NHL 11: First Hands-On

New physics, huge hits, and broken sticks promise to have a big impact in EA Sports' upcoming hockey game.

Zdeno Chara is prowling the ice like a frost giant who hasn't slept in 72 hours. The towering defenseman for the Boston Bruins is bowed up to his full 6-foot-9-inch height and heading my way with bad intentions in his virtual eyes. I do my best to fake him out with a sweet little deke…but it's too late. Before I know it, my pitiful forward is bowled over and absolutely pasted against the boards--his legs flying into the air, his arms akimbo, and his neck landing at a sickening angle on the ice. NHL 11 producer Sean Ramjagsingh looks over my way, gives me a smile, and begins telling me about the new physics system that's been implemented in the latest hockey game from EA Sports. But all I need to do is look at the splayed form of my power forward on the ice to know everything I need to know.

NHL 11 should have its fair share of 'oh dayyyummm' moments.

The new physics will perhaps be the biggest change in NHL 11, and it is one that has taken a full year to implement, according to Ramjagsingh. The result--though seemingly amped up for effect in the demo we played at EA's May pre-Electronic Entertainment Expo press event in Los Angeles--will bring in a new sense of power to the NHL series' already impressive hits. I spent some hands-on time with a one-on-one demo of the game, and I can say unequivocally that although most of the results were the same (that is, Chara blasting my guy into the boards or simply knocking him down on the ice), no two collisions were exactly the same. I saw glancing blows that spun my forward around and head-over-heels blasts that made it look like my guy was shot by a sniper sitting atop the rafters at TD Garden. One time, I even managed to get the better of Chara, taking him down despite giving up at least seven inches and 50 pounds.

Bigger, badder hits are the most obvious benefit of the new physics, but a subtler by-product might be the increased attraction of playing the defenseman position. While upending forwards and taking slap shots from the point has always been fun in previous NHL games, the new system adds an increased physical element that will make playing the bruisers in the back that much more appealing. With the press of a button, you can lean forward to either attempt to block shots (similar to the kneel mechanic that remains in NHL 11) or upend an unsuspecting forward who is coming your way. When you couple that with the ability to poke check, sweep your stick freely back and forth, or lift the stick of an opposing player, there will be lots of weapons in your defensive arsenal this year.

Elsewhere, the development team is extending the control a player will have with the right stick by completely overhauling the face-off system, which Ramjagsingh calls the number-one request from NHL series fans. Now, you'll have multiple options when squaring off in the circle, including whether you choose to use a forehand or backhand grip on your stick before the puck drops. By pushing forward with the right stick, you push at your opponent's stick, and by pushing back, you'll swipe for the puck once it hits the ice. You can even push your opponent off the puck once it drops by pushing forward with the left stick and take a quick shot off a face-off pass by pushing forward with the right stick.

Because the fan's demanded it, new faceoff features are on their way.

Finally, there is one other detail that should please hockey fans: Broken sticks are in NHL 11. They won't occur in every game you play, but they'll be frequent enough to make the game realistic. If a player loses a stick, you'll still be able to control him--if the puck gets near, he'll kick it to keep it out of play and even try to snatch it out of the air for high shots. A nearby teammate might offer your player a stick to borrow, and you can also skate to the bench to pick up some replacement lumber. My time with NHL 11 was limited, and I didn't get to experience the full six-on-six gameplay, so I'm very interested to see not just how the new physics engine affects collisions in a proper game, but also how the AI players handle the engine's capabilities. Based on past experience, I'm optimistic that the change will be a good one for the series and will follow up with another report soon. Look for more on NHL 11 throughout the summer and beyond.

