EA’s NHL series has finally hit next generation consoles for the first time in the PS4 and Xbox One era this year and there is a lot of excitement for next gen hockey this year, but does NHL 15 live up to its hype? Read my review to find out.
The gameplay for NHL 15 is really good, I remember being worried about NHL 15’s gameplay during the summer with EA seemingly afraid to release any sort of videos on gameplay. But about 3 or 4 weeks before release, EA actually released two gameplay videos, it was on a Friday afternoon and those two videos looked pretty darn good, it gave me hope that the game would play well.
Then the demo came out, and it confirmed what I thought of the videos EA released, the game played fairly well and it was fairly well received by players at that point. The game was seemingly without any major flaws.
Somewhere between the demo and the games release the goalies seemed to somehow visit the Grand Theft Auto series and got drunk off their asses because for some reason the goalies were far worse than what they were in the demo for NHL 15. That might sound harsh, but the goalies were inept and had a severe case of goalie rebounditis and it made the game seem far worse than it really was, the demo proved as much. The game had potential one day and the next it seemed lackluster with the goalies being so horrible.
Then on Friday September 19th faith was restored with a gameplay tuner, the tuner managed to fix a lot of my gripes with the game from the goalies being slow and unreliable to the poke check and pass blocking not working well. And the game transformed itself into the goalies having better reaction speeds and the rebounds not being as big of a problem and the poke checks and pass blocking seem to be working decently providing for a much more balanced game from end to end as opposed to a scoring fest.
In fact the new tuner also meant that I had to alter a lot of my settings to make it play more realistic which is a great step in the right direction. EA’s new tuner sets this game up for good success in the future if the team builds on it down the road.
Unfortunately not all problems can be solved, for example, there are major clipping issues with the game, worse than in the past with sticks, skates, and even the players upper bodies going through the boards. Furthermore on the glitches and complaints side of things, there seems to be an issue with goals counting when the should not count. Instead of trying to explain these issues I will let you check out what I mean by providing these two examples by clicking here and here. While I post these I have yet to come across these goals in any of the 15-20 games I have played since the game released on September 9th.
Overall I feel like the gameplay for the NHL series is heading in the right direction and overall while the game started out with really suspect goaltending it has improved and the game plays fairly well despite the clipping and odd goals being awarded.
Moving forward I would like to see EA work a lot on defense and goaltending to make the game a much more balanced product.
Visually the game is astounding, the game has probably some of the best visuals on the next generation of consoles. There are plenty of nice visuals to check out on instant replay in particular if you are looking to be nitpicky about which side the benches are on and so on. The game comes with 28 of the 30 NHL arenas with the names on the ice, the only two are Chicago and Carolina, they get generic ice paint such as Chicago Blackhawks and Carolina Hurricanes painted where the arenas would normally have their proper names located.
The game also gets new announcers which are NBS Sports’ Mike Emrick and Eddie Olczyk along with TSN’s Ray Ferraro. The commentary on the game has sort of hit a wall, while it is decent, it could and should be much better. There is too much dead space in the commentary and you hear the same lines repetitively over and over in certain situations in particular introducing Ray Ferraro and fights. There is work to be done on the commentary side, but overall it is a decent start but there is a lot more to do in order to be considered one of the best in video games in terms of commentary especially when the game lags behind the NBA 2k series and MLB the Show in commentary.
Another thing EA touted proudly was Living Arenas and for the most part it is really good, the fans look spectacular, and the arenas all look pretty darn sharp. Unfortunately next generation consoles don’t have MP3 support because NHL 15 does not have designated goal songs for any team. For example Boston’s goal song is Kernkraft 400 by Zombie Nation and it is in the game, but the game does a randomized goal song for each goal which really sucks since there are songs in the game that can serve as a particular teams goal song. Hopefully next year EA can put in custom soundtracks and we can take care of that ourselves.
