We're just weeks away from the NHL 15 launch date, Sept. 9. Early teaser videos have whetted many diehard gamer appetites, as has talk of new game physics and recently released overhead footage.
The gameplay in the new next-generation console clips (Xbox One, PlayStation 4), looked crisp and shiny, but surprisingly similar to that of previous versions, especially in how goals were scored, as my colleague Rory Boylen noticed. The pressure is on to deliver a major upgrade in the hockey gaming experience – especially in light of a disappointing announcement this week.
EA Sports released its NHL 15 game modes for the next-gen consoles. Excluded from them are popular EA Sports Hockey League mode, or EASHL, and GM Connected mode. Both will still appear on Xbox 360 and the PS3. The key hook of both: they allow teams of six humans (five skaters and one person controlling the goalie manually like a maniac) to battle other teams of six humans in a fully functioning, take-over-your-life experience. We're talking leagues, schedules, and even skill-based promotions and relegations like you'd find in your local beer league. In GM Connected, 30 different people can run 30 different franchises. It means giving up your job and love life but, still, it's friggin' hardcore.
Those modes are not to be in the Xbox One and PS4 versions of NHL 15. In fairness, producer Sean Ramjagsingh offers legit reasons for holding the game modes back:
"Decisions like this are never easy, nor do we take them lightly. We know that there is a passionate group of fans that loves these modes and is no doubt disappointed with this news; but we also know that this same group of fans expects a high quality gameplay experience above anything else. We’re a franchise built on quality, so launching these modes without confidence in their quality wasn’t something that we were willing to do."
That's a philosophy I can get behind. If something isn't ready, don't force it (exhibit A: The 2K baseball game series. Yowza). But it's nonetheless disappointing that EA couldn't get those bugs worked out in time. At least the Xbox One and PS4 will have Hockey Ultimate Team Mode, which allows you to create your own fantasy squad and battle your way through multiple divisions online.
If you're a diehard gamer and you haven't bought your net-gen console yet, is the lack of EASHL and GM Connected enough to make you wait a year? It's worth noting the first editions on new consoles (NHLPA Hockey '93, NHL '97, NHL 2001, NHL 07) are never heralded as the best, whereas EA often hits its stride very quickly afterwards (NHL '94, NHL 08). Share your thoughts in the comments.
Matt Larkin is an associate editor at The Hockey News and a regular contributor to the thn.com Post-To-Post blog. For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine. Follow Matt Larkin on Twitter at @THNMattLarkin