NHL 11 Reader Review
Itís that time of the year, and now that Iíve had ample time to get to grips with it, and with the regular hockey season just underway, itís time to look at the latest iteration of what seems to be a sports game award-winning black hole: 22 Sports Game of the Year awards show how much oomph the EA Sports NHL franchise has. So much in fact, that itís bodychecked 2K Sportsí latest hockey iteration into only releasing for the Wii this season. So with that said, letís drop the puck and see how this thing goes then!
The first thing worth noting is obviously EAís new initiative Ė people buying new will get a redeem code for this on the back of their instruction manuals, where used buyers will have to fork out a few quid extra to play online (though they do get a 7-day trial to try out the features). Obviously, new game buyers like myself have nothing to worry about here as itís just a matter of punching in a code, but if you usually buy your games second-hand you may want to take this into consideration before doing so.
modeís also seen a slight change of direction too. With the addition of the ís minor teams, you can start off at that level now before entering the NHL Entry Draft. As opposed to having just one Prospects game last year, now teams will evaluate you over 4 matches, so if you struggle a bit early on, thereís still a good chance of being a first round pick if you play well in the later matches. You also now get to play pre-season with your NHL team after you get picked, and if you impress the coaches in it, you may even get to bypass playing in the AHL minors altogether, something which was unavoidable in last yearís game.
modeís also been expanded a bit, and for an outsider like me, may have made things a little more complicated in the off-season than I may have liked. Contracts have been widely improved, and players can fall into either restricted or unrestricted free agents under the NHLís . New screens for offer sheets, as well as keeping tabs on players that are in the system (be it at AHL or CHL level), as well as improved trading, make NHLís GM mode one of the best that sports games have to offer.
In the game itself, the entire physics engine has been totally reworked over. The game certainly feels slower than its predecessor, and in turn that makes the new hits feel a lot more meatier when executed well. Thereís nothing more satisfying than having a skater come towards your end, and meeting him halfway with a brutal thud. However, even with everything on default settings and the latest (as I originally wrote this for my blog, I think it was 1.03) tuner set downloaded, penalties seem to happen a lot more often than thatís necessary, tripping and elbowing in particular, and often breaks the game up a little too much. Oddly enough for the amount of penalties received, injuries themselves have somehow been a rare sight for me in the time Iíve played it, with the only one being as a result of a defender taking a slapshot square to the knee and being forced off.
On the whole, the gameís by-and-large a different beast to play than last yearís higher-tempo game. Goalies seem more responsive and are lot harder to score against, and going on the penalty kill will really hurt you a lot of the time if you have a habit of going all guns blazing, 100% offense all game. Itís certainly still fun to play, always end-to-end action, and most importantly, itís what weíve come to expect from a series thatís known for its sense of realism and accurate rendition of a sport thatís right on the developerís doorstep in Canada.