NHL 11 REVIEW
Welcome viewers to my second review, which hopefully, having taken on board all your comments on the first review – mainly it was too long ( I got excited guys, okay!!!)- will be much improved and easier to digest! I thought seeing on how NHL 12 was released relatively recently, and that I am planning on investing in it and doing a review, we could have a nostalgic look back to it’s predecessor, and then contrast in what will be my third review. Enjoy
As I’m aware that most of you readers are not massive Ice Hockey fans, I thought I would start with a wee cheeky introductionary explanatory thing!
“I went to a fight the other night and a hockey game broke out” – Rodney Dangerfield
To the untrained eye of someone who isn’t a hockey follower, at times, this is what the game can be seen as – just a bunch of guys brawling on ice. Infact, Ice hockey is a highly skilled sport and is much like my own beloved Shinty, in that it receives bad press for being “mental”, “ brutal” and “lethal” to quote some of the terms I’ve heard being used. Wait, I hear you cry… Ice Hockey clearly is mental? The big hits, the fights… well yes granted, but on the whole it’s a gentlemanly sport…ish!
I was going to follow this up with a wee bit about the rules and stuff, but at the risk of being lazy, I shall post a link to wikipedia where you can indulge in the rules at your own leisurely pace! If I posted all the rules etc, the review would end up too long, and I’m sure we all don’t want that.
At the end of my piece I’ll put in a few key words that I use throughout and explain them.
So now that my little and somewhat pointless introduction to Ice Hockey down to the game produced by the great developers that are EA.
As discussed in my last article, it’s the little intriquite things that make the game seem more realistic, and EA certainly added a lot of new intriquite detail. The broken sticks were apparently a highly requested feature. Although somewhat annoying that in the game, when taking a shot your stick can snap, this is something that occurs in an actual game, and so it is a nice little feature. After the stick has snapped the player can either skate to the bench for a new one, change lines, or play on without, which is pretty cool, as your player will resort to kicking the puck etc.
An updated physics engine was also added to NHL11, making the stick work with the puck more realistic, and of course the hits. You really do feel as though you are in control of the puck, and commanding the player. Especially when you can use the right analogue stick for tidy little dekes, and close control. The passing in the game has also been improved. Previous games have seen a simple tap the pass button routine, however this game introduces a passing system where you have to actually aim, and produce the required power in the pass, again allowing the user to feel more in control of the game. One of the new hitting features is that of the hip check, which can be used to devastating effect, and is a great feature. Although when playing online it is annoying when all the little noobs just hip check you all the time, even in unrealistic situations, which hopefully the manufacturers have sorted out for NHL12. The penalty calls are also more realistic and up to date than they were before, seeing you more likely to be penalised for realistic calls such as boarding and game misconducts for checking from behind!
Another aspect of the in game features that was improved is the face offs. Like the passing, previous franchise games have seen a simple tap the pass button at the right time to win the face off, however NHL11 introduces a whole new realistic face-off style. You need to select when your player puts the stick on the ice, forehand or backhand, when to flick your stuck to try and win possession of the puck, and you can control the movement of the player.
Overall I’d say NHL11 is much improved on the strategic front. The game feels more realistic, with player roles coming more into play than beforehand. For example in previous games it was possible to just acquire a team of wee skinny fast guys, but now enforcers, two-way forwards and the like are just as important. Also famous ice hockey tactics, such as the dump and chase , the cycle, the power play, and the goalie screen are used much more regularly again making the feel of the game more realistic. I’ve scored many a goal in this game by getting shots from the point and having a screen or someone tip the puck in front of the goals. I’d also say that the computer AI system has been improved so that the computer will also incorporate a lot of these plays into the game, making it more challenging and realistic to play.
Just little simple things, like the in game commentary, and animations during stoppages of play are really cool. And of course the players and teams were up to date for the start of the 2010-2011 regular season.
