I had a chance to go hands-on with NHL 16 at E3 recently.
Of course, the big news this year is that all of NHL 15’s missing modes are back this time around, but we didn’t have a chance to check out EASHL or the like. Instead, my hands-on time with the game consisted of a quick match between Toronto and Vancouver, and the thing that caught my eye most was its new in-game tutorial system.
The tutorial system is very different than the usual pre-game drills built-in to previous NHLs. In those, before you really got to take to the ice, you ran through a series of drills, learning the ropes. Now, the tutorials exist as tooltips over your head as you play through actual game modes.
For instance, as I was taking a face-off, a tooltip above my centre said, “hold down to take the face-off”, and later, “hold up to tie-up”. The contextual tips change depending on where you are and what you’re doing, offering you lessons from skating to shooting, checking and more.
They’re good and bad.
Whilst standing in a group waiting for my turn to play, the tutorials were invaluable. I was able to see how they offered useful tips — and to some extent, timing – to those playing. They not only offered suggestions on how to shoot, but projected optimal shooting paths on the ice to further assist.
Playing myself, that all changed. I was too concerned with my players, getting a good position and worrying about passing to look and see what the game was suggesting. It was a bit of information overload as I was trying to strategise and also try to soak in that new information.
Thankfully, the tutorials can be turned off if you’re already familiar with the game. If you’re not, it seems like the tips will require a little bit of patience. Moreover, common sense will need to be applied; like NHL’s sometimes-spotty coaching tips – “Nice goal, but that was a bad pass two minutes before that” – the tooltips might be a bit misleading. I saw a couple prompting a player for a shot when it clearly was the stupid thing to do.
The only other thing I really noticed in my time with NHL 16 was that precision skating has been refined even more. The last time I wrote about the functionality – in length, I might add – it was because it was overhauled to make skating more realistic. The problem was, most of that realism was in the form of inertia; if you wanted to turn a player and mashed left on the left-stick, your player would usually do looping, lazy turns. Now, your player can stop on a time, exploding off the line in another direction. I was also seeing a lot of cross-overs and the like as compared to even last year.
If you’re reading this, you’re already an NHL fan. In that case, this one’s a no-brainer; it’ll either add in all the stuff you missed out on and longed for last year, or it’ll be your current-gen gem if you skipped out after all the bad reviews.
Bring on September.