Parent Talk: There’s nothing like a good hockey game to bring the family together. Nothing here would stop anyone from enjoying NHL 11. It’s also stunning on an HDTV, so there are no more excuses not to have an HD set.
EA Sports Hockey League is better than sex! (Can we really have a Parent Talk section and a sex joke in the same article?) [Editor’s comment – apparently we can.] Jokes aside, this year’s online mode is the best yet. If you like hockey, there’s absolutely no reason to avoid this. I’ve enjoyed EASHL since it was introduced in ’09 and it’s come a long way. It’s all about skill and smart play. Marc and I aren’t infallible, yet extremely tough to beat thanks to our impenetrable defence. Our system is simple: I win the face-offs, he ensures our control of the puck. We win 90% of our games with a 1-0 score. Thankfully most glitch goals from ’10 have been fixed, making our team even better. There are still lucky bounces here and there, but that’s just like the real game.
The most realistic videogame hockey experience ever! The skating is fluid; checks are no longer plentiful, but still a huge part of the game. Passing is harder to execute, especially for long-range. It’s a tough game, but hardcore hockey fans have wanted this forever. It’s been pleasant to team up with my brother-in-law Marc, as he’s the perfect example of how this game grows on you. He went from being a liability to a crucial member of our team in just a few hours. If you’re willing to invest the time, you could have one of the best co-op/competitive games currently available on the market.
It’s a freaking RPG! I know COE’s new review format is only meant for one ‘great’ aspect, but screw it, I’m breaking the rules. You can improve every aspect of your player(s). Upgrading is not only cool, it’s necessary. This has been present in NHL games for a while, but before, anybody could crush an opponent into the boards or score one-timers from the blue line. Now, you have to know your role. Since I’m a centre, I opted to max my face-off skills. That makes my skater weak in a lot of areas but means my team has possession of the puck 90% of the time after a draw. Since I love scoring, I sided with more accuracy and power for my shots. You can also pay attention to defensive attributes like shot blocking, strength and body checking techniques. It’s wise to maintain a diversity of strengths and weaknesses on your team. Customization is addicting, and that’s a big plus.
+ The new face-off system. You no longer randomly flick the analog stick and hope for the best. You now have to go to your back hand, lift your opponent’s stick or run into him and push the burnt biscuit to your D with your skate.
+ The best visuals yet. It’s expected every year, but a noticeable step up from ’10. Better facial expressions and near life-like player models make ’11 the prettiest hockey game out there.
+ All the CHL teams and players from are included for the first time in a videogame. You can now play as your favourite OHL, WHL or LHJMO. You can even play for the Memorial Cup at the start of Be a Pro. Sweet!
– Screening goaltenders is now practically useless. Goalies stop the puck perfectly whether they see it or not. In the real world (and NHL 10), goaltenders would anticipate shots when screened, make themselves look big and go for the percentages. Here, they know exactly when and where it will go. It’s a bit cheap because screen goals are the most common in real hockey.
– Broken sticks are fun, and it’s neat that you can give yours to a teammate if he loses his. However, why does it happen every shift or two? A bit overkill if you ask me.
– The new EA Ultimate Hockey League is too complicated, and for hardcore fans only.
– Players willing to spend real money on cards or booster packs have an annoying competitive edge.
– The achievements/trophies. Spend eight hours in Practice Mode? Where is the fun (or challenge) in that?
NHL 11 will remain in your 360 or PS3 till ’12 releases. It’s the best NHL and truly worthy of the National Hockey League license. Hockey is one of the most entertaining, fast-paced sports, and this game does it justice. There are shortcomings, but the pros far outweigh them. Get out there and buy NHL 11!