NHL 16 is the most recent addition to the NHL series of games by EA Sports. Following a poor showing in last year’s NHL title, many expected EA to have a much better showing in this year by overcoming the growing pains of the newest console generation. Whilst there is versions of this game for the previous console generation (360 and PS3), this review covers the current generation’s iterations (XBONE and PS4).
Like previously stated, last year’s title was found to be subpar by fans of the series, feeling it was shallow and lacked many of the features key to the NHL experience, examples being the “Be a Pro” mode and offline shootout modes as well as online multiplayer whilst playing with guests on your console of choice. That has been fixed, much to my and many other’s pleasure. These modes have vastly been improved, especially the Be A Pro and GM mode, which feels like it took what was best about these career modes of previous games and combined them into a much more user-directed experience, where you feel that what you do as the player or team general manager has a huge effect on how the entire experience is. I could go on about how much more enjoyable this year’s edition is compared to the last five NHL games in this field alone.
The gameplay as well has been overhauled, making the game more accessible to casual players with the addition of on-screen hints to teach the player how to play whilst in-game, but still allowing much more veteran players to the series the ability to hide these hints or custom tweak these hints to just show positive cues for when you play well. The game feels much smoother and realistic to the hockey experience where every move you make affects the player like they are on the ice and not on solid ground.
This still does not leave the game with no flaws, as there are plenty of exploitable ways to easily score/win, which to some makes the game too easy and draws heavy criticism whilst playing the online portions. As well, like many EA sports games, there are a bevy of in-game glitches where players will go flying after a hit or simple contact when the physics engine goes a tad wonky, which are much more hilarious than annoying, but still problematic nonetheless.
GRAPHICS / MUSIC:
The graphics and music themselves haven’t vastly improved, but the overall presentation has been overhauled, as during gameplay it feels like an actual telecast and no longer do the stats “glitch out” during the Be A Pro/GM or Season modes where the stats appear as all zeroes. All the arena experiences feel like the actual place these teams play and the crowds are more involved with the game, having custom signs based on who is playing in said game as well as the players who score, are in goal and even the ones that take penalties.
As well, the menus have been redesigned to be much more manageable and user-friendly. The soundtrack itself is lacking as it no longer has a real soundtrack and instead features arena-esque music during stoppages and just very basic menu music whilst out of the game, which is very disappointing. As well, there is no way to put your own music into the game, which is a feature that is very much missed.
The three main online portions of this game have vastly been improved this year, especially in the way the game handles matchmaking, making it more balanced. As someone who rarely plays the online parts of the game itself, when I do rarely play it, it’s great to be matched with someone of my skill level. However, the ability to exploit a few different types of goals, you can find yourself rather frustrated by how easily a game can get of hand.
As the game has redone many of its career modes and overhauled the overall experience, I have found that it’s much easier to want to play this game over and over, making subtle changes to the teams that play, especially with the variety of teams not just from North America but many of the European leagues as well as all the Junior development leagues in Canada, with the unfortunate problem that US colleges and proper IIHF support are missing, which is just a minor issue as the NHL experience is still impressive.
After the poor showing last year, this game absolutely reignited my trust in EA for the series itself. The drawbacks such as exploits, silly glitches and my nitpicks of missing teams pale in comparison to the vast improvements that were put in this time around. Easily can sink a lot of time into this title, especially if you are a hockey fan and the detail put into teaching the user during the game can make even the most inexperienced of players have a hell of a time playing. If you love hockey and have the current gen consoles, I would highly recommend picking this up.
Rating: 8.2 / 10
RGN Rating: Silver Game
Developer: EA Canada
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Available On: PlayStation 4 / Xbox ONE
Release Date: September 15, 2015
Review Copy Info: Xbox ONE digital copy purchased by RealGamerNewZ reviewer.
Online Capabilities – 3/5
Replay Value- 8/10
Overall- 41/50, an 82%
Editor’s Note: NHL: Legacy Edition also available for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. This is a review of the PS4 / Xbox ONE version of NHL 16.