Once a year you can find hundreds of thousands of Canadian men lined up in front of video game stores before they open, all in the hopes of purchasing their beloved EA Sports NHL iteration of the year and by no means would NHL 11 be any different, or a letdown for that matter. It was only years ago when the 2K franchise was lurking in EA’s shadow, almost surpassing them (some site had actually 2k rated higher) in overall gameplay. Now it’s safe to say EA has the upper hand, so much so that I would purchase EA’s NHL 10 over 2K’s newest.
NHL 11 looked to keep the train rolling after the success NHL 10 experienced and they did just that. Once you’ve experienced NHL 11 there’s no going back to 10, even if you’ve only played the demo. The smooth skating motion along with the new stick handling make for the most realistic hockey game you’ll play. New game modes such as Ultimate Team, which includes over 4,000 player cards help you create your very own online franchise, and just when you thought it couldn’t possibly get any better you stumble across My Pro where you are able to create your own pro and play with your buddies online with up to 12 people at once. For those who have played NHL 10, My Pro isn’t a new feature but it’s definitely an improvement from last year. Let’s not forget about the HUGE increase to rosters, this year EA Sports added all the Canadian Hockey Leagues to the leagues that are playable, only increasing the teams you’re now capable of using.
My Pro has been vamped up quite a bit, especially for goalies. What you’ll notice most from the goalie aspects in the controls aren’t nearly as sensitive anymore and you have much more control over the goaltender. Last year if you flicked the joystick to make a save while there were other players around the goalie would dive all over the place, leaving you out of position and destined to be scored on. Get a feel for this year’s goalie mode by practising in the shootout; it’ll help you in the long run. There are issues still with My Pro such as penalties coming far too often, usually resulting in players quitting and games begin left unfinished, which can be very dissatisfying to many.
There wasn’t too many new features added to NHL 11, actually only one–Ultimate Team mode. This allows you to create your own franchise but with a twist. You aren’t able to start with either your favourite franchise, nor your favourite player; you’re stuck with a deck of hockey cards. Those cards are your team’s arena, home and away jersey’s and your players. They use all the players in this game along with bonus attributes and contracts in those cards so there’s over 4000 of them. You’ll start off with younger junior players where you can develop them or purchase new cards with new players. Cards are sold in 4 packs, bronze, silver, gold and platinum, obviously at different value. The higher the pack the better chance you’ll have at receiving better players. Not to worry though, there are ways to purchase individual cards, as people are able to auction off their cards they no longer want, so don’t get upset if you don’t start off with Sidney Crosby right away. The best part about this feature is that you don’t have to have access to the internet to use it, as the offline feature of it always you to compete in numerous tournaments.
As great as NHL 10 was you’ll be shocked how improved the gameplay in NHL 11 truly is. It’s the small things this year that make the biggest differences, from the slightest change in player movement, additional dekes and the always famous celebration after a goal. Personally I didn’t think it was possible for EA to improve the skating ability in the game, but once again they’ve proven me wrong, not that it’s too hard to do that. The all new Smooth Motion feature allows for better overall control of your player and a visual difference, especially with the likes of Marion Graborik racing up the side boards.. As we all know the speed burst button was taken away from us (Video game God’s bless her soul) so it was harder to tell who the faster players really were, but not anymore. With smooth motion you can get players going full steam and see a difference in speed, you can change the game by being a better skater for once.
Stick control is at an entire new level in this game, had they named in Dangles 11 you wouldn’t hear any complaining from this end. In the year past when you held L1 for a free dangle the puck would always leave the players stick to complete a deke, not always doing as you pleased. This year it’s all changed, they’ve enhanced the deke control and allow you to drag the puck, while still allowing all your other loose puck deke’s, allowing for the most insane dekes EVER….Oh and what better way to celebrate and overtime winner with an all new celebration control. After scoring a goal you’ll have the ability to control your own celebration from sliding on one knee to riding your hockey stick like a horse.
There could be a couple things changed with NHL this year, for instance allowing more customization to our custom players, and especially the online team play, with the excessive penalties forcing people to quit and ruin the online play. Other than a couple minor things NHL 11 was nothing short of amazing and let’s hope to see EA keep the bitter taste of 2005 out of our mouths. I think it’s safe to say NHL 2003 has been replaced as the greatest NHL game.
If you don’t have the funds to throw down for a copy of EA’s NHL 11 then I suggest you either grab NHL 10 or wait it out, DON’T and I repeat DON’T purchase 2K11, NHL 10 is better. Yes you won’t have the up to date rosters, but who cares about rosters when you feel like you’re playing a Nintendo game.
EA Sports – you’ve outdone yourselves once again – Thank you!
Written by: Paul Wilson (guest writer)