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108 comments
snake3rules
snake3rules

Alex_09 said: @snake3rules And while I agree it is a lot more intricate than a speed competition between the two players, in the 500 hockey games I've played the only time I've seen a faceoff turn into a pushing match was at the start of a fight once. -------- @Alex_09 - Well thats not what i was saying at all ... pushing a player is far from what i took away from the described faceoff additions, and not what i was discussing at all, i said pushing the puck forward ... point is, its a "system" or mini game, with several different options and ways the puck can come out of the draw, aka far more possibility than the previous games, where it magnetically drew to one of your four players ... furthermore, if you've played 500 games of hockey and never seen two centers push each other in the circle, then you were clearly playing at the mite level or some pre-contact chlldrens league.... and since you've "seen" these faceoffs and not participated in them, i presume you played some other position than center in these 500 games? That would likely explain your "expertise" on the subject.... because from my 800+ games at the center position i KNOW the opposite to be true. @ travturn44 , I see what you are saying and its a decent reason to be worried ... but i hope they are smart and somehow tie it to shooting actions and specifically to holding the shoot button for too long several times over a game or something. And to retierate what ive said elsewhere RE stick breaking, there better not be a "give me your stick" button that works on any teammate, because that would be ten times more unrealistic than any odd ratio or randomness of the sticks breaking... also if there are no goalie broken sticks, then they have failed.

dudester500
dudester500

loved nhl 10, adding little tweaks and roster updates is all it needs, broken stricks will make the game more authentic in a way, as the tide of the game can change at any moment

travturn44
travturn44

broken sticks will be dumb... in real hockey broken sticks don't just happen randomly... in this game they will and it will be annoying when you are playing online against some a-hole thats been pissing you off all game and you are in the final minute of the game up by one goal about to prove who is the superior to who and one of your defence men's sticks break on a rush into your end and that mother-****er scores to take it into OT where he gets another lucky goal and wins (possibly) making you so mad you smash your controller off the floor...ugghh NHL pisses me off sometimes....please dont do this to me

GtheB12
GtheB12

fix the stupid glitch goals in this one

LastPRmarine
LastPRmarine

@Alex_09 Due to being broke and then buying games that are more advertised I haven't bought an NHL since NHL 07 I decided to get NHL 10 then trade it in for NHL 11 Go Penguins

knighthawksfan
knighthawksfan

I can't wait for this game to drop. It is going to be off the chains. Let's go flyers!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Raid3nsnake
Raid3nsnake

@pearson101 the $10 to play online is only if you buy it used. buy it new and online is free.

Alex_09
Alex_09

@LastPRmarine Wait for one that actually improves the series. These games keep offering the same old "improvements": Slightly better physics, and one or two new tweaks. Ask anyone who has played, broken sticks are NOT a big aspect of hockey. It's like adding in drunken fans that stumble around in the stands looking for their seats, sure it happens at hockey games, but why would anyone care about including it in a game? I see lots of faults in these games when my friends play them, including the classic pass down the middle from the defensive blue line scoring a goal. How about they actually do something worthwhile? I don't know, to me this is just like those ripoff guitar hero games that come out 3 times a year even though they all offer the same old gameplay. @snake3rules And while I agree it is a lot more intricate than a speed competition between the two players, in the 500 hockey games I've played the only time I've seen a faceoff turn into a pushing match was at the start of a fight once.

pearson101
pearson101

Y'all dont forget we gotta pay that extra $10 to be able to play online on top of the $69 retail price =X

tainted_lynx
tainted_lynx

ItsSteveUfool, of course they aren't using it much. The only reason why they have the ESPN license is because 2K's NHL offerings were destroying them in the ratings. Don't you remember when EA went into the hissy fit, buying exclusive licencing rights to specific sports leagues? Yeah, that was right around when ESPN/2K were destroying them with better games that retailed for 29.99 instead of EA's usual 49/59 price tags. Presentation could've been there since NHL 08, but they didn't. The good presentation games take time to make, and there's a reason for that, EA is just a money-grubbing machine, and why some people think they are going to fix it is beyond me. But to this game. EA is just tweaking and putting out a roster update. It might play out like their last 2 games, but only time will tell. They aren't addressing the problems that plagued the games.

