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NHL 2K11


Time for some online hockey! Or Not...
Abandoning versions for the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 this year, NHL 2K11 is a Wii-exclusive affair from developer Visual Concepts. No idea why they conceded to Electronic Arts on the Microsoft and Sony consoles, but NHL 11 will be the hockey game for those players. There are a ton of Wii specific features included in the game like Mii players, WiiSpeak compatibility and obviously motion controls. Motion controls have a pretty large learning curve though, but the developer also included support for classic controls for more casual players.



The reason that the motion controls are overly complicated has to do with the coordination of nunchuk / joystick movement as well as a large amount of moves to memorize. Itís also not very accurate in the basic mode and requires the Wii MotionPlus to get a better feel for the game. You have drop passes, open ice dekes, fake shots, puck juggling and other various moves at your disposal. I highly recommend going through all the tutorials and learning the controls. Even after that, you will need to practice heavily to perfect them. As mentioned earlier, you can also default to the classic controls. This is ideal for those who simply want to start playing immediately. One aspect of the motion controls that I disliked was unresponsive players, when changing direction or passing the puck. Too often, I was unable to evade the A.I. due to slow response time from the game.

Regarding game modes, you arenít going to find a huge amount of new content in 2K11. There are the standard exhibition, season and franchise modes as well as some cool additions like pond hockey. However, there is a new mode for younger players this year, Road to the Cup. This mode brings mini-games into the mix in a sort of Simon format to playing games. Miiís battle out hockey themed tasks on ice and compete for top ranking. It can be completed fairly quickly, but is obviously designed for repeat play with friends.



If you are a true hockey fan, you are going to notice an enormous amount of old content in the game. Itís as if the developers didnít want to bother updating rosters / major team changes and hit copy / paste on the assets from last year. Player trades that happened many months ago arenít included, nor are stadium names changes. Stats are identical to the older version as well. Apparently, players in the NHL didnít improve at all last year. This screams of lazy development or at least a very low priority assignment to the Wii version of the game. Some of the player changes can be updated by downloading the roster file from 2K, but doesnít make dramatic changes.

When it comes to online multiplayer, Visual Concepts excels in creating engaging game modes; they just arenít playable. The online lag is horrific and reminds me of the early Dreamcast days. I had more dropped connections and completely missed shots due to laggy connections than any game Iíve played on the Wii. VC did a terrible job creating the infrastructure to support online multiplayer, but Nintendo isnít exactly helpful in that regard. Itís a shame because there are plenty of cool features in the online modes like WiiSpeak inclusion and online leagues. Thereís even a mode that allows each player on the ice to be controlled by a different online player; but it basically unplayable due to lag.



Graphics

  • High Definition graphics are obviously out of the question on the Wii, so the visual quality of the game is definitely a step down from previous 2K games on the 360 and PS3. That being said, the developer did a solid job pushing the Wiiís graphic capabilities to provide excellent detail in character models and smooth animation while on the ice. There are occasional framerate problems, but they donít affect gameplay while in single player mode.

Audio

  • Visual Concepts put together a decent soundtrack for the mid-game interludes. You will hear songs from bands like Alice in Chains and Three Doors Down blaring from the stadium loudspeakers. The on-ice sound effects are also typical to a hockey game, hearing the slicing of the blades across the ice and the excitement of the crowd when a goal is scored. Randy Hahn and Drew Remenda still do a great job with the color commentary as well.

Conclusion

Itís sad to see a version of the NHL 2K series that the developers took such little effort in polishing. I remember a time when hockey fans endlessly debated about which was the better video game hockey franchise, 2K or EA. With the broken online multiplayer, poor attention to current lineups and occasionally unresponsive motion controls, NHL 2K11 takes a big step back in quality from versions from yearís past. You are honestly better off sticking with NHL 2K10 for another year until Visual Concepts works out the kinks in the game for 2K12.

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