Every year EA Sports drops the NHL series, and every year they seem to receive some sort of video-game sports award. It's always a solid game, but we wanted to explore how well the game holds up under certain conditions, such as with a girlfriend in the room, while drinking, or being hungover.
First, here's what's changed in the new edition:
Physics Engine: Epic, it actually feels like you're skating fluidly, which may come off as 'slow' at the start. The game is less jittery which tends to make breaking out and setting up plays a lot crisper.
Hitting: The physics engine directly translates to body checks. Take Chara and move the right stick against the boards on someone like St. Louis: destruction.
Broken Sticks: Supposedly the most-called for addition by fans this year, but why? Sure, composite sticks break, but not as much as they are portrayed in NHL 11. The game allows you take a teammate's stick or pick up your own, definitely a realistic feel. Cool feature but happens a little too much.
CHL Teams: Kids in the Canadian Hockey League already check the oil of every puck sl*t across Canada, so they might as well be in a video game. Awesome addition that will allow fans to preview incoming draft prospects by playing with their team.
Online Mode: I put in countless hours of NHL 10 playing 13 year olds in Canada and teaching them new words for p*ssy. However, after every whistle there was too much time to be able to face-wash an opponent, pick fights, etc. It added easily six minutes to game play. In NHL 11, however, it's shorter and you can pick play strategies before the game, which might hinder a goal within the first few minutes.
Face-offs: This was hugely needed, now you can push the puck forward or back, shoot off the draw, and even tie up your opposing center so a winger can come in. Gone are the days of winning a faceoff to no one.
Trading Engine: Not a huge deal, but now you can make five-person trades. I managed to get rid of Drury, Redden (please leave the Rangers), Rozsival, Boogard, and Dubinsky for a core of way better players across the league.
“Ultimate Team”: Basically NHL 11 lets you design your perfect team. The system is done with trading cards as a way of organization. It is an interesting feature and allows you to make amazing line combos: Gvechkin, Gaborik, Crosby. In my opinion it's card system is sloppy; it's annoying to have to flip through every card to find players.
So how does NHL 11 hold up in various situations you might find yourself in?
While Boozing: Video games and fratty light go hand-in-hand, sometimes even literally. How easy is it to play with a bunch of friends? It's not horrible, but you will want to play with kids who know the basics of one of the past NHL versions. Going online with zero experience would suck, but it is possible. At beer seven I started playing with the London Knights (of the OHL) against the Penguins: I donned a headset, slurred, and ultimately decided Sidney Crosby can use my balls as mouthwash. Beer nine prompted me to get a social life and try to slay some sundress girls in Murray Hill.
Pre-gaming: The best pre-game out there, hands down. Everyone gets into the game and there are numerous drinking games you can create around it: drinks for goals, penalties, short-handed goals, wins, losses, etc. NHL does not require play picking like Madden so it can be played during a pre-game.
Girls in the room: Usually I would say, sack up and pay attention to the girls. But son, that's poor form, the good guy who showers a girl with conversation never is the one checking her oil at 3 a.m. It's the guy playing the video game, casually making conversation (“what sorority are you in?”) who emerges the late-night hero. Be legendary, which does not necessarily mean be nice.
Hungover: Life moves slowly while hungover. I smell like a frat basement and I cannot stand loud noises. NHL 11 is a top-notch hangover cure. I took Derek Boogard of the Rangers and picked a fight with every player on the Capitals (biggest fair-weather fans in the NHL). I smiled, popped Advil, and then started firing off “come over?” texts to 6 “go-to” girls. Life was good.
Dipping: Sound off in the comments, my gums are off the citrus elixir.
OVERALL: The NHL franchise only needs minor changes every year to keep its core consumers coming back. This year was the largest improvement since the addition of the stick in 2007. The gameplay feels authentic and players are way more intuitive. Goalies rarely make the same mistake twice (less glitchy), and it seems like computer teammates are not totally retarded anymore. Little features like being able to hold down pass as you skate and read the ice (then release it for a harder pass) are awesome. This is a game that lasts through the year.