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2K Sports NHL 2K Series

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User Rating: / 5
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2K was kind enough to send me a copy of NHL 2K11 last Friday, so I spent the past weekend putting it through its paces.  One thing I can happily report is that NHL 2K11 is the deepest hockey experience available on the Wii.  Here we have the complete, tweak-able, and adjustable hockey experience, for any user's difficulty level, that most could possibly want.  Sim players can dive into the full Franchise or Season mode and start the upcoming NHL season with their favorite team, or Road to the Cup, and casual players can quickly go into more arcade-focused modes such as pond-hockey.  You name it, it is there.

On the ice, NHL 2K11 seems to have fixed a few issues I had with last years' version.  The skating seems to control better and feel more accurate this year.  In previous years, I always felt the skating felt too "loopy" for my taste, and I would have to adjust sliders to get it where I like it.  This year, the default skating is more spot-on than ever before.

The puck physics are very good, and I've always admired how 2K makes goalies feel "organic". They are more alive in the net than with the competition's game.  They dive, they come out to challenge, the good ones take chances that often pay off with a save.  The average and not so great ones take chances at times that lead to open nets and flops on the ice, depending on the offensive position and passes.  You don't see too much "robo-goalie" with 2K's game, and I've always liked that.

Another area where NHL 2K11 excels is with the "player differentiation".  Sid Crosby, with the puck and with his shots, is way more dangerous than an average 2nd liner.  He'll tuck it home when he can, and you must account for him.  You must account for all star players on defense, or else you will get handled your fair share of "L"s.  Not all NHL players are created equal, and 2K gets that right yet again.

As for the extras, you got it.  Broken sticks are in there, and I learned how dangerous they can be when I fired one from the blue line with Gonchar.  Nothing worse than a stickless defender, and his shot was blocked and taken the other way during his "broken stick shot".  It led to a Flyer's breakaway goal.  You got big hits, small nudges, and everything in-between.  You have diving blocked shots, dekes, and pinning players against the boards.  Deep stuff.

The depth is here.  Wii owners, rejoice.  You have a sim style hockey game that doesn't talk down to you or "Kiddie-fy" the experience.

But...there are some chinks in the NHL 2K11 armor that bear mentioning.

First and foremost, this is a Wii game, and the Wii lacks the graphic horsepower of the 360 and PS3.  However, I have to admit that I have seen much better looking Wii games in my day.  Player graphics (outside of the faces) look extremely "last gen".   Player numbers often come off as very jaggy, and the anti-aliasing seems to be non-existent at points.  Many crowd views (such as the pre-game intro) reveal 2D crowds that look like a cardboard cutout ad the camera pans.   All in all, there's just too much grainy, jagged looks to what should be smooth lines and corners.  Yes, I know about the Wii's hardware, but I really feel that this game does not take advantage of the available hardware in ways other games - particularly first party games from Nintendo- have.  The game looks like a late life-cycle XBOX 1 release, such as NHL 2K5.  I expected a bit more in this category, even though my graphic expectations for most Wii sports titles are set lower than with 360 and PS3 releases.

Now, on to the controls.

I can't give any impressions on Wii Motion Plus, as I do not have the device.  However, I did play the game with both the Wii-mote/Nunchuk combo as well as with the classic controller.  Although I prefer the more ergonomic (and sports game friendly) controllers of both the 360 and PS3, I did find the NHL 2K11 controls with the classic controller to be superior to the Wiimote/Nunchuk controls for myself personally, but both are acceptable.