LastPRmarine
LastPRmarine

Hey I was gonna get NHL10 but I think may wait for 11 What should I do?

snake3rules
snake3rules

Faceoffs sound great ... having played hockey at center the majority of my life, i can say its a very complicated or complex interaction between players, ref, and the puck/physics, and the options for faceoffs they described sound really good and realistic, as well as something I've wished would be changed for a while now. One note, while its good to see a forward press of the left stick means stick checking the other center, i hope a double tap or modified forward press will actually push the puck forward, becasue thats a valid strategy in end-game/corner faceoffs, and powerplay situations... only being able to draw it back or take a shot/possession shouldnt be the only options P.S. the ONLY time a player on the ice should give his own stick to another player is if its the goalie's stick that broke ... regular players on the ice dont just hand each other their sticks like, "oh you're more important than me, here you go" ... even among defensemen, who may have more of a need or "right" to the stick than a forward.

achanvc
achanvc

to juxtapose519: What I do is....I would sell my NHL 10 four months early before NHL 11....you can still get a good $30 dollars back at EB, gamestop, Futureshop etc. That is exactly what I did with NHL 2009. So essentially, I'm only paying $45 each year for the new version....I'm ok with that price as a "annual update" if you will.

juxtapose519
juxtapose519

@xsa: I would kinda doubt any of the higher ups in the NHL would want indestructible sticks. Broken sticks can lead to some intense turnovers. Anything to keep up the excitement in a game is a good thing to Gary Bettman, even if it's dumb luck. I think broken sticks is a good idea. If it feels more like I'm watching a real game, I don't mind.

juxtapose519
juxtapose519

Despite the fact that it's really pleasing to see EA add all these new features, it's still not enough to justify rebuying what is essentially the same game every year. You would think that it in this day in age, it would be possible to just buy the full game once, and then pay a lower price for the new updates and rosters on an annual basis. I guess EA just doesn't see it as a good financial decision. Either way, they're not getting my money for a while. '09 was the first NHL game I bought in a long time, and it's going to be the last one I buy for a while, at least until they do something revolutionary with the series. I would be perfectly willing to pay for annual updates though. HINT HINT, EA.

xsa
xsa

Broken stick in competetive online 1on1 seems like a horrible idea. Luck shouldn't be a factor when it doesn't have to be. I'm quite sure they would produce indestructible sticks in real life if they could. It might add to realism, but it doesn't add to the fun-factor(when playing competetively in ranked leagues).

ThisIsntLeonard
ThisIsntLeonard

Must-buy. Last year had bleak additions; females in the crowd, really? Board play was a good feature, but the weak fighting evened the pros and cons. But this year seems like the first true upgrade to the NHL series since they added Be A Pro in NHL 09. I can't wait to see the new physics in action.

redmachine
redmachine

I can't believe i'm saying something negative about EA's NHL franchise. Never thought I would, but although features were added that I enjoyed, the game has litearlyl played the same and felt the exact same for 2 years atleast. Its hard for me to say, but last year was the last straw. It was not worthy of a full release price, and this year, ill be renting. I've preordered for 6 years straight now. EA lost my trust a little. But however, i can be regained, but it wil take an improved feel. After all, my biggest question last year was " what were they doing all year?, this feels the exact same "

WiZoRZ
WiZoRZ

broken stick sounds very cool

tillmano
tillmano

Here is an idea: how about whenever a glitch shot is attempted their stick breaks

hockey89
hockey89

omfg, how about AI so we can enjoy some hockey

Scooter540
Scooter540

Sooooooooooooo excited for this game.I didn't think it could get better than NHL 08 but they've up'd their game every single yeat!

ItsSteveUfool
ItsSteveUfool

Presentation can definitely be better. I don't understand why they don't use the ESPN license more, not that ESPN does much for hockey these days. For those not liking the goal horns, do what I do. Use a custom playlist. I'm a big Sharks fan, and in my game they always come out to Metallica, and I was able to find the real goal horn to download & import via a simple google search. I would like to see more authentic entrances for each building. I remember in the late 90's they had the Shark head in the game, why not now?

