Sunday, August 22, 2010

EA NHL games and the NHL 11 demo

So last Tuesday, the new NHL 11 demo hit the Xbox Live Marketplace.  The first thing you should know is that I quickly discovered that I suck at NHL 11.

 Just like anyone from Buffalo, I too am a loser when it comes to important games

Some quick background on my EA playing career.  The last game I truly enjoyed was NHL 2004.  I played it religiously in college.  Most of my fraternity brothers were Madden and FIFA fans, but I was one of the few that loved hockey in the house.  I still remember nights with one of my fraternity brothers Alan, where we would come home from the bars/house parties/dorms and we're play a rousing game of drunken NHL.  Regardless of my state of inebriation, I'd always win.  I remember a particular 2 on 2 game one night where my partner and I were behind by a good 5 or 6 goals going into the third period.  We ended up coming back and winning, but we did not end up with a chorus of applause, but rather a series of profanity filled rants and the accusation that we were playing possum the entire time and just wanted to make the opposing team look like idiots (in reality, this is the first time I will admit that this was not the case.  My teammate and I literally just sucked it up royally for 2 periods and I think the game was overly generous in return).

I also recall my favorite part of the complete annihilation of Alan's self worth during these games: the elusive white board I had next to my couch that contained a running tally of certain statistics like  goals, powerplay goals, short handed goals, and when typical mundane categories like that got old, thing like the BMG, the Black Man Goal.  In case you haven't realized, Discard What You Don't Need is not a PC blog, so don't expect it to be.  The BMG was a great thing and the NY Rangers with Anson Carter became the go-to team.  Much fun was had.

 Wait, this man actually won something hockey related?

Fast forward to the innovation of the right analog stick with dekeing, and more importantly, the review of the aforementioned NHL 11 Demo.  The days of singing songs and being a complete jackass while literally scoring at will are over.  My learning curve is extremely behind those of others.  I haven't bought an NHL game since 2008 due to my inability to waiver from the "old ways" of EA games.  It took me 4 games to finally score my first goal in NHL 11, and sadly, it was an empty netter since the 3rd period began with me ahead.  Not exactly a confidence booster.

As I have played more and more, the game has gotten easier.  Much easier to control in terms of passing, defense, and dekeing than I recall.  Goals are still harder to come by than I recall from the good old days.  The graphics are obviously amazing as can be.  The Stanley Cup celebrations complete with city personalized quotes are interesting and impressive.  However, from what I've heard, the improvements over NHL 2010 aren't exactly earth shattering.  This is why I want to talk about the EAUHL and how impressed I was by it.

We've all heard that EA got officially licensed to use OHL,  WHL, and QMJHL teams in their game this year, and quite honestly what they did with it has amazed me so far.  The ability to have regular NHL-ers with up and coming stars is quite intriguing.  The fact that you can upgrade each of these individuals depending on how old and how much potential they have is also quite interesting.  I love the idea of earning EA pucks that can be used as a monetary currency to buy additional cards in the form of upgrades and players.  It really seems like a neat system and I look forward to them expanding on it in the full version.  That being said, EA needs to fix the glitch that allows you to upgrade anyone that plays defense for the Dallas Stars.  Obviously this is fantasy and not something that actually happens in the NHL.

That's all the good.  The great even.  I think I could probably play NHL 11 for an entire year and not get bored of it thanks to the dynasty mode in addition to XBL and the ultimate hockey league.  However, with the good, we must all have bad.  Sticks seem to break too often.  They snap like Kurtis Foster's leg going for an iced puck.  It's ridiculous.  I seriously see a good 2-3 per game and that doesn't even include how many dropped sticks there are.  Now for those achievements whores such as a good friend of mine this is excellent since there are achievements that center around this, but for the hockey dedicated, it just get frustrating at times.  Look, I understand they happen, but it gets annoying when I have to skate around two broken ones on the ice just to wear down the D and get a scoring chance.

 Who cares if it's the wrong game, Joe's gonna break his stick anyway.

And the Gary Bettman imaging?  Hell, I won't even start.  They could have scanned in an image of Barney the Dinosaur and it would have had a closer resemblance.

Then there's the fighting engine.  Now I love being the crap out of someone, especially if it's an overpaid Ranger whose name rhymes with Poohard.  My issue isn't with the fighting system, but rather the instigation system.  Anytime I try to fight post whistle by pushing and shoving I end up in the box with a 2 minute minor.  The computer on the other hand can do whatever they damn please post whistle and the refs apparently turn into Ray Charles.  Sorry, that was an insult to all blind people.  I should have gone with the obvious Kerry Fraiser joke instead.

My only other complaint is actually one that is probably not justified.  It's harder to destroy someone with a good check nowadays.  I'm looking for Scott-Stevens-on-Eric-Lindros type destruction from a body check and it's hard as hell to get that now a days.  Sure the addition of an amazing hip check is nice, but it's quite difficult to actually accomplish.  Instead it's all about actually getting the puck via a poke check or some other non-violent hockey method like "actually playing defense."  Pfft, whatever that is.

My only other issue with the game?  Isn't Taylor Hall supposed to be able to score every time you shoot the puck?  Just saying.

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