Developer: Electronic Arts
Publisher: Electronic Arts
ESRB: E for Everyone
EA sports has been the supreme developer of ice hockey games since their breakout hit and arguably the best sports game ever programmed, NHL ’94. However, during the 2000’s, EA started to have competition with 2K sports’ own NHL series game. The rivalry continued until 2011 when 2K announced that they would be taking a hiatus with their NHL series. It was that year when EA released probably their best modern title, NHL 12. Since the discontinuation of 2K’s NHL, EA titles began to get progressively worse. They would take out game modes and features that we loved and either release them as new content in future titles or not at all. This brought us to NHL 15 which is said by many to be the worst EA NHL game in existence. This wasn’t due to the graphics or gameplay, but because EA took out so many features and modes, it didn’t feel like a complete game. Many people complained, and while EA stood by their decisions to not include certain features, they eventually tried to patch most of them in. The biggest missing component was EASHL or Electronic Arts Sports Hockey League where players would create their own hockey teams and compete against leagues around the world. EA later patched in an online team play component, but it wasn’t enough for some fans.
After the debacle of NHL 15, a lot of people, and rightfully so, were skeptical of the new NHL title released. Did EA redeem themselves, or is this the end of hockey video games as we know it?
Violence: Hard hits, fighting and injuries. All part of the game!
The one thing EA did get right with last year’s title NHL 15 was the gameplay aspect. This is even more improved in NHL 16. The controls are the same, but the players move much more precisely, which gives you more overall command. It is also a lot easier to receive passes and maintain possession of the puck.
In between periods, you get feedback from your coach. The coach will tell you what areas you need to improve on, and also what areas you are excelling at. The coach will also give you some input on what else he’d like to see from you. For example, he may want to see less turnovers, more poke-checks, and less slapshots.
A new feature EA added is the On Ice Trainer. This is a fantastic tool for people new to the NHL franchise or people who want to brush up on their game. This isn’t your typical tutorial that takes you away from the game; this helps you while you play. The trainer will tell you where you’re aiming for during a pass or shot on goal, the ideal position for the faceoff, when to poke or body check, and when you are offsides. Once you’re comfortable enough, you can pick and choose if you want to disable certain hints from the menu.
The multitude of game modes left out of NHL 15 have found their way back into 16. These include:
Play Now: Choose a team and play a quick game.
Online Versus: Choose a team and play a quick game online.
Offline Shootout: Skip right to the shootout (Offline)
Online Shootout: Skip right to the shootout (Online)
Hockey Ultimate Team: Build the ultimate team with trading cards and compete in matches either online or solo. Sell and buy cards from other players, edit your team for the best chemistry and hit the ice.
Electronic Arts Sports Hockey League (EASHL): Join or create your own league. Choose your custom player and play cooperatively with your friends or complete strangers as you compete with other teams online.
Online Team Play: Play cooperatively with other players using the default teams.
Be A Pro: Create your own player and live the life. Do you have what it takes to help bring your team to the Cup?
Be a GM: Manage your team. Sign, drop and trade players and build the ultimate NHL dynasty.
Season: Play an entire season as your favorite hockey team.
Playoff: Compete as your favorite teams in the playoffs. Do you have what it takes to hoist the Cup?
NHL Moments: Recreate or rewrite history of your favorite hockey moments of last season and this season.
Practice Mode: Tune your skills in certain scenarios before you hit the ice for the big time.
NHL 16’s presentation is very similar to its predecessor. EA did add a few new features to improve the overall authenticity of the atmosphere such as mascots, playoff beards, and each team’s specific goal horn. They also added new live footage of the stadiums to add to the realness of the game.
Mike Emrick and Eddie Olczyk return for the play by play commentary along with Ray Ferraro on the ice. Some of the commentary from last year is left in, but there is enough more added on to make this year’s experience a lot more fresh.
“Eddie, what are you doing?!”
For those who have had last year’s title and gave up on the franchise, I think NHL 16 constitutes a chance for EA to redeem themselves. I have to give EA credit for listening to what their players want. I’m not exactly sure what would make next year’s title any different (aside from rosters) because this title seems to be the ultimate hockey experience short of you lacing up on the ice yourself.
The Bottom Line