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Some thoughts on the recently released NHL '11 demo

Aug 19, 2010, 2:30 PM EDT

EA Sports recently released a demo for its upcoming game NHL ’11 on both the X-Box 360 and Playstation 3, which is set to release on September 7. I thought I’d pass along a few notes about the small sample of the company’s popular hockey title.

  • Now, I haven’t played a TON of the demo yet, but I didn’t see a broken stick just yet. That, to me, indicates that the new “feature” probably won’t occur too often in the final game. Obviously, the jury is still out on that one, though. I’m on record of saying that it’s not the greatest idea, even if it is a commendable attempt at simulating the real-life game.
  • It seems that my bread-and-butter one-timers have either been vetted or I just need to change my timing on the evil goal scoring play. If the programmers indeed made the game’s artificial intelligence strong enough to thwart that move, I’m in big digi-trouble.
  • I was worried the new faceoff system would be really clunky, but to EA’s credit, it seems like they know how to integrate changes pretty well. (They did a great job of adding “board play” last year, although I think that you could argue it was almost a bit too “magnetized.”) Instead of being clunky, it appears that the changes will simply give players more option in the circle. Again, these are early observations, but so far so good.
  • The game looks fine, although it only looks a tad bit shinier than any X-Box 360 NHL game. The series really hasn’t gotten much of a face lift since NHL ’08, really.
  • One interesting addition is “The Ultimate Hockey League.” The finer points of the new mode are a bit complex, but you basically collect “player cards” to build an online team that depends on chemistry and development to improve and grow. I’m not sure how easily troublemakers will be able to cheat its system, but if it is balanced well, it could be an addictive distraction for people who prefer playing a traditional team vs. team game rather than the “Be a Pro” setup of following a single position player. 
  • While I didn’t notice an enormous difference in the physics of the game right away, it could be a nice improvement from the predictable puck movement of previous titles.

So, my gut reaction is to say that NHL ’11 will be an improved title but whether or not it justifies a purchase – especially for people who already own NHL ’10 – remains to be seen. Stick with Pro Hockey Talk this summer as we’ll keep following all the latest hockey video game news.

  1. Lenny - Aug 19, 2010 at 3:31 PM

    ive played the demo a couple times and have had my stick broken more than once…it breaks in half and lays on the the ice and can be an obstacle and you need to skate around it. it doesnt get taken off the ice until play stops. you can either skate around with no stick get one from a teammate or off the bench. there are new goalie animations with different saves and the hitting is greatly improved as well. so many different animations on body checks depending on where you hit the guy. another thing i liked is the crowd. on the demo you hear loud cheers when playing at home and you level a guy with huge body check. also in the last minute the crowd stand on its feet and goes crazy waving towels and taking their pants off…jk bout the pants. the gameplay does look exactly the same from an offensive standpoint but there is a few minor additions with deeks and stick handling. overall looks pretty sweet, and i will be buying it on the 7th

  2. robert - Aug 19, 2010 at 6:25 PM

    In my limited time with the demo, i’ve come across a few broken sticks and one guy who had his stick knocked out of his hands somehow. I haven’t played the game “standard” since they introduced the Be A Pro, but I really like the EA Ultimate Hockey League mode.

  3. Mike - Aug 20, 2010 at 8:59 AM

    The gameplay is a bit smoother but it’s really hard to tell too much from the demo because you can’t tweek the gameplay options. Until i can play the real thing at the store I’ll not judge it much. I’ve had one stick break and it was with 15 secs left, down by one on a break away with briere. That ticked me off but that can happen in real life when you flex your stick too much. i think it’ll make the game more challenging. the hitting it much much improved and looks better. the hitting no longer looks like to stones being thrown together but an actual hit where speed and puck control is lost. Again, it’s a touch of realism that will make the game more difficult and fun.
    I would like to see EA make some new animations pre and post game, three years of the same stuff is too long.

  4. redwingsguy - Aug 23, 2010 at 4:25 PM

    This is what we thought of NHL 11:
    http://bit.ly/aF56n1

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