The following is a review for EA Sports' NHL 15 on Playstation 4 and Xbox One. NHL 15 arrived on the next generation consoles Playstation 4 and Xbox One last week to great anticipation. The player and fan graphics took a step up, NBC's commentary crew was added to enhance the gaming experience, and the physics engine was also upgraded. But how you grade the game depends on how you like to play it. If you're a casual gamer who only pops on from time to time for a 1-on-1 game online, if you're a big fan of HUT, or if you play offline against a friend on the couch, then you'll get what you want out of it. The look of the game has taken a big jump forward and the feel of it has moderately changed as well. The fan animations and gameplay provide a rich experience. As one user who gave a positive review on metacritic said: "I couldn't care less about the superfluous crap that's been jammed into these games the past few years. Focus on the game play. That's what matters, that's why people loved these games throughout the '90s." The problem is, the '90s have been over for a decade and a half and sports games have evolved since then. Most users have gotten used to a more comprehensive package, filled with an in-depth GM mode, an RPG-like career mode, an online "GM Connected" where you manage a team against other players from around the globe or in your neighborhood - and more. It's here that NHL 15 takes a dive.
The answer to that last tweet is "no." While the
gameplay and display are excellent, the complete package is a shell of what it should be. Gone is Live the Life (an RPG feature trumpeted last season as an exciting new endeavor), the Winter Classic, online shootouts, online team play, GM Connected and a pile of other game modes. You can't even play a single season mode, even though GM mode still exists. Making matters worse are the seemingly nonsensical omissions from the game modes that are available. In Be a GM, the yearly draft is automated and you have no influence over who your team selects. In Be a Pro, you can't play through the Canadian League or the Memorial Cup to influence your draft stock and are instead "drafted" by a random team. Heck - you can't even sim to your next shift, instead having to wait it out on the bench. Boring! Because of these missing pieces the depth of experience is wholly unfulfilling. While it's great to have upgraded graphics and it's neat that there are more fan animations - what's the point if you can't play the game the way you've become accustomed to? What's the point if you can't play modes that provide an engrossing experience? Upgrades made to the gameplay are fun at first, but without options that keep you engaged and into the game, it grows stale very fast. EA has said some of these modes will be added through patches at a later date. Here is what the company is saying will come later in September and in October:
Coming in September:
• Playoff mode: An offline tournament mode for up to 16 teams will be added.
• Coach feedback in Be a Pro mode: While on the bench, your coach will offer you tips and feedback.
• Stars of the game: The end of a game in any mode will be marked with its three best players (and their stats) being highlighted.
• Ultimate Team changes: The store's layout will be updated, new animations will be added for items, and the edit lines screen will be improved.
Coming in October:
• Online Team Play: This missing mode will be added post-launch, as promised.
• GM Draft: You'll finally be able to draft your own players in the Be a GM mode. Our suggestion is to wait for those patches to be made before purchasing the game, if they are what you like to play. But even after them, it still won't be the full game it was in 2014 on the old systems. On metacritic,
NHL 15 gets a 3.1 out of 10 score from Playstation 4 users, while critics gave it a mediocre but much more friendly 61 out of 100. The fact is, depending on how you play the game, it can still be enjoyable. If you like the bare bones modes and think the rounded experience EA has given us in the past is just window dressing, NHL 15 likely won't disappoint. But if you - like me - think the window dressing are things like announcers, the crowd graphics and the skill stick, then you'll be disappointed with how little meat there is in this game. After all the hype, this is a terribly disappointing and empty game of hockey. Perhaps the first incarnation of NHL games on next-gen systems never are as good as the more polished versions that follow, but that's no reason to give the series a pass in a review. This can be an enjoyable game in the most basic sense, but if you're looking for a lasting and in-depth experience, it's not here. NHL 15 for the next-gen consoles is basically a demo - and an expensive one at that. It's going for $70 in Canada. Full price for only a portion of a game. Cannot recommend purchasing this year's game, at least until the patches come through to add more choice. Even then - beware of missing modes.
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