Whereas the FIFA and Madden games have improved massively over the past three years or so, the NHL games have always been pretty good. So much so, that it’s evident just by looking at the back of the box that the developers have struggled to think of new features to include for this annual update. A quick rundown of some of the “highlights” – hockey sticks now break, you can pick your own celebration animations and it’s possible to skate backwards and trip over rival players in the process.
So NHL 11 might not feel stunningly fresh, but at least the polish has been applied thickly. If you’ve played FIFA 11 then there will be a sense of familiarity – the menu designs are neigh identical. Even the career mode looks like a re-jigged iteration of the one found in EA’s soccer sim.
The game itself is both fun and accessible…providing you play through the tutorial at the start. Skip it and you’ll certainly struggle. Not unlike a game of pinball, it’s fast paced and requires swift reactions. You can even fight the opposition – in first person, no less – without the ref trying to break up your scuffle.
The hockey ultimate team mode (HUT for short) is very nicely done in particular. It’s based around Top Trumps style playing cards which are used to compile a team and these can be traded and brought online using ‘EA Pucks’ which are awarded for winning games. Or if you’re feeling flush you can whip out your credit card and buy them with your own cash. Like FIFA 11 your own character can be made and taken out on the ice, but unlike FIFA you can’t use a photo of your noggin and put it on your player. I guess this is because they have helmets and face guards on, so it would be a pretty pointless feature.
If you’re in the market for some ice hockey hijinks then by all means get your skates on and make a purchase – as mentioned in the opening paragraph, the NHL series has always been one to rely on. If you’re simply curious though, then you may as well pick up last year’s edition for half the price.