We lost a little piece of ourselves last season when 2K Sports announced that their long-running NHL 2K series was going on hiatus. Things are tough all around for sports-minded gamers, after all, with franchises dying (March Madness, College Hoops, and NASCAR) or being put on indefinite leave (The BIGS, All Pro Football). When it turned out that NHL 2K11 would actually exist this year as a Wii exclusive, it kept our hopes alive that maybe, just maybe, the once-proud 2K pucks name will be restored to glory.
While the gang at 2K has focused solely on the Wii this year, the bulk of 2K11 will be instantly familiar to veterans of the series. For the most part, this is a good thing; the on-ice gameplay is exceptionally strong and smooth. Skaters move across the surface realistically, chasing after pucks that careen off the boards with abandon. Visually, though, NHL 2K11 looks and sounds pretty ordinary, on par with its PS2 forebears. If you’re looking for next-generation presentation, it ain’t gonna do the trick.
One of the big additions this season is the extension of Wii Motion Plus controls. To be frank, they baffled us at the beginning – to the point that we could barely fire a shot at the net. After digging through the abysmal menus, we eventually stumbled across a desperately-needed tutorial. In no time, we were juggling the puck in mid-air while faking out goaltenders (at least in the practice mode). Even so, the new control scheme takes practice to master and never feels quite natural; luckily, there are other options in case you’re not feeling very adventurous.
NHL 2K11 offers an astounding amount of content - online, offline, and cooperative. There are loads of traditional options, including seasons, franchises, tournaments, last year’s Winter Classic, online leagues, and pond hockey; we could keep going but you get the drift. In addition, there are some fun new multiplayer modes featuring Miis that combine mini-games and trivia in a cross-continental battle for the Stanley Cup. Depending on your buddies, this could be a one-time diversion or something you come back to again and again.
In many ways, NHL 2K11 is the classic “if you haven’t played the series in a couple years, it’s totally worth your while” offering. There’s a boatload of game modes to keep you busy for months, whether you’re an online guy or prefer keeping to yourself. Have no doubt, though, that it’s very similar to its predecessor in most ways. Even so, we love the fact that the NHL 2K name continues to live; here’s hoping this ain’t its swan song.
Aug 26, 2010