Arguably Electronic Arts best sports game in the past few years could also be its most overlooked. I am of course talking about EA’s long running NHL franchise. In fact the series has been so successful that 2K Sports has decided to take a year off on their Xbox 360 and PS3 versions of their hockey game in 2010 to regroup after being the distant second place finisher in the race for the top hockey title. So with little competition in 2010 did the developers of NHL 11 take it easy this year or did they continue to improve the excellent NHL series? Read our full review to find out.
If you were looking for a multitude of new modes or expansions on modes like Be a Pro or Be a GM modes then you may be disappointed to know that this was obviously not the primary objective of this game as these items remain relatively the same. Luckily if you did not put a lot of time into these modes in the last year or two then you will have two great modes to really sink your teeth into. If your look me however and have been considerable amount of time into both modes then doing so again has no real benefit outside of having an updated game to go through them with.
So if modes were not a big focus in NHL 11, what was? Well make no mistake the on ice action in NHL 11 is greatly improved over last years outing. There is a brand new physics engine in this game and it’s not a subtle addition it really evolves the feel of the game. I found that instead of getting your standard “check” you really got a much stronger sense of force with each blow. It may not sound all that profound in writing but from the opening face off there is no doubt that this was a big upgrade from past versions.
One of the other areas that I think hardcore fans might raise a fight over is the change of pace in the game. It seems as though the developers decided to slow the pace down ever so slightly too then add an extra sense of strategy and also make for some pretty spectacular plays. What this also does is allow the computer AI to really force you to be strategic in the way you move the puck up and down the ice. I found that passing which I have always found to be a challenge was even more so in NHL 11.
Some other notable updates include the new EA Sports Ultimate Hockey league which mirrors what EA has done with their trading card games in Madden and FIFA in the past. It’s an extremely deep mode that may require a steep learning curve if you have not attempted one of these modes before but has a long lasting appeal if this is your cup of tea. I would imagine that since EA put this in NHL 11 it must be having a degree of success with it in other titles and this does prove to be a nice execution of the mode. The other addition that warrants some praise is the addition of the Canadian Hockey League which adds an extra level of depth for those die hard puck fans.
One of the reasons I think this franchise has been the best EA has had to offer in past years was the recreation of the hockey atmosphere. The sport of hockey doesn’t make for good television, but it does make for I think the best in person experience and that is what EA has so magically been able to recreate in this series. Outside of the great hockey atmosphere you have great player models, solid animation, and a very fluid experience. I would say the visuals are near perfection until you get into the Be A Pro mode where the framerate bogs down far to often and really puts a damper on a pretty great mode.
If there is one thing that I have consistently stated in each of my past NHL reviews it is that they have always been a ton of fun to play and NHL 11 continues to do so. When you combine the great atmosphere that EA has managed to replicate along with the exciting pacing of Hockey no matter if you’re playing with friends or against the computer this is going to be a lot of fun. The slower pace may not be 100% realism but it’s an improvement to blend an enjoyable experience to what happens in the real deal that I think works really well.
I would not have imagined that I would be this positive about NHL 11 without having significant changes to my two favorite modes Be a Pro and Be a GM. And yet even without updating the two big modes of NHL 11 from last years offering EA managed to make enough smart moves for me to once again proclaim this to be a great game of hockey. With the additions of the CHL and Ultimate Hockey League and the great Gameplay improvements this is once again the best hockey game available as well as one of the best sports games out there.
The owner and editor-in-chief of Darkstation.com. I've been apart of the website since 2002 and purchased the website in 2010. Owning and running Darkstation is a dream come true. I love video games and I love writing and talking about them even more.