Unfortunately, 2K has still opted to not totally copy the right-stick controls of the competition.  Like in past years, the Pro-Stick controls let you move the puck left and right to varying degrees while you skate up ice, but the complete freedom of movement with the stick is not on the level of EA's control mode.  Shooting with the R-stick (or the Wii-mote) is very hit or miss, and with the AI's propensity of being able to nudge your shooter into an animation that prohibits a shot, it makes those controls feel unresponsive.  This problem was also shared with the 360 and PS3 versions last year.   Often you can't seem to shoot with a defender touching you, yet there's no "stick hold" animation, or any other animationg you can see, showing why it is you can press up on the R-stick (or flick the Wii-mote) and the shot won't release. There's nothing worse than flicking your Wii-mote like a fool over and over again and getting no shot off near the net.   Shot blocks, I can understand, but for those you actually get the shot off.  But with what I'm talking about, it makes you feel like the controls aren't responsive, when in fact it is more about the defensive AI's ability to nudge you into a "out of control" animation that nullifies your button press/flick that should release a shot.  And they seem to be able almost on demand when you are in the slot.  (It becomes worse at higher difficulty levels too).  This is something that has needed some sort of a fix for several years of 2K hockey.  I hope next year they get to it.

Those criticisms aside, a Wii-owning hockey fan cannot go wrong with NHL 2K11.   It is a very deep experience, and chock-full of NHL goodness. But there's still plenty of room to improve for next year.  However, multi-system owners, such as myself, might be a bit put-off by the seemingly "late last-gen graphics" that the Wii exhibits with this title.

 

Hands-on by Scott Hemphill

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The NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs have made me want to play more hockey games lately.  For several weeks, I've been playing quite a bit of NHL 10 by EA Sports.  Sure, the game was a consensus editor's choice in most of the trade magazine publications, and has garnered quite a bit of critical acclaim since it released back in September.

However, the more I play the game, the angrier it makes me.  I just can't take how contrived the goal-scoring is.  Everything has to happen of a rebound or a deflection. I can no longer stomach how difficult it is for even a sniper to beat a goalie on a quality shot.  I have also had my fill of my AI controlled players letting forwards skate past them and settle in front of the net without doing much at all about it.  I'm sick of "AI Robo Goalie" who can make miracle saves for the CPU team, while your goalie lets in a 20 foot wrister on the short side. Sure, many people have told me "Just play head to head against someone, and the game is okay."  Well, fair enough, but I buy NHL games so I can play a franchise with my favorite teams.  Head to head is fun and all, but it is still not the main reason I play, and probably will never be.

But, on a whim, I threw in my NHL 2K10 disc into my XBOX 360.  I know there have been some patches since Hank and myself gave impressions in Sept/October of 2009.

To my surprise, I found myself really enjoying NHL 2K10 after being rather un-impressed with the game late last year.

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User Rating: / 3
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NHL @K10
 

If you haven't heard, Take-Two has announced it will not be publishing a hockey game for either the Xbox 360 or Playstation 3.  Instead, they will focus all of their attention on the Nintendo Wii; a console of which they have no competition on the virtual ice.

If you look at the numbers provided by Vgchartz, this decision makes a lot of sense.  Sales of NHL2K10 on the Wii eclipsed sales for both the 360 and PS3 combined.

For those fearing 2K10 will be the last 2K hockey game you play on your beloved 360 or PS3, Take-Two Interactive CEO Ben Feder says not to worry, "We're doing that because we're so committed to competing that the team needs a breather," explained Feder during the Take-Two first quarter financial results conference call. " The following year we will come back a lot stronger. We have an intention to win and we're going to maximize the opportunity."

However, you would be wise to take that statement with a grain of salt. The hockey nut in me wants to believe Mr. Feder. Desperately. But with all the drama that has been swirling around Take-Two recently, you might be better off betting on the Atlanta Thrashers to hoist Lord Stanley's Cup by 2011.

Afterall, the proof is in the pudding. When's the last time you saw a commercial promoting a 2K hockey game for either the 360 or PS3?

I remember those clever commercials featuring three knitting, trash-talking, hockey moms. But that was for the Wii. Perhaps we all missed the foreshadowing of what Take-Two's ultimate plan was.

