|System: Wii||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Visual Concepts||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: 2K Sports||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Aug. 24, 2010||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-4||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone 10+||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
This year, 2K Sports bet the success of its NHL series on its ability to make MotionPlus work for hockey. Unlike its multiplatform predecessors, NHL 2K11 is a Wii exclusive, and far and away, the biggest change since last years entry is the improved support for the Wii-motes tiny but powerful extender.
Is the experiment a success? It depends what youre looking to get out of it, and whether you even have the option of turning to EAs NHL 11, which is scheduled for release only on PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.
Those looking for a truly realistic and user-friendly experience, one where players intuitively move their hands like theyre playing hockey and the on-screen players move along, wont be happy. MotionPlus does not make this game any simpler or easier to learn. Hockey, when played with any degree of seriousness, simply requires too many different moves, and even a souped-up Wii controller cant detect them all by motion alone. So, if you want to go with MotionPlus (you can still use the Classic Controller or an unmodified Wii-mote), youre forced to learn a fairly complicated system. A decent tutorial is provided, and we highly recommend it.
If youre on offense, for example, youll need to draw from this massive list of moves. The Nunchuks joystick moves your player. The A button, combined with a direction on the joystick, makes you pass the puck. Holding down the B button puts you into shooting mode; winding up to the left and swinging fires off a wrist shot, and winding up to the right and swinging performs a slap shot. Letting the B button go before your follow-through makes you fake the shot. Waving the Nunchuk performs a contextual open ice deke, except when youre skating toward the goalie, when it makes you deke and then automatically shoot. Up on the D-pad dumps the puck, and holding it performs a slap-dump. Left on the D-pad drops the puck to the player behind you. Holding down on the D-pad lets you deke the puck with MotionPlus without shooting it. You can even juggle the puck in the air by holding C and moving the Wii-mote up, and you can take special kinds of shots by moving the Wii and the Nunchuk up at the same time.
Got all that? Youd better, because theres a similarly complicated move set for defensive players, and still more moves to learn for goalies. Fortunately, driving the Zamboni between quarters is much simpler, though the ice-cleaner doesnt handle well.
The upside is that while the motion controls dont make the game more accessible, they do provide a bit more immersion. Once youve mastered all the moves, a process that takes an hour or two at minimum, youll realize that youre just a little more into it than you normally are with hockey games. Once you get the timing down, its especially exhilarating to thrust both your hands forward while on defense, slamming an opposing player into the boards.
Thats not to say things are perfect, however. We felt the skaters took too long to change directions, and once in a while, our inputs werent translated properly into on-screen action. The more we got the feel for the systems quirks, however, the less these things were a problem, and those who cant get past the occasional imprecision can resort to the other control methods (which work just fine).
A more serious issue is that while the goalie AI is strong against most strategies, it sometimes exhibits incredibly stupid behavior in the face of what should be easy-to-block shots. Playing multiplayer, it feels as though your score depends not so much on your performance, but rather on the whims of the computer-controlled guy whos supposed to be standing between your opponent and the goal.