Casual gamers (re)view
EA's ice-hockey games have entertained since 1991. This being the twentieth anniversary game. For many including myself the third game from 1994 is special version and to be honest a last game that I used tons of time. Ice-hockey being very popular sport in Finland and Sweden and seeing how my friends were raving about the game thought I give the franchise a new shot. First impression after booting the game and browsing through the menus was the same feeling it has been for me, and for many. Somewhere during the lines sport games came too complicated for people who were not necessary so into that particular sport.
My favorite modes which is also a new additions in the game, at least according to the box. Is a Hockey Ultimate Team (HUT) mode where your team is in form of ice-hockey cards. Cards are traded and combined to build a ultimate team. Real money can be used to buy decks. We used to trade hockey stickers when were kids but this serves almost the same purpose. Other games modes are Be-a-pro where game is played in eyes of one player. Be a GM-mode is the usual career where player controls everything[b] over one or multiple seasons. Other modes are usual single player as well as cup and shootout modes. All modes have competitive online feature as well. If connected to online statistics get tracked on EA's servers. Also in-game pictures as well as replays can be uploaded there directly.
Graphically I can't really say how this has improved since besides some hours on NHL 09 that NHL'94 really was the last hockey game here. There is isn't really much to complain on the visual part. Game looks impressively realistic with all different animations for tackles and shots. Realistic feeling situations happen constantly. In a EA sports games the characters face is good measure and in here it certainly looking better than before and real life players can easily be recognized.
On sound part the commentary adds to the proper ice-hockey feel. These will of course get old quick. Impressive feature is the amount voices done. First time in my gaming history (25+ years) my real Nordic last-name got pronounced. Soundtrack is bit off and a odd case. Sure we got Europe's Final Countdown which is THE ice-hockey games. Don't really see much with artist like 2 Unlimited or Dropkick Murphys, maybe just been too long out ice-hockey. Luckily custom soundtracks can be add as entrance, pause and goal music.
For someone who is trying to hold its own against group of friends there is about 50% too much of a game here but for sure is enough for hockey fans for one year. AI feels realistic and challenging. Leagues covered range from NHL to Canadian league as well as the major European leagues. Naturally the less known leagues outside NHL are not as well detailed.
Only complaint that hinders NHL11 for being a perfect hockey game is the clunky interface. This together with the countless game modes and options can be bit too much. At least for a more casual hockey fan.