It's a shame really. Since Visual Concepts took the reigns from Kush in 2008, their hockey game has steadily improved. NHL2K9 wasn't received very well with critics or at the cash register, but it was a step in the right direction. Considering VC had a mere seven months to start over from scratch, it wasn't as bad as some reviews would have you believe.
With 2K10, a larger leap was made. Upgrades to presentation, controls, player models and AI made this season's hockey port a lot more tolerable. Among many of the hardcore hockey gamers, it even trumped EA's juggernaut, NHL10.

What some might find incredible is that at one time, 2K was the king of the rink. Not only did it routinely outsell EA's product, but many mainstream media outlets rated it higher as well.

I still consider NHL2K3 on the PS2 to be one of the greatest sports games ever produced.

So what happened? In my mind, you can point to three reasons why 2K is in the minors while EA is receiving the virtual Hart Trophy year after year.

- Skill Stick

EA capitalized on the power of next-gen consoles by creating a unique analog control set. Not only was this game visually and audibly gorgeous, it contained arguably the most intuitive control scheme ever seen in a sports game. Not only that, but it was [i]fun[/i]. The Skill Stick captured the same feeling many of us enjoyed when we first popped in 'NHL Hockey' for the Sega Genesis way back in 1991. To put it mildly, the skill stick is nearly as fun as making Gretzky's head bleed.

- Failure to utilize Next-Gen capabilities


By the time Take-Two realized it was being beaten like Tim Chevaldae on a Friday night, it was too late. It's true that 2K10 offered better graphics, excellent presentation and it's own version of Skill Stick. The problem was, by this time EA had introduced it's wildly popular 'Be-A-Pro' mode, EASports Online Hockey League and even more refined controls.

- Poor Marketing


I'm not sure there's enough space on this page to discuss Take-Two's reluctance to market it's hockey games better. EA has community day events, weekly blog updates, regular video and screenshot releases and their developers and producers seem to have more freedom to comment on Twitter and popular message boards. The consumer is carpet bombed with information months before release.

2K did a better job this past spring when they introduced Developer Insights and allowing 2K community leader RonnieK to twitter more information. But in the end, it was like a one-sided game between Canada and Norway.

If Mr. Feder is being truthful, then taking a year off could be a blessing in disguise and exactly what this series needs. The leap from 2K9 to 2K10 is encouraging. It showed that the developers and producers had a passion for the sport and what direction they wanted to take the series in.

The last time EA regrouped we were given the award-winning NHL07. Only time will tell if 2K is able to duplicate those results. It would be nice to hear a guarantee that VC will be given the chance to reclaim the crown they wore for almost the entire life span of the original Xbox.

If they do, then they would be wise to travel the same road EA used to get back on top of the mountain.

Until then, I'm going to call Vegas and put $100 large on the Thrashers. You never know, eh?

Henry Dyck
 

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User Rating: / 4
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We here at Console Sports are big puck-heads so we were very excited to get our hands on the 360 version of Visual Concepts latest icy Opus, NHL2K10.
 
After several hours with this title one thing is crystal clear; 2K10 suffers from a split personality.
In nearly every category the game does certain things very well while it falters in others.
 
A perfect example is how this game plays on default sliders. They're not that great. You'll feel like you're skating in mud and have to hammer down the speed burst button the entire game. It begs the question "Why not just have speed controlled using analog controls only?" However, after you've had a chance to toggle some of the skating sliders (most notably skating and acceleration) the game opens up. A lot. In fact, there are so many sliders in the game to manipulate you can have this game play in almost any conceivable fashion.


 
The Good
You want authentic looking arena's? Look no further. This game features arguably the best looking stadiums in any sports game. Just fire up a game, sit back and watch the pre-game introduction. As a Wings fan I could have sworn I was sitting in my familiar cheap-seats at Joe Louis Arena watching the Wings take to the ice.
In fact, when my wife first entered the room she asked "The Wings are on tonight?". That's how good it looks.
 
