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Review: NHL 15

I purposefully pulled myself from our NHL 15 review because I was worried my bias would award the franchise’s current-gen debut an instant 10/10 score. After all, I live and breathe hockey. I play it in real-life. I froth at the mouth whenever EA Canada and EA Sports release a new entry in the yearly series.

Hell, when I previewed the game at E3 this year, I was getting ready to throw “PERFECT GAME OF THE YEAR” at anyone who’d listen come mid-September.

That won’t be happening. Even with an acknowledged bias toward the game – both in physical and digital representations – I can’t overlook all of NHL 15’s shortcomings.

nhl15eberle

The game lacks soul. It’s now using EA’s IGNITE engine. NHL players look more realistic than ever before. Jerseys flap in the breeze. The puck has its own proper physics for the first time ever, damnit! Still, these great little details can’t help but patch the giant hole in the centre of the game.

I was aware that NHL 15 wouldn’t have the EA Sports Hockey League this year. To me, that wasn’t such a big deal. The online league required that you teamed up with at least 5 other friends to play positional hockey and take on other real player teams. In Australia, that’s just too hard to manage, both in terms of numbers and timezones. I honestly didn’t think missing game modes would affect me.

That is, until I began Be a Pro mode. As always, I jumped into the editor and began to make a player that looked the most like myself, giving him my name and my hockey number – good ol’ #19, for Steve Yzerman.

nhl15physics

That’s when I realised I had around half of the player creation tools I was used to. Not just in NHL 14, but 13, 12, 11… you can see where I’m going with this. I had my name, I had my number… but I wasn’t Steve Wright. And I wasn’t able to fix that.

Even more crushing was the realisation that I couldn’t start off my Be a Pro career in the WHL. Eighteen year old, digital Steve Wright was starting off in the big leagues; in the NHL. I couldn’t start off playing for my real-life hometown team, the Saskatoon Blades. I couldn’t prove my worth to scouts and be picked up in the end-of-year draft by whichever NHL team decided I was worthy. To me, the very heart of Be a Pro mode was destroyed.

It didn’t matter how great the game looked or played at that point – and everything I’ve said in my preview and in-depth look still applies, so check it out — because the simple fact of the matter is that NHL has been lobotomised on current-gen.

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NHL 15 lacks a large number of the features that I have grown accustomed to over the years. Actually, make that features that keep me coming back to the game year after year. Last year, I was disappointed that NHL was the only game in EA Sports’ stable that didn’t make the jump to current-gen; this year, I’m disappointed that only half a game did.

Die-hard fans are going to want to play this game to see how it looks, and moreover, what to expect next year with a full set of features. To those, I say play the game’s demo. You don’t get much more in the full release anyway. To those who’re itching for a new NHL game, do yourself a favour and stick to last-gen for one more year.

EA, you’ve played with our heartstrings enough. I’m aware that some features – like Online Team Play — will be implemented post-release, but that’s not good enough. I think I speak for most when I say we’d rather have a delayed game with everything we’d expect rather than the promise of patches down the track. You’ve got a great core going on current-gen with his half-release; please, deliver the actual goods next year.

NHL 15 is available as a beautiful looking shell of its former self on Xbox One and PS4 and as a full-featured upgrade of NHL 14 on Xbox 360 and PS3.

 

NHL 15

The good

  • Amazing current-gen graphics, physics and presentation.
  • Gameplay as you’d expect from this quality franchise.

The bad

  • Half a heart and zero soul.
  • Too many cut-down or missing modes.
  • A better, fuller, experience on last-gen.

Want to know more about our scoring scale?



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About the author

Steve Wright

Steve's the owner of this very site and an active games journalist for the past ten years. He's a Canadian-Australian gay gaming geek, ice hockey player and fan. Husband to Matt and cat dad to Wally and Quinn.