I’ll admit right here – I’m a huge nerd. My experiences with Ice-Hockey are exclusive to: a Toronto Maple Leafs hat and the Mighty Ducks. So why did I bother take the opportunity to review NHL 15? Take a look at the sport of Ice-Hockey: men covered in armor with blades on their feet gliding around a ring beating a puck around with sticks. Awesome, right? EA delivers an immaculately presented and visually beautiful experience, but what of the actual game? The core game seemed to have been on the bench during the development cycle.
Immediately jumping in I looked through the menus (the layout following the uniform of EA’s sister sports titles) and noticed the absence of a Season mode, although seasons can be played in the “Be a GM” mode it’s baffling why it wasn’t included standalone in the first place. This is a problem consistent throughout the game providing a very bare-bones and needlessly limited experience, made even more frustrating that the 360 and PS3 versions include all the missing modes. So it’s up to you, style over substance? Do you go for the visual glory of the current-gen version albeit for a more brief experience or the longevity of the last-gen version at the sacrifice of sharper visuals? The choice alone is infuriating especially for EA Canada’s first current-gen hockey game especially at its full retail price.
Now because I’m an NHL rookie the diluted game modes didn’t have any major bearing on my overall enjoyment of the game, the game being very, very good! Movement easily captures the swift glides of real Ice-Hockey while shooting with the analog sticks feel incredibly natural. The in-depth control schemes allow for very precise strategies if that’s your thing, I’ll stick to waging a war of attrition. (Arcade Pro Tip: Relentlessly smashing the puck away the moment you get possession is NOT a successful way to play your friends!).
Presentation has received one new major feature as games are queued with real footage of the panel of commentators, while this adds to the overall excitement of the game the CGI backdrops and limited voice-acting quickly replaces the excitement with boredom as you hammer your controller *SKIP SKIP SKIP SKIP*. Unfortunately these issues carry over to matches, it was only after my fifth game when I began to hear the same conversations and reactions repeated which is a shame coming from a studio that always nailed atmospheric commentary. It seems as if EA Canada focused their efforts on the live presentation at the expense of the aesthetic presentation.
Still these flaws soon vanished from my conscience the moment the game was in motion, needless to say this game is BEAUTIFUL! Players all come together in brutal clashes as people tug on jerseys and smash helmets off heads. Superficial as it may seem but the physics of the fabrics consistently blew my mind. With a game this visually impressive it’s impossible to avoid the clichés when describing it, could this generation finally be the one where we get hyper-realistic sports games? NHL 15 comes very close to this. I could easily rattle on about the visual awe but I’ll sum it all into one sentence that speaks volumes: I forgot about the graphics almost instantly and focused on the hockey, as if it were on ESPN.
Multiplayer is back in full-swing and made me come to the conclusion that getting my ass kicked by someone online is immeasurably better than a friend sitting next to me. Online play is all down to the individual’s temperament, if you enjoy fierce competition and can accept a defeat (as unfair as it may be) I’d wholly recommend it whereas if you’re convinced that everyone’s cheating and you actively shout at the referee… Make sure the house is empty…
Overall NHL 15 is a visual masterpiece let down by a disappointingly limited single-player and repetitive commentary. If longevity is what you’re after consider the last-gen versions in contrast if you want a fun way to pass time or impress your friends with your new TV – NHL 15 is the one to beat.
Fast, fluid, ferocious and fantastic! 7/10