Replays of penalties and goals are also very nice, especially the goals. You'll be treated to three different replays from various angles to give you the sense that you're watching a real NHL broadcast. At the end of the period you'll get a nice rundown of team stats including various highlights including saves, shots and chances.
 
The player models have also received a massive upgrade. Most of the players faces look spot-on, while the equipment, down to sock tape, look amazing as well. The art director deserves major props for everything graphics related. Well done.
 
Let's talk AI. What a difference a year makes! The CPU AI is a lot much smarter this year, compared to 2K9. You won't have to worry about dealing with a CPU that is helll bent on crashing the net or hammering everything in site. That would have been fine if you were playing with the Hanson's in Slap Shot 2K10, but not in a hockey game trying to emulate the sport properly.

The CPU will actually work the puck around and try to find that open man. If there is none, they'll fire it on net hoping for a juicy rebound to slam home.
You'll also face a stiffer more diverse challenge in the defensive zone as well. The CPU will attack when there's a chance and they'll cut off passing lanes to prevent those easy one-timer slam dunks that we saw in years past.

HAWKS

The best part about the AI in this game is seeing the separation between the stars and the scrubs. You won't have to worry about being beaten by a fourth-line grinder over and over as he dekes, passes and scores all over the ice. These differences are seen on both sides of the puck. So while a player like Lidstrom won't play that physically he's a master with the stick and more often than not he'll steal it or deny a great opportunity with a properly timed poke check or blocking a passing lane. However, if you're bearing down on Boston's tower-of-power Zdeno Chara, you won't have to worry about his stick blocking a passing lane as there's a good chance it'll be in your teeth.
 
I really can't say enough about how different each player will look and feel with the puck. You'll want your best defenders out there to protect a lead or kill a penalty. Just like you'll be dying to get your first line out on the ice to score a goal or create some nice chances. To help make the separation of players even more noticeable 2K included several contextual animations for every circumstance including stick lifting, poke checking, body checks, dekes, etc. There are dozens of them and each are closely tied to the players attributes. That comes in handy with the new "Regular" and "Ovie" dekes. Using the left-bumper and the right-analog stick you have several moves at your disposal for one-on-one situations against a defender or when you find yourself all alone with the goalie. But be careful. Because if the player you're controlling doesn't have the sufficient attributes, pulling off one of these moves could very well result with you losing the puck or falling down much to your teammates amusement.

If you don't feel comfortable using these pre-defined dekes, you can still use the right-analog to deke around defenders. Unlike 2K9 where you were limited to mostly east-west movements you'll have the ability to pull the puck into your skates for a little more south-based moves.
 
Stumble shots are new this year and really help open the game up. In 2K9 as soon as you were touched your shot is negated forcing you to try again. Not so in 2K10. Again, it depends on whom your controlling and what their attributes are, but in some very minor cases you can still get off a shot while being hit. If you're very lucky you might even see one similar to the goal cover boy Alexander Ovechkin scored against the Phoenix Coyotes from a couple of seasons ago. Sim-heads need not fear because after fifty-plus games I have yet to see this animation or very many stumble shot goals at all. And the ones I have seen have not been unrealistic or cheesy in the least.
 
Puck physics have always been a big part of what makes the 2K hockey series so terrific. It'll bounce and roll like a real puck would. It's great to watch replays where it might bounce off a players leg, hit the crossbar and then flip into the net.
 
To help you pile up wins in your Franchise you have several different strategies at your disposal. From playing a 2-1-2 forecheck to setting up the PP with an umbrella formation to cranking up the aggressiveness late in the game, you have total control over how you want your team to play.
And  it's not limited to just your team. When facing various teams throughout the season you'll notice that teams will mirror their real-life squads. So expect a defensive battle when traveling to New Jersey but then get your speed skates on when welcoming the Chicago Blackhawks to town.
 
