NHL 11 Review: Xbox 360

Over the past year, I played a good amount of NHL 10 - not as much as I used to in high school as I became a little busier at college, but still a good amount. The online play was solid, per usual, and we actually ended up playing a lot of 2 on 2 once the winter hit amongst my group of friends. Over the past couple of years, as I've slowly become busier, I've lost interest in the Be a GM and Be a Pro partly because of the greatness of online play. Something about actually playing another human being and having the ability to embarrass him or her is much more satisfying than beating a computer wide and taking it to the rack. So what have I been looking forward to so much the past couple of months? It wasn't broken sticks; let's try the Ultimate Team mode.

Follow me after the jump for the good, decent, and bad of a game that I waited in line at Wal-Mart at midnight for half an hour. For the record, I'm sure it was much worse in other places. My roommates waited for at least two hours at the same Wal-Mart last fall for COD 6. Plus, I want some other opinions as well...

The Good

  • Ultimate Team Mode: I'll just get it out of the way now - this is what I'm going to be playing 75 % of my game time. It's like fantasy hockey but you actually get to play the games. It doesn't lack depth, and if you play a lot of online and also have a little GM in you give this mode a try. I still haven't made a trade or figured out all the intricacies yet, but that's a good sign to me.
  • The Dangles: Control of the puck has never been better in my opinion, and that's good news for any regular NHL guy. Although the main move is still the jump-dangle where the puck is left off the stick, the ability to effectively toe-drag is now well alive if you can control your speed. With that added in the game many people are screwed online when they play me now.
  • Graphics/Game Atmosphere: An upgrade from last year as always, the looks didn't disappoint this year. A little tip that makes the game more intense (if you're playing it after a night of bible studies...); turn down Gary Thorne and Bill Clement and turn everything inside the arena up. Then turn the TV up if you can. Slightly juvenile, but I have fun anyways so whatever.
  • Broken Sticks/User Celebrations (aka Usie Cele's): I was worried that every time I took a slapper the stick would break; but that's not the case. And much like FIFA the first year of user-celebrations are simple and crude but it's a good start and I'd rather have them then not have them. Be quick after you score though.

  • Goal Reviews: I was playing my third official game with my Ultimate Team when I got scored on by a very high tip-in. I had completely forgotten that they added this to the game this year, and to my straight amusement the ref skated in, waved it off, and then confirmed it with the boys in Toronto on the headset. Great ‘effin addition to the game even though it won't occur very often.

The Decent

  • Taking the Body: When I first played the demo I was a bit turned off by this as there was no real fair warning that this was going to change; but after playing the full game for a couple of days before the release I'm pretty impressed with it now. It will take some getting used to and the casual player might not really like it, but the results of a big hit are great. Also, the inclusion of the hip-check is fantastic, but in the end they are really hard to land (especially online).

  • Fighting: It's still grab your guy and start wailing (there's no jockeying or ducking from my parts, apparently), but it's a bit longer and having a black eye if you get into a previous fight later in the game is cool.
  • Game Speed/Penalties: I understand that EA is going for realism as that's how all of us fans want it to be, but there's also a reason why even life-long hockey players are amazed at how fast the game is when you get down to the front row of an NHL arena. Offline myself and friends have turned the game speed on this year's game up to one notch before all the way up, and even then it feels a bit slow. It's tough for me to go back and play online after that, as it feels even slower. Also, penalties are a bit too much in my opinion. I always like the feel of playoff hockey where teams get away with a little. In the end though it's nothing to bitch about too much.
  • The Stick-Lift: Hate it or Love it, the stick lift is here to stay after two years. I thought what they did with it this year was ok, as the penalty calls are back up and it's not always a guarantee that you'll have the puck after a successful lift. It's realistic both ways this year (If you really watch forwards entering the zone in real life, many of us lift our sticks and just shield with the body; thus preventing the lift) and I guess I can live with that. I put it down here in the decent area because it's just annoying sometimes.

The Bad

  • Split-Screen Shootout Gone: Many dislike this amongst my friends, but I loved it. The view from behind the net if you're the goalie is the one you want, in my opinion.
  • Back-door Angles: The back-door pass goal is still the easiest way to score (as it is in real life, I guess), but some of the angles that the goals go in on are sketchy as always. More pet peeve than bad gaming, I suppose.

I couldn't find much bad here because this game is just sick; end of story. That's why it wins awards. Post your GT in the comments if you're looking for games. Let's hear what you guys think on all aspects, because as I said to my buddies yesterday: Hockey season is now basically here. Note: I'd put my gamertag up by my younger brother took the xbox to school this year.