The entire mode also plays like a Dynasty as you are fighting for a spot in the Playoffs and the opportunity to win a championship. Much like in real life, if you win a championship, they will raise a banner in your home arena for all other teams to envy. EA Hockey Ultimate Team has added in a ridiculous amount of replay value and a new level of addiction to the NHL franchise.
Be A GM Mode is relatively unchanged with the exception of the addition of the CHL and UFA/RFA system. The CHL has been added into the mix which allows for an authentic feel to the prospects draft by also extending it to 7 rounds. Furthermore, this allows you to also draft real life prospects from the CHL and all five European leagues. This may not be a huge change to your casual player, but to die hard hockey fanatics this a big time addition that helps bring the game to that next level.
As for the addition of restricted free agents and unrestricted free agents, these can be kind of a headache if you’re not careful. Unfortunately, EA Canada didn’t add a marker or tag to players that are RFA, so that means unless you’re in the category labeled RFA (near the end, which is why it’s easy to miss), you may trade away a star player in order to make cap room for a guy, only to find out you have to also give up a ton of draft picks for him as well. While the strategy element added in is a great addition, EA Canada should definitely patch in a much better way to immediately differentiate who is considered an UFA and who is still a RFA. Overall though, this doesn’t hamper anything as you learn pretty quickly to double-check what’s going on before you pull the trigger!
Finally, the last mode I’m going to discuss is Be A Pro. This is probably one of the most frequently played modes in the NHL series since its inception and with good reasoning. EA has done a lot to make this mode even more open ended to the user and to increase the experience of being a pro in the NHL as well. In the offline mode, rookies will have to play in the Memorial Cup in order to be scouted for the NHL. This is a great addition as it will not only affect your draft status, but gives you a chance to be a champion before you even enter the NHL. However, in the online portion of this mode, EA has gone even further by implementing team practices, league banners, and customizable jerseys and logos. This is without a doubt, the best mode in NHL 11 to play when you need a change of pace from the frantic 5-on-5 experience and you’re looking for a real “team-oriented” feel.
Presentation-wise, NHL 11 has stepped its game up significantly from ’10. The new intros and overlays really help take the fan and immerse them within the experience that is NHL hockey. The player detail and models have been improved by a small margin, but still noticeable and the jerseys look more authentic than ever (really impressed by the jersey look up close). The announcers are still somewhat the same, but sports announcing is never the strong point of a title, though NHL and FIFA do a better job than most other sports on a year-to-year basis.
NHL ’11 has taken NHL ’10 given it a strong dose of HGH and released it to the masses. This beefed up version includes more than enough content to warrant a $60 purchase, and the lines across Canada last night to pick it up further this notion. If EA Canada continues on this upward trend year after year, we’re going to be looking at holographic hockey by 2015 at the latest — well, maybe not.