BrianB0422
BrianB0422

I love this franchise, but I usually only buy it every three years. Looks like I lucked out with this being my year to re-up. Hitting has always pissed me off. You'll fly at someone and the physics are undoubtedly in your favor, yet you bounce off of him. Hopefully this is the physics change I've been waiting for.

Paytheplayer
Paytheplayer

People will always have something to complain about. Every year, this game just gets better and better. NHL 10 is awesome. NHL 11 will be better no doubt. The one wish I've had for years, was that the CHL was implemented. NHL 11 will have it. I'm stoked just for that. Add the fact that we now will have broken sticks, a new faceoff engine, bigger hits etc and this game will be great once again. I'm sure there are other changes this game will have as well that just haven't been announced yet.

Gigas_Yuu
Gigas_Yuu

I wish they would play the Sharks' goal horn more than one time like they do in actual home games when they score. Presentation needs to be tweaked.

jasper-ah-
jasper-ah-

ok. thats what im talking about... making the game more real. i hpoe all of these things works good, this game realy needs this changes

I_K_r_y_M_I
I_K_r_y_M_I

I hope broken sticks don't only break in the offensive zone & with that being said, I hope you can give an defencement your stick just incase his broke in the defensive zone.

n8rockerasu
n8rockerasu

I agree with bschroth. This doesn't sound like an overhaul from last year's game at all. And FACEOFFS were the #1 thing requested by fans??? What about fixing the glitch shot that has been in the game for two years that ruins OTP, allowing people to score at will? Also, how about more intelligent AI? This includes both a goalie who doesn't use horrible positioning allowing slapshots from the faceoff circles to just go by him, and defenders who don't just abandon their man or turn their back at random. Ya know, those would be actual improvements to the game...not broken sticks and bigger hits, which are only going to cause people to play worse defense than they already did by loading up on huge hits all the time. EA? Are you even paying attention?

MPplaysGuitar
MPplaysGuitar

@MizFitAwesome theres custom music in nhl 10 that allows you to set your own goal songs. its easy and makes the game so much more personalized

HershalCrusto
HershalCrusto

I've bought every EA NHL game since the origional and the only ones that really ever disappointed were 05 and 06, So I have to say I will buy this one and am pretty sure it will awesome just like the rest.

ivitaminwater
ivitaminwater

I'm not going to buy another nhl game until they agree to make a "be a ref mode" as a novelty. :D

grand17
grand17

This will be the fits NHL game i buy since 07...as it should be, dont make them every year! Just patch it for the next year!

sanim02
sanim02

Montreal Canadians FTW!!:D

Np_Pro
Np_Pro

"arms akimbo" means arms straight. i really doubt thats what happened when he was slammed up against the boards...

ThAdEa82
ThAdEa82

Have 09, didnt bother with 10. With that said, sucks that people jump to the next one and completely abandon the prior years. Total online killer

bschroth
bschroth

@skargamer Did you play NHL 10? To me this doesn't seem like a complete overhaul, just adding in more physics based contact instead of canned animations. I think NHL 11 looks great, but I've bought NHL the last couple years in a row, so I'm still on the fence about this one.

ViralShag
ViralShag

EA's NHL games are solid. Not even a huge fan, or even a small fan of the real sport but NHL09 is to this day one of my favourite games. Looking forward to this big time.

FlashCharge
FlashCharge

NHL 09 is a great hockey game and has not caused me to rush out and buy another. But this new installment looks promising and may lead me to really consider buying it this year.

Pete5506
Pete5506

Im glad that EA is putting so much work into their NHL games, NHL 10 is so much fun

Skargamer
Skargamer

First they say that their new NBA game is gonna be revolutionary and now they promise that their NHL game is gonna be the same too. I'm not saying that these games are gonna suck but I hope they stick to their promise.