2K Sports decided to put their NHL 2K series on pause for the Xbox 360 and PS3 this year, leaving EA’s NHL 11 as the lone puck on the ice in the hockey arena this year. They’re still putting out a Wii version, but hardcore hockey and Nintendo’s lovable little console-that-could mix about as well as oil and water. Whoops, too soon? What this boils down to is that EA could have easily skated by with just a few roster updates and new artwork for the box with NHL 11. But instead, they’re adding innovations and proving that they’ve been listening to the fans.
NHL 11 features a completely new physics engine that replaces canned animations with realism, meaning your player won’t crash into the boards after a check the same way each time. The development team at EA Canada was inspired by the realistic punching in Fight Night Round 4 and decided to adopt a similar approach. Speaking of punching, fighting will still be in the game, although according to producer Sean Ramjagsingh, it will be authentic to the sport. Which, according to my informal office poll, is the number one reason to watch hockey.
The game will have much-improved face-off control, offering players several different grips, as well as actual stick control during those moments with the right thumbstick. Also new to the game this year will be the addition of the entire 60-team Canadian Hockey League, as well as the most-requested feature from players: broken sticks. Now you can break sticks, and heads, as much as the game will allow. Our experience with the title was very limited, as they were just showing off the upgraded physics and the face-off controls, but the checks, dodges, leaps, and charges felt very satisfying, especially when you knocked someone on their ass.
We’ll be looking forward to taking a team through three periods and seeing how the game holds up.