NHL '11 preview: EA makes faceoffs more realistic with help from Jarret Stoll

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stoll faceoff.jpgThe “next generation” of Electronic Arts’ NHL series might be subject to a bit of nitpicking, but they’re still among the best hockey video games ever made.

With the 2K Series bowing out of competition for at least a year (except on Nintendo’s Wii console), some people were worried that EA’s polygonal puck monopoly would mean the company would rest on its laurels.

While the previews I’ve read so far are very limited, I’m not sure there are going to be many “huge” upgrades for the game. That being said, I’d say the games only really need “tweaks” rather than wholesale changes, anyway.

One area that looks to receive a makeover, though, is the game’s faceoff system. Faceoffs have always been pretty lacking in their games; it seems like the winner is determined more by an invisible coin toss than anything else. (Of course, faceoffs are basically a 50-50 proposition in real life, but video games should always test your skills, right?).

It seems like the company is taking some steps to make the faceoff side more realistic or at least more nuanced. The video game channel G4 provides more on the new system, plus a few other tweaks in their “first look” preview.

The game will have much-improved face-off control, offering players several different grips, as well as actual stick control during those moments with the right thumbstick. Also new to the game this year will be the addition of the entire 60-team Canadian Hockey League, as well as the most-requested feature from players: broken sticks. Now you can break sticks, and heads, as much as the game will allow.

(Quick aside: broken sticks? Sounds like that might lead to some broken controllers. Definitely not from me, though, because I’m an adult and never get mad at video games. Yup.)

Finally, here is a video that details how Jarret Stoll helped the development team improve its faceoff mechanics. It’s funny that they used Stoll because the Los Angeles Kings center is one of my go-to guys in the digital circle, aside from maybe Rod Brind’amour and Manny Malhotra. Check out the video below for more on how he helped. (Plus, Heidi Androl is involved. She’s pretty cool.)

(H/T to Kukla’s Korner for the Stoll video.)