Canadian approves of hockey
It is just past the start of another NHL season and while I still maintain that my Leafs will surprise everyone and win the Stanley Cup, NHL has another game in the NHL series out. NHL 11 introduces many new features this year including broken sticks, a new physics engine, CHL teams, the Ultimate Hockey League, and new EASHL (EA Sports Hockey League) features.
The game sports Jonathan Toews on the cover (the second Blackhawk in a row to be on the cover). When you first put the game in you’ll get put through a tutorial teaching you the fundamentals. The only thing different in this year’s iteration is the faceoff circle. In NHL 11 you have the option on how you want to win the faceoff. You can choose to win it cleanly on the backhand, forehand, scrum the draw, deke off the faceoff, or even shoot. Depending on which you choose it will become harder or easier to win the draw. This adds strategy to the faceoff, making it more than just timing and how many points you have in the faceoff attribute.
NHL has a wide variety of game modes to choose from, the newest being the UHL (Ultimate Hockey League). You can buy card packs or individual cards from other players in an auction house (which uses hockey pucks as currency). Packs can also be bought by Microsoft points. Players earn pucks by playing online against other players or offline against computers. Tournaments are the easiest way to make pucks with online and offline options to play with. The new UHL feature is great providing excellent depth. The excitement I get from buying a pack of hockey cards really brings me back to another time. The only problem is when you start out you are almost forced to play two or three computer tournaments and I never have fun playing a computer in a sports game. The UHL reflex the offline be a pro, which is back and the source of a large number of the achievements this year but is not changed too much (why mess with a good thing I guess).
The Be a Pro mode has been updated as well in this instalment, giving you new attributes to upgrade and switched the dangler class for a two-way forward player type. Your Be a Pro career now begins with you playing in the Memorial Cup and then based on your performance you will be drafted. However, your online pro still can participate in an online club. This year in online club mode you are able to create custom jerseys for your club to wear and have team practices. Practice allows up to 12 members of your club to hold a game against each other or have a free skate. It is a nice touch and comes in handy when you have had a rough couple of games.
The game is not without faults. There is quitting problems in UHL tournaments. When someone finishes a game, you still receive all the pucks and the win but don’t advance in the tournament. This ends in a four or five win streak not taking me to the next round of the tournament. The computer defence in the EASHL can also be the stupidest thing ever. The Ai of just stares at the puck or stops in a race for an icing call. These things cause me to break into some colourful language. The controls are complicated but after getting the hang of them they work well.
Overall the game has had a very nice facelift this year and is worth upgrading from NHL 10. The complaints I have with this game are minor. Overlooking a few small things NHL 11 is the most realistic and fun hockey game on the market.