Since 2007 there has been no hockey franchise that could compete with the monster that is EA Sports. Basically owning every sporting title known to man (with the exception of baseball), EA Sports continues its royal lineage of NHL titles with the latest release of NHL 11.
This year is almost a carbon copy of its predecessor NHL 10. There are limited advancements in the physics engine, controls, and graphics and in various game modes. Some people might say don’t touch what is already perfect, but in my opinion the EA NHL series is still far from perfect.
Despite being the best NHL title available to the masses, NHL 11 has its flaws. Most of these flaws are in gameplay. Refereeing, something that will never be perfect in any sort of artificial intelligence (I thought that even the genuine articles were fake with some of the bogus calls they have made this year). Bad penalties are called multiple times a game and much more genuine acts of rule-breaking are met with a blind eye from the ref.
The frame rate for the players is also a concern. Players have vey unreal, exaggerated movements; goalies can both defy the laws of physics and be anchored down like they are on Jupiter, and skaters break sticks like they are using balsa wood.
Despite these programming flaws, NHL 11 is still the best on the market. This is as close as you can get with today’s technology to the genuine experience that is the NHL. The EA team just added a new faceoff system that allows you not only to move your stick with the flick of a thumb stick but also to position your body so that the opposing player is shielded or tricked making the faceoff more like the real thing. The fighting system is the same as last year’s mode making for a better and more realistic fighting system. Passing is just as difficult as it appears to be on TV but there are some errant attempts made that lead to goals far too frequently.
This year has even more to offer game mode-wise. “Be a Pro” mode is just as good as ever making you feel like you are right in the game as your own created player. The franchise mode or “Be a GM” mode still allows you to take control over every aspect of the team and its minor league counterpart. Contract negotiating here is the simplest out of all the other EA games making with the exception of having prospects worth double the amount as some seasoned vets that are above the potential of these third and fourth round draft picks.
The biggest addition to the game is the same annoying yet fun game introduced by Madden 10, the Ultimate Team. In this mode, like every other EA Sports game available, you buy cards of players and those players make up a rag-tag team you can play others with. NHL has its own leagues in which you can play by team ability and skill level. However, this mode’s main problem is that you can buy cards for real money, taking away the reward of work from those who actually play the game.
This is NHL 11 in a nutshell, not quite perfect but the best available thing out there. Keep looking ahead at The Community as I will eventually have an article for NHL franchise tricks.