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NHL 11 Demo Review

Previously on, Jeremy and I spent time with Joe Nickolls from EA Sports talking about NHL SlapShot for Wii.  Today, I’m going to focus on the bread and butter of the EA Sports hockey franchise, NHL 11.

EA Sports released the demo for NHL 11 on August 17th for Xbox 360 and Playstation 3.  Regardless of which system you prefer, this game brought many new features for gamers, as well as tweaking the existing framework.  I’m amazed at how this game can still be fresh as EA Sports celebrates the franchise’s 20th anniversary.

Here are a few high points from the demo…

Battle for the Cup: Game 7 of the 2010 Stanley Cup Finals. Philadelphia vs Chicago in the United Center.
Quick simulation mode kicks in to start the game, Chicago will be up one goal after two periods.  You begin game play in the 3rd.  Do you play as the favorite Blackhawks, and try to keep a lead?  Or do you take the route of the underdog, and try to make the miraculous comeback for the Flyers?  You have one period of game play to determine a winner.

One period of hockey allows you to try the new face-off mechanics (including the fantastic camera angles), as well as adjust to a somewhat different feel from NHL 10.  I can best describe the game play as having more of an arcade touch, but without being gimmicky.  Momentum-based checks feel amped up a bit, and it’s noticed in the demo.  Revamped physics regarding momentum, adjusted hip-check controls, and more precise puck control really stood out after playing this game mode multiple times.

Hockey Ultimate Team: New for NHL 11, this mode is best compared to an Online Dynasty.  You receive a pack of trading cards (kids, ask your parents about those) which determine your players, jerseys, arena, logos, and even the options to train your players.  Applying ‘consumables’ to your players (increased stats), allow you to build up the prospects that come in as part of the deck.

Once your lineup is set, you can jump into a tournament mode and play with your team.  Opponents you will face are Memorial Cup winner Windsor Spitfires, Stanley Cup Final participants Philadelphia and Chicago, and if you’re so lucky, Olympic Gold Medal winners Team Canada.

Multiple plays in this game mode have impressed me.  A deck of cards has contained Predators 2010 draft pick Austin Watson, as well as a future hall-of-famer like Nicklas Lidstrom.  Random doesn’t begin to describe how the decks could play out for you.  One feature on this mode that sticks out is “Chemistry View” when setting your lineup.  If you have players from the same team, play a player in their natural position, or match the league that players play in, you’ll notice a bump in chemistry.  This translates to on-the-ice performance with the line.

Overall, it’s another solid improvement for the team at EA Sports.  NHL 11 drops in stores on September 7th, and there are pre-order perks from GameStop. hopes to start Online Leagues for both 360 and PS3, stay tuned for that.

See you online!