Game modes in general for NHL 15 are lacking a lot of its depth. As the game was being released EA dropped a bombshell that angered a lot of its customers with the removal of its popular EASHL and GM Connected online modes. But as the game released it was also noticed that some of the modes in the game are severely stripped down in terms of features. Lets take a look at these modes more in depth (the ones that are still in the game.)
Be a GM
Be a GM is my favorite mode out of them all typically, so I have dug into this mode the most and it is hit and miss. It is a hit because I have had a chance to play more on the ice than off the ice. But miss because that means the mode is so stripped down that it is a disappointment.
First of all before I unleash on this mode let me just say that I am a fan of the modes new layout, it is a nice step in the right direction. Another subtle but nice addition to Be a GM is the ability to compare players from the trade players screen. Granted that does not sound like a lot but it is a nice addition to the mode.
With that said, it is time to now unleash on the mode as a whole, starting with the fact that some of the most basic features of the mode are for not. For example want to perform the basic task of setting up coaching strategies? Well sorry, that has been removed.
That’s fine right? I mean if that’s the worst thing that has happened than we’re all good right? Well technically that would have been right, but sadly there are other omissions from the mode.
Including but not limited to a lack of a trade deadline screen or prompt to even make you aware that you are entering the trade deadline period outside of being reminded to update the trading block. And the worst offense in this mode is the fact that the draft is automatically done for you, which sucks for me because I am a control freak so I was not happy to hear that. However I tried to remain calm and relaxed, there is no way that the game can really screw up a draft, right? Oh shucks the computer thought that for some reason Boston needed 3 more prospect goalies in addition to Tuukka Rask, Niklas Svedberg, and Malcom Subban. If you know anything about the Bruins you would know that the last thing the Bruins need is goaltending depth. Personally I would have preferred scorers since the Bruins system lacks such a thing, which luckily I ended up getting in later drafts.
But if that for some reason isn’t enough to worry you than lets also throw into the mix the fact that there is no way to play with your AHL team, and you cannot see AHL stats for players that you might want to bring up via a call up. To make matters worse, there is no preseason in Be a GM either, so there really is no way to test out your prospects unless you call them up and test them out during regular season games.
The mode is going to get a new draft put into it in an October update, but if that is the only thing added to the mode it simply will not be enough to make putting up with a slow menu system (as nice as it looks) for a full year. EA has better add a lot more depth to a mode that really felt underwhelming before this debacle.
Be a GM is the only mode that I have really played but there are other modes. The other offline modes include a stripped down version of Be a Pro (notice the title change? at least they didn’t ruin Live the Life modes reputation eh?), and the newly added playoff mode.
Another mode is Hockey Ultimate Team which I have not dug into at all, so I cannot tell you how good or bad it runs, but I can refer you to this post on Operation Sports just flat out bashing the mode to pieces.
I have had a brief stint with NHL 15 online and it was unfavorable. The first game me and a friend played ended up disconnected, the second try actually got the game in and it was fairly decent in terms of smoothness. And than the third game was also disconnected.
So EA has not only made offline a mess in terms of modes, but one of its possible saving graces is shaky as well.
NHL 15 on next generation consoles is a good game on the ice. But off the ice the game brings out the worst in you. Between the slowish menus in Be a GM (and the rest of the game modes in all likelihood though the main menu is not too bad) and a lack of real content in any of these modes it can be a disappointing experience for an NHL series fan.
To add to the frustration the presentation and living worlds are not game changers themselves.
If you want a reason to play the game it would have to be the improved on the ice game play. That is by far the best thing the game has to offer, the rest of the game is a disappointment.
However I don’t want to end this on a sour note, I think the team at EA Canada has done such a good job on gameplay that is does set NHL up to be a very solid franchise in the future. But as the game stands right now it is hard to give this game a high score just based on the lack of real content on this game. However as I said, the future is very bright, I just hope EA can realize it and put the effort into the game that it damn well deserves.