NHL 2K11 review
2KSports has long been the one competitive beacon standing against EA Sports’ offerings in several different sports, including hockey. The balance shifts between the two publisher’s hockey franchises almost every year, with EA’s NHL franchise handily taking last year’s crown for the top hockey game. This prompted 2KSports to go back to the drawing board and rework their franchise, taking a year off from HD consoles and instead focusing on releasing their latest game as a single console experience, putting NHL 2K11 exclusively on the Wii.
Being built as a Wii-exclusive experience, NHL 2K11 doesn’t scrimp when it comes to taking advantage of what the Wii has to offer. The game supports a wide variety of control options, including Wii MotionPlus and the Classic Controller, and as well as other Wii features, like Wii Speak and support for Miis. Unfortunately, the game doesn’t hit the mark nearly as well as it should, as there are substantial issues with the core gameplay. While it’s definitely admirable that the crew at 2KSports took a year off from other consoles to focus on the Wii version, the developer didn’t quite score a hat trick with this year’s entry.
Some elements of the game’s control scheme have gotten some great improvements, while others don’t seem to be nearly as fleshed out as they need to be. Should you own one, the game takes full advantage of the Wii MotionPlus attachment; and that will allows you to perform 1:1 dekes, which are excellently implemented. Puck control is vastly improved with the MotionPlus attachment, letting you move from side to side with ease and even juggle the puck if you have the skills.
However, the rest of the Wii Remote motion functions leave much to be desired. Shooting isn’t nearly as polished, and even with a MotionPlus attachment it unresponsive and not nearly as solid as you’d hope. Slamming your opponent into the boards has the same lag to it, as well, resulting in a lot of missed hits and undue frustration. More traditional players can plug in a Classic Controller for dual stick goodness, a control scheme that feels more comfortable than the Wii Remote, MotionPlus or otherwise.
The game’s modes are typically what you’d expect. There’s standard fare such as a franchise mode, a season, playoffs, and several mini-games, like pond hockey and a mini-rink mode. The new Road to the Cup mode brings even more mini-games and a party atmosphere to the game. You spin a wheel, selecting from a group of mini-games where you’ll have to do things like have a one-on-one shootout, dodge barrels, and so on. Road to the Cup supports Miis, allows for four players at once, and is generally set up for younger players and casual gamers. It can be fun, but don’t expect it to hold your attention for very long.
The game moves along at a fine clip as well, with only a few bouts of slowdown here and there. The player models look solid, and are animated quite well. In addition, NHL 2K11’s sound department is also well done, with acceptable commentary and standard rock tracks from bands like Wolfmother lining out the soundtrack.
Unfortunately, while the game handles well on one console, the experience leaves a lot to be desired online. The game’s online play is choppy and laggy, with huge performance issues that make it quite difficult to play against friends over the net. The performance issues are even more of a shame considering the robust online feature set that 2KSports have provided. The game boasts support for Wii Speak, Online Leagues, and a Team Up mode that has every player controlled by a different person. NHL 2K11 boasts an impressive amount of content online, but is sadly mired by performance issues.
NHL2K11 gets props for taking advantage of the Wii’s bigger bullet points, like Wii Speak and MotionPlus, and for giving the series some focus by being exclusive to one console. However, there are some control issues and laggy online play that truly prevent the game from achieving hockey greatness.