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One thing that should be added, subtracted from NHL '11 (Part I)

Jun 19, 2010, 6:40 PM EDT

stickbreaks.jpgNo doubt about it, one of the best ways to get through the hockey-free summer is to play (and wait for upcoming) hockey video games. The most popular series is EA’s “NHL” games with NHL ’11 coming in September. As we await its release, I thought I’d discuss some features I’d like to see in the game and some I wish were thrown out in the development cycle.

This could be a short-lived series or it could go a little further. That all depends on what kind of responses it receives; if you’d like to see something taken out (or added) to the game, please let us know in the comments. Apologies, also, to all non-dorks out there.

One thing I’d love to see in NHL ’11: “icon” passing/defensive switches

When I play defense in NHL ’10, I feel my inner Ken Hitchcock emerge (if I had a sweet mustache to stroke during intermission breaks, I would). Instead of going for the big hit every time, I wait back like a nerdy polygonal panther and allow my opponent to make a mistake. When I do go for a hit or get aggressive, though, I prefer to take that risk with a forward rather than a defenseman.

That’s where things get a little hairy. You see, there’s no way (that I know of, at least) to switch to the exact player you want on defense. Passing is similar, too; the game decides where you intended to send the puck. Most of the time, it guesses correctly, but when I can’t switch to a forward in a dangerous defensive situation … well, it’s not pretty. Let’s just say I devolve into a 13-year-old kid who used to scream at Video Game Kerry Collins for yet another interception.

The funny thing is that EA is a company that either invented or at least popularized the concept of passing to the exact player you want in the Sega Genesis/SNES “Madden” era. I faintly recall each wide receiver getting his own window with a button assignment in those early days of sprite-based graphics.

It would be a simply change, too. I looked at the game’s controller scheme and saw one button on the controller that rarely (if ever) is used: the “back” button. It’s located to the left of the middle X-Box thing and the start button. Why not allow players to click “select/back” and then choose whom exactly they want to pass to or switch to?

I am but a reasonable man.

One thing I’d like to see removed: Broken sticks

OK, it might not be completely fair to turn my back on this before I see it in action. After all, Electronic Arts really nailed “board play” in NHL ’10, a “realistic” element I was a little weary of.

There’s only one problem: while it adds heightened reality, there’s nothing fun about broken sticks. It’s honestly an annoying issue for the sport itself, but imagine this scenario for a second. You’re on the powerplay in a tie game. Perhaps your friends wagered some money on the outcome. Or maybe your reputation as the coolest person alive is on the line. (All realistic scenarios, naturally.) You find yourself in a great situation for a booming Chris Pronger point shot when – out of nowhere – his stick breaks and the other team scores a shorthanded game-winning breakaway. After you flip over your coffee table, kick your dog and break a controller, you realize that your significant other cannot look you in the eyes anymore. Ultimately, you turn off your console embarrassed and wronged.

Who wants that, huh? Don’t do it, EA. I’m begging you.

  1. Andrew - Jun 19, 2010 at 6:53 PM

    I’m not a big fan of the board play, so I’m not sure how broken sticks will end up. Too many times the player with the puck is about a stride ahead of the defender, yet he gets “sucked into” the board play. The other issue is the “board escape” glitch where a player is about to get hit so he hugs the boards. This makes him untouchable by the defenders and actually avoids poke checks momentarily as well. I’m all for these realistic elements added to the game, but I just hope it doesn’t turn into another way for kids to exploit holes in the game.
    And agreed on the direct player change. Sometimes I want to force a forward to backcheck, but can’t thanks to only 2 players being available for switching players. When opposing forwards bring the puck up along the boards 1 on 2, the weak side D-man tends to pinch up near the red line since his defensive assignment is still in his own defensive end, creating a 1 on 1.
    Okay, time to go find a life for me now.

  2. Jsupreme42 - Jun 19, 2010 at 7:06 PM

    That’s all you came up with? What about a deeper dynasty mode for starters…i.e., restricted and unrestricted FA’s…I think players that don’t get offered enough in the offseason could decide to play in another league like the KHL, etc…more commentary, better crowd graphics, maybe some type of outside shot at the arena your about to play in, steal 2K football’s idea with a pre and/or post game show(highlights/analysis)…milestone tracking for players statistics…better scouting information…some type of trade meter so you know that you’re atleast close so you don’t just blindly make trade offers or the ability for the computer to counter-offer more often…better trophy presentations for the East/West Conf and Stanley Cup…that’s all I got right now…

  3. Anonymous - Jun 20, 2010 at 8:28 PM

    I agree with Jsupreme. A better dynasty mode. Realistic offseasons, unique stadiums (looks, sounds, etc.), better stats, and reactive commentary. Right now all of the commentary feels forced into little blocks. It should adjust to the play, or react differently when the moment is bigger. I think the game should track franchise season and career records. This would allow the player to track progress, as well as compare to true historical records.

  4. gelo - Jun 20, 2010 at 11:24 PM

    amen bro, i luv the dynasty idea, it would be great, and showing the crowd and stadium, but the breaking of sticks is an awsome feature as well. please ea make a better offseason mode!

  5. yeahhh - Jun 21, 2010 at 1:30 AM

    I think the dynasty mode is fine. Of course the comments above would be awesome but what really needs a rehaul is the Be a Pro, and the power play. In be a pro ill play for like 5 games, have like 20 points and yet i still get sent down to the AHL where at that point i try to work up but it gets to boring. They need to have more depth, like post-game interviews if your famous enough, and talks in between intermissions. Actually feel like you are in the pros. The Power Play needs to be fixed totally. I will try to quarterback the point with say Chara. Ill be waiting at the blue line for someone to get open but they just sit there. There should be fluid movements. People setting up. And everytime i try to run the umbrella i can never pass the player at the top of the circles waiting for the one timer because the AI always gets a stick on it. It just gets really fustrating when someone like Stamkos can’t actually score on a PP when you try to feed him a One timer.

  6. Hawks Fan - Jun 21, 2010 at 1:56 AM

    You’ve got a funny personality, and I agree with most of what you say. Broken sticks need to stay though because it’s part of the game.
    EA fans want realism, and if that broken stick costs you the game, then you might want to tell your friends “not” to bet on a video game.

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