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NHL 16 Review

"Immersion over Substance"

Campaign

NHL 15 was a terrible game, at the time I could clearly notice it and even now with this title I'm disgusted by how bad it was. With the latest generation we were given a brand new engine which focused on making incredibly realistic sports games at the cost of having to start fresh. This hurt fans of the NHL series since it was once a proud and basically best of the sports franchises. The majority of what you could do in the game and customization options were just gutted. I won't forget it and I certainly won't forgive them for that year, though we can onward so that this series can be great once more. With NHL 16 things have largely improved in terms of adding all the modes they had removed last year. So to say this is moving forward would be a lie in itself as these modes existed in NHL 14. Another problem I have with this title is the continued focus on immersion, I normally love it though I feel as if they could have taken the time spent on beard physics or mascots and put that into the gameplay.

I'm going to try to cover all the game modes here as the list has grown considerable and feels at par with NHL 14. First up is the "Be a Pro" mode which is a favorite since its addition around five years ago. This allows you to move through a career to become a star. There are many options available as you work your way up through the leagues with some being new and neat. They've added a section to train your player on various skills with so many hours available between games, this translates into the traditional skills earned during matches. The customization was also far more in-depth for my player than imagined since I could edit sock tape; stick colors, lace style and many body features as some prime examples.

Next is the GM and Season Modes which sort of go together well. In GM mode you have many options present to watch over your organization from behind the scenes which I'm sure some people enjoy doing. It's got a neat overhead feature to see how games progress and many options to perfectly control your squad. The season mode is a classic and returning section which we've all done at some point in these games. It has you pick a team and play with them in-game, along with managing all the GM areas as well.

Shootout mode is also back for a more casual playtime as you just practice or compete with your shooting skills. There's also NHL Moments live which pick defining moments from the past and present, then allow you to change fates or make sure they do happen. Play-off mode is also back if you want to skip the season and head straight into the final series for the holy Stanley Cup. Ultimate team is the final quick mention for this block and is well known to any EA Sports players. It's essentially the build your team through random cards mode which appears to be popular for many individuals though I don't find it too thrilling myself.

Online play is back in full strength with regular quick matches against others online or friends if you'd like. There's also an option for regular 6v6 play online where every person takes a position on the ice and a more deepened version of that called EASHL. This mode was a fan favorite which many were angry over last year since it wasn't present at the launch, this allows your group of friends to play as a squad together with up to 6 players on ice at once. There were also great options to customize the look of your squad and this was great fun to participate in.

Gameplay

This is the portion where I have the most complaints. While it certainly has gotten authentic over the years in how you skate, the way you hit and the world around you I have many issues with the core game. It looks absolutely beautiful when playing, yet the animations for players on the ice and during cutscenes in dreadful. Players look awkward when bumping into each other all the time and it looks awful. When playing the game it has improved, yet the player movement is still ugly. They skate almost perfectly, yet the reactions for players on ice is terrible. They don't function or follow paths that nature players skate during games and the transitions between offense to defense/vice versa isn't performed well at all. Additionally when looking at how passing is handled the system hasn't been changed despite awful intuition. I aim the stick back yet it'll hit the point instead of the open player crossing into the slot. It's moments like that which are frustrating and should be simple paths, additionally I've had players passing back behind the net when aiming towards the point on offense, it's annoying. These are just some of the points I wanted to use as examples, could go on for blocks of writing though I'll keep it short. A final note for this section would be the on-ice trainer which tells you what you're doing which was stupid and kept coming back despite me turning it off in the menus, after a few times playing it seemed to be gone though. They also push it in front of game stats which are more important to me, I'd rather see shots and time on attack then some virtual coach thinking they know how I played.

The presentation this generation is amazing and the next level of that is impressive. We now have mascots; authentic arena events, team wins have special displays and play-off beards. While I welcome the immersion this bring into the action, I'd rather that time spent on other areas that need improvement. Though it was great seeing Harvey the Hound on play, despite missing his signature drum and bone. They now have deeper overlay for NBC with an annoying logo and those loud announcers I'm sure Americans are a fan of. As a Canadian though this presentation is ugly to use the announcers are over the top with repetitive lines, I'd love to see some proper Canadian love added to the announcements since this is sort of a big deal over here. I also wanted to mention how great the ice fatigue was seeing the ice get cut up over time and the puck sliding snow across it. Though I have to mention the ice never gets that bad since they clean it during some breaks in the period.

The Conclusion

While NHL 15 starts to stride towards the quality of hockey from past games it doesn't quite hit that mark at this point. It's going to take more to impress me at this point, especially coming from the travesty of a game that was NHL 15. I'm sure fans of the sport and this game series will buy it regardless, just want to make sure the right information is set across from this review. It's basically NHL 15 with minor improvements and the modes that should have been in the last game.


NHL 16 Xbox One Box Art

Review Done on NHL 16 for Xbox One


Rating Overall: 6.5

Reviewed by: Jason Stettner
@Skycaptin5

Gamerheadquarters Reviewer Jason Stettner
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