The NHL-series has a place within all of us, no matter our gaming preferences or favorite sports. We've all enjoyed EA Sports' hockey escapades at some point during our lives and for the hardcore-fans the wait for this year's installment has been terribly long. We've been promised more news than ever, the hype has never let up.
NHL 09 was the best hockey game in ages, and the differences between that game and NHL 10 were small. EA Canada had been working on the passing system, introduced a first person view during fights and poked around with the tackles. With NHL 11 a few things have been added to the mix, but it's mostly the same. You'll have to lie to yourself if you want to make out NHL 11 as some form of revolution in the hockey genre, because it really isn't. NHL 11 is polished, tweaked and better, sure - but for the uninitiated player this might as well have been the same game, but with better looking menus.
You have to scratch the surface, you really have to get into NHL 11 to see the small changes that EA Sports have made. The biggest change is that the tackles are no longer based on each player's individual animation, but instead of a newly developed physics engine.
That means that the tackles in NHL 11 both look and feel more realistic, and that the sudden animation stops are fewer and more far between. It's also easier to decide if you're going to tackle high or low, which feels welcome. The game flows better, it feels more alive, more organic and much more natural to cruise across the ice this year. The physics engine also helps when shooting and creates a feeling for the game better than any previous hockey game from EA Sports.
The second best change is the AI, this year the players behave much more believable, make smarter decisions and offers a much more realistic hockey than before. Passing is now made by lifting the finger from the button, instead of pressing it down, which means that you can put more power into passing or shooting. The face-offs have also been improved in NHL 11 and you can now choose which stance to stand in and you can now push against or block the player you're facing off against.
Graphically, NHL 11 is of course the best looking hockey game from EA Sports so far. The graphics engine is not as the best in the world, there are times when the players look like pale zombies, but in general NHL 11 looks really, really good. The presentation has been overhauled and has a much better structure this time around.
The game has a lot to thank the realtime-based physics system for. Together with hundreds of different teams, tons of gaming modes and good graphics, NHL 11 is another great hockey game from EA. NHL 2K has really dropped behind the last couple of years and NHL 11 is much more dynamic and polished that NHL 2K11. NHL 11 is a pleasure to play and a fantastic sport game.