translated properly into on-screen action. The more we got the feel for the system’s quirks, however, the less these things were a problem, and those who can’t get past the occasional imprecision can resort to the other control methods (which work just fine).

A more serious issue is that while the goalie AI is strong against most strategies, it sometimes exhibits incredibly stupid behavior in the face of what should be easy-to-block shots. Playing multiplayer, it feels as though your score depends not so much on your performance, but rather on the whims of the computer-controlled guy who’s supposed to be standing between your opponent and the goal.

Screenshots / Images
NHL 2K11 screenshot - click to enlarge NHL 2K11 screenshot - click to enlarge NHL 2K11 screenshot - click to enlarge NHL 2K11 screenshot - click to enlarge NHL 2K11 screenshot - click to enlarge NHL 2K11 screenshot - click to enlarge NHL 2K11 screenshot - click to enlarge NHL 2K11 screenshot - click to enlarge

"Like" CheatCC on Facebook