Monday, September 15, 2014

NHL 15 Review: C+

Back in 2008, I bought a used PlayStation 2 for about 60 bucks and a copy of "NHL '09" for 30. It was the first time I had played the series after the only other hockey videos games I had ever owned were "NHL Stanley Cup" for SNES, and "NHL Hitz 20-02" for GameCube.

If you're not a hockey/video game fan, play one game of Hitz and it'll change your life.

"NHL '09" delivered, and I've had ever iteration of the franchise since. I had high hopes for this season, considering Patrice Bergeron was gracing the cover. "NHL 15" was the first hockey game for the next generation consoles, but unfortunately its arrival has been met with much negativity.

First, the good news: "'15" looks absolutely amazing. Graphics and out of this world and the NBC Sports presentation is spot on. Gameplay is pretty realistic, although compared to older versions, this game takes a while to find your skating legs. Playing online has produced very few problems (except for the fact that I still have trouble finding the back of the net, and then that one time I was winning and Big Cat hit the router with a basketball and I lost connection), and overall the game runs really smooth.  

Relatively speaking, more players look like themselves, although with over 700 players in the NHL alone, there are only around 250 realistic character models; last year I'll bet the total was around 100. The realism is bumped up a notch when you hear the "NHL on NBC" jingle, see a live shot of the arena you're playing in and see the real Mike "Doc" Emrick and Eddie Olczyk in the booth. Unfortunately, Emrick doesn't use over 50 different words to say "pass," but its still cool hearing him freak out for a late-game equalizer. 

The bad news: Missing game modes and too big of a learning curve. Since EA had to build the engine from the ground up on a new console, things just feel different. While the controls are solid, they just don't feel like the NHL's of old.  

The list of omissions is pretty large for this game, and people have been all over EA for it. I, for one, typically just play online and dabble with a created player, but its nice to have a season with the Bruins to fight for the Cup or to play outside in a Winter Classic game once in a while.

Can't help but feel as though all of the eggs went into the presentation basket, with not a single one to stash anywhere else. EA Sports has owned up to a just a few issues and will be patching in content over the next couple of months, but overall "NHL 15" just feels like a rushed project that really wears the player's patience thin.

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