Speaking of skating, it's fantastic in 2K10. Some might not believe this right off the bat (especially if you haven't altered the skating and acceleration sliders), but look closely and you'll see what I'm talking about. The players have real momentum. Don't expect to race directly into the corner for a loose puck and be able to turn up ice without losing any speed. In fact, if you try that you'll more than likely come to a screaming halt as your player nearly stops to coral the puck. You'll especially notice the cons to going into a corner in this manor if you have an oncoming forechecker breathing down your neck.
In that same example you would be better served to come in on an angle and scoop up the puck while retaining full speed and momentum leaving that forechecker in the dust.

You'll also want to keep this in mind when firing off passes up ice. If you're noticing your players are stopping to receive a pass it's probably because you hit them with it when they had poor body position to receive the puck. This isn't a fault of the AI. You need to pay attention to what direction your players are skating in and where their stick is positioned at.

You wouldn't expect to see a wide-receiver twist to catch a ball that's thrown behind them and still retain his speed while heading up field would you? Then don't expect it here either.  Gamers will be punished for delivering poor passes.
 
What's a hockey game without a few fisticuffs. 2K10 has the best fighting engine ever. Hands down. No contest. Using the right and left trigger buttons to sustain balance you have a choice between a strong or weak punch. The fights are over quick but there is strategy to it. Use a few quick shots to get your opponent off balance and then unleash the haymakers. Of course, no amount of strategy will help if your middleweight champ drops the mitts with George Laraque. Just throw as fast as you can before you find yourself face down in a pile of your own chicklets.
 
Franchise and Online have been revamped this year as well. There are many options to create the Franchise of your dreams. Want to create a team? Do it. Want to shuffle teams from one division to another. Go ahead. Want to utilize a fantasy draft to put your own personal stamp on your favorite team? Done.
CPU controlled teams will also retain their own personalities. Depending on the standings some GM's will be buyers while others will sell. Teams will even make draft choices depending on their history. Clubs such as Boston and Philadelphia will choose the tougher players while the Red Wings or Wild will prefer the more skilled or sleeker players available.

The Salary Cap can be turned on or off, and you even have the choice to work with a team's particular budget. So make sure you're filling those seats or you won't have enough cash in the offseason to sign that highly coveted free agent you've been eyeing.
One of my favorite aspects of Franchise mode is the NHL.com page. Here you can sort news from around the league or even by individual teams. Seeing a screenshot of a highlight from an out of town game, including a brief write-up really immerses you into the game.
For stats-freaks like me, it was refreshing to see that the simulated stats are also very accurate. At the end of the year you can expect to see the usual suspects battling it out for the Art Ross and Rocket Richard Trophy's.
Going online with a buddy has never been easier. Every mode is internet capable, including Franchise where you can invite one or more friends to play with or against you. You can even upload or share sliders and rosters.
 
 
The Bad
 
While replays of goals and penalties are nice that's all you get. No highlights featuring big hits, saves, or chances. You'll have to wait for the end of the period for anything more than goals and infractions.
 
The real-time celebrations are very cool but the transition between animations can be very clunky. And it would be nice if all five skaters on the ice would huddle together with the goal scorer, not just a couple of them.
 
Transitions from one animation to another are too slow at times. Especially when there's multiple animations that chain together. You'll have pressed the shoot button, but before you can get it off your player is bumped, which triggers a stumble animation. But before that animation is over, you're hit from a different angle sparking a different animation. By the time your player is finished with this chain he finally gets off the shot you called for 3 seconds earlier. Trouble is, you might be well out of position by now making the shot useless and more than likely an easy turnover for the CPU.
 
Controls can also appear to have a bit of lag. Most of the time it's due to an animation being called into play, and since they depend on the players attributes, it helps with the realism of the game. But there are still times where the controls do seem to lag for no reason. Tightening these up for 2K11 is a must.
 
