NHL 2K11 Review (Wii)
2K Sports made one of the more interesting decisions this past offseason by shelving the 360 and PS3 versions of their NHL series but also keeping the Wii version on the release schedule. While there has not been any official confirmation, Take Two CEO Ben Feder has indicated that NHL 2K12 will find its way to the 360 and PS3.
But for now, 2K hockey fans have NHL 2K11 on the Wii.
NHL 2K11 attempts to improve the controls and the overall experience of last year's Wii version. The game features a plethora of modes, although veterans of the series will instantly recognize most of the offerings here. While the game is far from good, it does offer the only attempt at a "true" hockey simulation experience on the Wii and might satisfy some puckheads who do not have access to a 360 or a PS3.
NHL 2K11 utilizes Wii MotionPlus controls for most of its new features this year on the ice. There are new controls for deking, which are a bright spot in the game. To deke, you basically hold down the D-pad and make the appropriate motions on the remote, which feels pretty good.
You can also juggle the puck with the MotionPlus controls, which is also another very well done feature in the game. However, the gameplay begins to break down after that.
Shooting is an exercise in frustration. Trying to get the right shot off is very tough at times, and trying to get rebound shots to register sometimes resulted in me wildly moving my arms around after the initial shot motion did not work. The main problem with the shooting controls is the inconsistency of control they provide. Sometimes they work, but other times you won't shoot no matter how much you try.
Prepare for frustration.
You can decide to utilize the classic-controller option, and you can avoid the annoyances from the Wii MotionPlus control scheme. In that case, the controls are tighter, and you can avoid some of the shortfalls with shot control.
However, there are trade offs since the classic controls are a throwback to a time when hockey control just was not where it's at today in titles on the other current-generation consoles. So while you do avoid the frustration of inconsistent shots, you lose the ability to control the puck as effectively as before.
It's almost like 2K intentionally wanted to frustrate gamers.
Hardcore puckheads will find a lot wrong with the goalie mechanics as well. As a casual hockey fan, I did not find the unrealistic handling of goalie behavior to be a huge turn off. But make no mistakes, the goalie play is a big flaw.
If you are not a fan of spoilers, do not read the rest of this paragraph. (You've now been warned.) For those that stuck around, know that circling the net and then shooting is a guaranteed goal every time.
Control of players on the ice is not atrocious, but that's about the best compliment I can give it. It's hard for me to describe, but the physics are sometimes off when you attempt to turn a player on the ice. I think it's because the controls are slow to respond, so it's almost like there is a slight delay.
For instance, on defense you end up in situations where your players will not turn around. Those periods of lost control can result in giving up goals where you feel cheated, which also happened to make me want to chuck a controller or two around the room. Sometimes you will turn just after you needed to as well, and, oh hey look at that, I'm suddenly back to throwing the controller across the room.
A good playing hockey game out of the box NHL 2K11 is not.
Customization, Modes, Other Stuff
There is some good news. There are some areas where NHL 2K11 is not so bad.
Customization of the game via sliders allows you to correct some of the flaws with the AI. Getting a good slider set can improve the game somewhat, making the gameplay go from bad to passable. However, do not count on turning NHL 2K11 into a superstar.
Another thing NHL 2K11 does right is that it gives you a lot to do -- so long as you have not played previous versions of the game. The season and franchise modes do not perform too well when it comes to simulation results and AI team management, which probably should not come as a surprise. I can't recall many Wii games that have done that portion of a franchise mode well.
It also should be mentioned that rosters are very inaccurate, which is a huge buzzkill for NHL fanatics.
Road to the Cup is a well done mode, featuring various mini-games in a board game type of format. Something like that mode would be quite interesting to have in the bigger sports games at some point because I feel like the mini-games are a huge bright spot for the game. The only drawback is that the mode is way too short and probably should be able to be customized to a desired length.
You can also play pond hockey and mini-rink mode, which is like NHL 3 on 3 Arcade.
There are plenty of online options, including online leagues or teams. However, the lag is so bad that the online modes are unusable on any connection.
It's a shame that the gameplay is not better because the number and quality of the modes are more indicative of a higher quality title. If you can stomach some of the game's drawbacks, you will find a lot to do here. However, hardcore puckheads will be turned off by the game's flaws, and casual users have better options on the console. Even if you are a hardcore 2K puckhead, you will not find any reason to buy this game when you can get a better game (NHL 2K10) on the shelf for less than half the cost.
On the Ice: NHL 2K11 is mostly a lot of bad mixed with some small pieces of good. Hardcore fans will find plenty to hate, and casual fans will find the gameplay not accessible and easy to control enough.
Graphics: The game has some bright spots graphically. Faces are sometimes well done and lighting is good. Overall, a pretty standard Wii fare.
Sound Design: Audio is pretty average, so there's nothing here that will blow you away.
Entertainment Value: There are a ton of modes, so if you can stand the gameplay, you'll find a lot to do.
Learning Curve: It won't take you very long to get going with NHL 2K11. The real question is, how long will you last?
Online: There are plenty of options, but the lag kills any chance of playing online. You won't get a game in without major lag -- if you finish at all.
Score: 4.5 (Below Average)