Chicago Blackhawks' Jonathan Toews is shown in "NHL 11."

Chicago Blackhawks' Jonathan Toews is shown in "NHL 11." (EA Sports)

EA Sports is undoubtedly the king of sports games and it’s definitely the coolest when it comes to recreating NHL action.

Electronic Arts’ latest release, "NHL 11," is like all their other franchise sports games — a step toward realism in the evolution of video games.

From the cracking sound of sticks hitting each other to the expressions on the faces of the players as they body check each other into the glass, it is the closest you can get to playing ice hockey without putting on your skates or even leaving your living room.

As good as this game is, I don’t expect too many gamers from Texas to buy this game. Hockey fans from up north will love this title, though.

The mechanics and controls of the game are as tight and responsive as anything I have played — and not just sports games. Sticks break realistically, if not too often. Players bounce off each other realistically with varying degrees of intensity. The puck flies and slides the way it should. EA is a step closer to perfection with this game.

Most of the new parts of the game aren’t drastic changes, just a bunch of small ones, mostly little nuance things like the breaking sticks.

Then there’s the EA Sports Ultimate Hockey League.

This is probably the most strenuous creation I have seen in a sports game. It uses a trading card system to let players design a franchise. You get dealt a random set of cards representing actual players from the NHL. You pick the ones you want in your franchise and after many more tweaks that seem to be endless you start a hockey season.

However, the EA Sports Ultimate Hockey League is only for the diehard hockey fan. It is far too complex for the casual gamer, but I am sure a couple guys in Canada will fall in love with it.

All the modes from last year are there; single player franchise, single player career, playoff, tournament, practice and the silky smooth online mode.

My only complaint is the players seemed a little slow and got winded too quickly when I forced them to sprint. Other than that, I can’t imagine anything else can even come close to being considered for purchase with such heavy hitter available.

I’m not even sure how or why anyone besides EA Sports continues to make team sports games and pull any sort of profit.

Platforms: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 (tested)


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