As good as the AI can look at times, it can also be a head scratcher. You might become frustrated watching your teammates stare at a loose puck. Or you'll notice the defenseman backing down to the side of the net when a puck carrier attacks them.
It's also hair-raising to watch your wingers exit the zone the second one of your defenseman takes control of the puck. If a tenacious forechecker gets on you, the only option you'll have is playing keep away with your defensive partner or risk a stretch pass to a winger who's already standing on the opposing teams blueline.
 
No loose puck physics.
 
The Ugly
 
Commentary is horrible. Could be the worst commentary in any sports game I've seen. San Jose Sharks play-by-play team Randy Hahn and Drew Remenda sound as if they're being forced to read off a script by gunpoint. No life at all. I heard more emotion from 'Joshua' in "War Games".
 
Goalies. They look nice but they're not that bright. Too many times you'll find your goalie lunging towards a loose puck that's out of reach.  Sometimes they will lunge for other odd reasons. It'll really get your goat when you're scored upon for such tom foolery. Luckily sliders can help but it would be nice if the 2K would focus on goalies for 2K11. They need it.
 
No "My Player" like NBA2K10 will have. This is the future of sports games and the NHL series would be wise to add this for next year.
 
Chris Pronger. (Sorry. I'm a Wings fan. I couldn't resist).
 
Conclusion
 
NHL2K10 is a smart, sleek and gorgeous hockey game. The word that comes to mind most when playing is 'organic' thanks to the incredible AI and realistic puck physics. Nothing feels scripted.

The worst thing I can say about 2K10 is how the game plays using default sliders. Please don't judge the game on that.
I urge anyone who buys this game to use the online 2Kshare option and download some of the excellent sliders available online.
You'll be happy you did and if you're like me, you'll be enjoying this title all season long.
 
Overall Score - 7.5/10.

If the goalies, commentary and presentation were all a bit deeper NHL2K10 would be deserving of a higher mark. But it's still a very solid hockey game with some of the best AI you'll ever experience.

2K10GOALIE

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With 2K Sports' NHL 2K10 for the Wii™ system, fans can enjoy a full-featured version of their favorite hockey game, complete with online multiplayer. With a new franchise mode, full online play, gameplay improvements like stumble shots and stick lifts, and Wii-exclusive multiplayer modes, NHL 2K10 is a party like no other. NHL 2K10 is the only licensed NHL game that lets you challenge your friends to a quick pick-up game online and play with your own unique, player-created team. This year, nearly every game mode and feature you can find on NHL 2K10 for the Xbox 360® or the PLAYSTATION®3 system is also available on the Wii version. In fact, NHL 2K10 for Wii has more game modes than any other console version thanks to the addition of the Wii-exclusive Mii Super Skills Competition.

MII SUPER SKILLS COMPETITION - In this new, Wii-exclusive pick-up-and-play mode, 1-4 players can compete on- or off-line in a series of mini-games based on the NHL All-Star Skills Competition using their own unique Mii avatars.

Hardest Shot - Compete with your friends to see who can shoot the puck with the highest velocity
Fastest Skater - Skate around the rink with the quickest lap time possible
Accuracy Shooting - Hit as many targets as you can with a limited amount of pucks
Breakaway Challenge - Show off your speed shooting skills as you hustle down the ice to score as many goals as possible
Goalie Supersave - See who has the quickest reflexes and can make highlight reel saves in the net
       

FULL ONLINE MODES - For the first time ever, enjoy full online support for Wii, including multiplayer match-ups, downloadable rosters, online leagues, tournaments, leaderboards and the ability to use created teams in Team Up mode - virtually everything you can do with the other console versions of NHL 2K10, you can do with Wii.

WII MOTIONPLUS AND WII SPEAK SUPPORT
- Enjoy true online voice chat capabilities via WiiSpeak as you challenge your friends online, and perfect the precise one-to-one control with Wii MotionPlus.

NHL 2K10 from 2K Sports will be available on Wii on September 15. For more details, visit www.2ksports.com/games/nhl2k10.

 

 

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