Now to the game play modes! Most of the big improvements seem to have gone into the Ultimate Team mode, which is pretty much identical to the system seen in FIFA, where you have a team in the form of cards, and you have to play to improve your team through acquiring higher rated cards etc. It’s quite fun, although it does really help if you are familiar with Ice Hockey, as it can be tricky manoeuvring and knowing what all the cards do.
In my opinion the best mode to play would be either the Be a Pro, or the General Manager (GM) mode!
Be a pro is great fun. You start with a player in the college league, and you need to progress and improve to try and get drafted into the NHL team, and then if you can remain there, without getting sent down to the minors. In-play itself is really realistic, as you’re directed to where you should be on the ice, and when it is not your lines shift, you sit on the bench and watch the action, and the coach gives you feedback on how you’re playing. The whole sitting on the bench watching part I’m sure some folk will find boring, but as a hockey fan, I think it’s pretty cool.
The General Manager mode is really where it’s at! Select your team, and managerial skill level, and then try and play your way to the Stanley Cup Finals. You can select to have the team roster as default and have the real players, or participate in a fantasy draft, where pretty much any team can have any player. (Think of Blackburn Rovers having Wayne Rooney- in football terms). In this mode you also get to draft the next batch of up and coming stars, which is quite fun too, picking and choosing the young players who you think will progress to be hits in the NHL. Warning!!! Inexperience leads to you drafting – to put it crudely- a pile of mince!!! But when you draft well, it’s good to see the players progressing to the top team. You feel kind of like a proud father. Well, if you get into the game, like I did. ( I had a wee tear in my eye when O. Ekman Larsson, won the award for top defender the year after drafting him… Go on my son!)
The creation mode is great fun too, you can make your own team, or your own player, and put yourself in the game, and add in a few cheeky wee scars to make yourself look like a right bruiser!
As promised here is a wee cheeky glossary so all you rookies out there can understand the terms I’ve used.
Puck – The wee rubber disk that the players hit about. Basically a substitute for a ball
Dekes ( *Deeks*) – A wee skill move where the player drags the pug side to side with his stick
Hip Check – As it says on the tin, a player hitting another, leading with his Hip, often resulting in meaty collisions.
Penalty – Where a player is sent off for a period of time and has to sit in the sin bin.
Face-Offs – The means of how a game is started and restarted. Where the referee or linesman drops the puck and 2 players contend for it.
Enforcers – Basically Roy Keane, stands up for his team, puts in big tackles, winds up the opposition and gets in fights.
Minors – Kind of a reserve league where all the diddies and young guys play, until called up to the NHL team.
Lines – As ice hockey is a fast paced game, the players change all the time. Normally, in an NHL team, you have 4 lines of 3 attackers, and 3 lines of 2 defenders. ( Ice hockey – except for when your team has a penalty- is played with 5 players on the ice, plus a goalie at any one time!)
All in all, I’d say NHL11 is a good fun game to play, with enough depth in it to satisfy the hardcore ice hockeyers among us, but with enough fun about it to satisfy Joe Blogs. A very good game, but needs a bit of improvement in areas to progress it to the elite level of gaming!
Also for any of the keen ice hockey followers situated in or around the Glasgow Area, I’d advise getting yourself along to see the Braehead Clan on a Saturday Night, playing at the Braehead Arena. ( Pretty much go in the main entrance and walk to the KFC, and you’ll see the crowd) The Clan are a new team, only in their second year, but exceeded expectations last season, nearly making it to the playoffs, and this season they look to have a very strong team, with their first line being one of the top scoring points wise in the league. On their game, the Clan are more than a match for the all the teams in the league, and overall I’d say they are probably around the 4th or 5th best team in the league. The team are mainly Canadian imports, but there are 3 or 4 young Scottish players in the side, a few Englishmen, an American and a Finn. A great night awaits, and with Kyle Bruce’s big hits and fights, the skill of Jade Galbraith, and the superb goaltending of Jaakko Suomalianen, there’s certainly something for all the family!