NHL 11 reviewed by GamesMediaPro

EA release the latest in the NHL franchise and leaves the competition scurrying for cover!

With a whole host of new features and the best gaming contained in a hockey title on any format, EA have swept away their rivals in one fell swoop with the launch of the year’s top ice hockey game.

Once more the time has arrived when EA Canada brings to the table their latest creation for the world of Ice Hockey, and once again the multi-award winning developers have grabbed the headlines and the accolades with their newest offering, NHL 11.

Considering that this has been a bumper harvest of EA Sports titles already this year with most recently Madden NFL 11 sweeping the competition aside with ease in the American Football genre, it was always an odds on favourite that EA Canada were going to do the same thing when they released their big hitter in the ice hockey market, NHL 11.

But did they listen to their fan’s? Did they listen to the impassioned cries of the countless gamers who follow the game like devoted puppies? The answer, we are pleased to be able to tell you, is an undoubted ‘Yes!‘ on all fronts.

Electronic Arts really re having a bounty year as far as title releases are concerned. But considering that we aren’t even at the end of September and we still have a plethora of diverse titles to choose from, with more still to come, is a true testament to the depth of quality in all departments at EA’s powerhouse development studio’s. This wealth of genius and talent can best be demonstrated with the latest title to be released by EA in the ice hockey extravaganza, NHL 11.

A title that has come on leaps and bounds in recent years and has sen many changes being utilised by the development teams. But this years offering has to be the ‘Jewel in the Crown’ of the critically acclaimed EA Canada. A complete rebuild of the game using the brand new physics engine adopted by the developers has brought a new and far grittier edge to the sports title, and with the new physics has come even more realistic graphical content as well as far superior and sharper gameplay. As anyone who has ever watched or played Ice Hockey in real life can confirm, this is not a game for the faint hearted, nor is it a game for people who have the reflexes of a tortoise. This can now all be counted as true for lovers of the gaming version of the sport thanks to the dedication of the man and women behind the scenes at EA.

The new engine allows for a gaming experience that we have never before felt from a sporting title, and if truth be told we were quite taken aback by just how realistic the action on the ice was. The gameplay that is now available is so sharp and so fast that at times it is almost like you want to just sit back on the sofa and congratulate your teammates on the ice for playing so well. But the congratulations really ought to go to the developers for allowing the artificial intelligence to play and perform at the same level as the person using the controller. Gone are the days of skating sheep that just aimlessly plodded after an opponent, or rival team members that would just get trapped behind goals or nonchalantly stand whistling as the tried to attract the attention of a sidelines vendor for a ‘corn dog.’

The new physics engine has revolutionised the world of the ice hockey game for players, and it doesn’t just end there as the NHL 11 is packed from beginning to end with new features  and better experiences than ever before.

Another fantastic new addition that has cropped up already in slightly varying guises in all of EA Sports other titles this year, and NHL 11 is no exception, is the use of the new Ultimate format. In NHL 11 it is known as the EAUHL, or to give it its full title, the Electronic Arts Ultimate Hockey League. As in other recent EA titles players are able to collect ‘cards‘ for there lower classed starting team and as they play through matches and season’s they will, hopefully, accrue points and in-game ‘coins’ that are then used to purchase better and more talented players with which they will then be able to use as they attempt to construct the Ultimate team. Those of a more ‘impatient’ nature can, of course, go along to the EA Store and can, using real life cash, purchase higher classed cards, or players, with which they will build their Ultimate team. These teams will then be available for the player to play both on and offline with.

There are also the more well-known modes for players to enjoy, as well as the return of old favourites such as Be A Pro’, ‘Be A GM’, ‘Tournament’,Season’ and of course no NHL title would be complete without the much-loved ‘Play Off Mode.’ All of the aforementioned modes benefit enormously from the advanced physics of the awesome new engine that EA Canada have put to fantastic use in NHL 11. The Be A Pro mode is now especially enjoyable thanks to the new engine as when you now create your own player and take him through the season you really get a feel for just how much your players attributes and skills are upgraded as you gain experience and class over the coming games and tournaments. The controls are just so much sharper and assist the game in every mode that we cannot help returning to praise them time and again during this review. Very few titles this year truly feel like they have been improved upon with any marked differences over their previous entities other than NHL 11.

For newcomers to the NHL titles there is nothing for you to fear here as EA‘s premier hockey title has a fantastic learning curve  that allows for you to take the game at your own pace without being taught the basics through the tutorials and then thrown to the wolves in Be A Pro or one of the other excellent modes. Gamers can approach the title at their speed, and though it make take some time, as it did for us when we first began to play ice hockey titles, to get to grip’s with some of the moves and terminology, we are more than confident that after only an hour or two at the controls even total novices to the game will be deke’ing and slapshotting into the net with the best of them.

Gary Thorne and Bill Clement are back in the commentators booth and the new crowd scenes and chants will have you smiling as they sing along to your new goal celebrations. Being that this is ice hockey there is even the ability to initiate the obligatory punch up against a rival player as you grab their jersey and right hook them into submission as the crumple unceremoniously to the protection of the ice. All in all NHL 11 is by far the best hockey title out there and one that has sent the competition scurrying for cover as they rethink the matter and are probably best advise to opt for another sport as EA have the hockey side of things completely sewn up.

Graphics: The addition of the new physics and engine has seen EA turn NHL 11 into the true powerhouse that we knew it always could be. Looking as sharp as the new gameplay feels it is going to keep fans on the edge of their seats for months to come.    9

Gameplay: Simply the best hockey game out there with no exceptions. Nothing else quite looks or plays like NHL 11 and if this is the future of ice hocky gaming then sign us up.        9

RePlay Value: The online play makes for a huge draw as NHL 11 just keeps on giving once you have completed all the modes that are on offer to you in the single player. The new addition of the EA Ultimate Team League is a major draw for gamers.            9

Presentation: EA have done it again with yet another first-rate title that tops the boards and outclasses anything else in the genre. The way things are going this year is going to be a total clean sweep at the Joystick Awards from the developers.    9

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