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NHL 2K11 falls short on the virtual ice

Oct 1, 2010

By Ted Kritsonis - G4 Canada

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NHL 2K11These aren't the best of times for 2K Sports. Sitting out the season on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, they've instead focused their attention on making a better game for the Wii. With Wii MotionPlus, it stands to reason that virtual hockey on the Wii could actually work much better than it has in previous years, and though there are improvements, some fundamental flaws make it hard to enjoy NHL 2K11. 

Make no mistake, without MotionPlus, it's very difficult to play 2K11 with any consistent level of fun. A naked Wii remote just can't do the job as well, and key gameplay elements like deking, stickhandling and even juggling the puck on your stick simply can't be done without the help of MotionPlus. Passing and skating are easy enough, but where 2K11 begins to fail you is in the shooting mechanics.  

NHL 2K11For one thing, I really believe 2K Sports could've and should've designed a hockey stick peripheral similar to what EA has done with its Slapshot game. While that game doesn't offer the same brand of simulation hockey 2K11 does, it's undeniably fun to play because it offers a simulation of how you would actually physically shoot the puck. The problem in 2K11 is that it doesn't apply this principle when playing with a Wii remote, MotionPlus or otherwise.

It's been a while since I've had the kind of frustration I experienced in shooting in NHL 2K11. Hockey is a game of inches and fractious gameplay, which includes the time you have to gain a scoring chance and shoot. Creating open ice for scoring chances isn't hard to do here, but I found myself whiffing or faking shots far too many times. At first, I chalked it up to just getting used to the controls, but when it keeps happening 20 games in, something is wrong.

NHL 2K11The worst part is that this happens at the most inopportune times. I can count half a dozen times where a loose puck was lying in front of the crease waiting to be tapped into the net only to have my player either take a shot too late or not respond to my motion at all. Slap shots were difficult to pull off with any measure of timeliness. My player would do the motion three times before finally connecting, but by then, it became a low percentage shot on goal.

On the bright side, the deking mechanics are pretty cool, and as you get better at them, you can pull off some pretty plays against defensemen and goaltenders. One-timers are also easy to get used to as well, and most of your goals will probably come that way initially.

NHL 2K11The big issue that happens when you put all these circumstances together is that a pattern starts to form. The AI shows leaks when you start getting the opposing team to chase you behind the net and form a collapsing defense. In fact, you can skate laps around the net and create even more scoring chances because the AI seems to get confused over what's happening on the ice. It becomes tough to appreciate the game, especially when you play online, and so many gamers are using that technique on there.

I'll admit that I didn't spend a lot of time online because it was tough to finish a game with a decent framerate. Lag and dropped connections happened far too often for a finished game, and I know that it wasn't my Internet connection causing the problem.

The mini-games are a lot of fun, as usual, so 2K11 delivers there. The Heritage Classic is also included, but you're stuck with using either the Bruins or Flyers, the two teams who played in the outdoor contest last season.

Outside of the positives I've noted, plus the nice graphics and presentation, NHL 2K11 becomes a hard game to enjoy. Playing with a Classic Wii controller actually makes it better overall because the analog sticks do the most important work, but that's not what 2K Sports ultimately intended here. And that's a shame, since there was a great opportunity for the franchise to take a big step forward here. As is, the game falls short of the mark too often to enjoy it for what it could be.  


NHL 2K11NHL 2K11
Format: Wii
Publisher: 2K Sports
Developer: Visual Concepts
ESRB Rating: Everyone
Official Site:

Rating: 6 / 10

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