Face-off to this NHL11 Review

It’s September 7th, which means it’s that time of the year again.  The latest NHL11 game is out today for the PS3 and 360.  This current version of the game is promised to be bigger and better than last year’s game.   This years’ game brings many new additions.  From the very begging what I first noticed was the new physics engine.  The goal behind this new system is to make every hit new and unique.  I have found that the system does exactly that.    It is much more enjoyable hitting someone this year because they seem to respond pretty closely to the way they should.   Another thing I noticed is that if you miss a hit into the boards you seem to get penalized a bit more by having to wait and catch your bearings.  You can’t skate a way immediately therefore letting the skater gets away.

The next major feature added to the game is the new face-off system.  You now have multiple options during a face-off.  You can go to backhand, forehand, tie-up the opposing player, take the puck and skate through, shoot the puck right off, or just do it like you always have and just pull back on the right stick.  I am fairly certain this new system is based off timing and a rock – paper – scissors system.  So far, I really enjoy this system.  It breaks you from the monotony of the former system and gives you much more control over your style of game play.  I did have some issues with using the tie-up the opposing player choice; I couldn’t get it to work most of the time.  I am still not sure as to what style of face-off matches up to the other styles.

Some other additions that I had noticed were the addition of a new quick deke system and broken sticks.  With the quick deke system it gave a chance for a less experienced player, like me, the ability to pull off those cool moves.  In the NHL10 I wasn’t able to do most of the dekes and this new system gives me a much better chance of pulling it off.  Though that isn’t to say there aren’t harder moves to try. There are, I just am not good enough to succeed.   One of my favorite new additions is the ability to sprint.  I know what you’re thinking, “They have had sprint in other games for years”.  Well this is sort of different.  It gives you a few extra steps of speed to beat out the defender or get to the puck first.  I have wanted something like this for years and they added it, which makes me a happy boy.

Hockey Ultimate Team

This brand new mode introduces a sort of card game to the mix.  As you play this mode, you will receive various cards that you can use to create a hockey team to play online against other teams or through single player tournaments.  These games will earn you points that can be used to trade in for more card packs.  The types of cards range from player cards (4100 players from over 10 leagues), arena cards, uniform cards, training cards, contract cards, and management cards.  All used to create your teams.   When creating teams, you have to keep in mind how well players play with each other and how long their contracts last.  In the time I have spent with this mode, I spent much more time playing with my card configuration then I did playing hockey and in the end has been the favorite part of the game for me.

Overall Impressions

I have been a big fan of the NHL series since NHL07 when EA first overhauled the game.  I felt that each year they had made enough advances in game play and features that it warranted a purchase for only the hardcore hockey fan, which included myself.  If a causal player asked about the newest version, I would direct them to a previous year where they could get it for really cheap.  This year I feel completely different.  The addition of the new physics, face-offs, and dekes make this the best hockey experience you can get on a console.  I especially enjoy the HUT (Hockey Ultimate Team), which brings out the inner (outer) geek in me.  I love tinkering with all the cards to create the best team I can.  There are still some minor issues.  Such as players on the point will often not try as hard as they should to keep a puck onsides when trying to cycle the puck in the offensive zone or passes not going in the direction they should.   As well as some presentation issues in the UI (User Interface) I have felt for a long time the menu system was not the easiest to use and in need of a major overhaul.  This can be seen especially in the HUT part of the game.  It is a bit wonky trying to move cards around.  Looking at all the cards in your collection at once can be difficult if not impossible.   Also I have never been a fan of the music they put in the game, but that is easily changed by creating a custom soundtrack.  I have also had a chance to play some multi-player and it is incredibly fun.  The brand new physics make the trash talking a lot more fun.  With bigger hits and physics based dekes you can do some pretty cool stuff.

Thanks goes out to the team for making, what I believe is, the best sports game of the year.  Overall I highly recommend this game to any sports fan.  If you have an older version I suggest you pony up and get NHL11, it is cooler than the other side of the pillow.

I received my review copy of NHL11 (360) for free from EA Sports Canada

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