NHL 15 Review: Disappointment From The Fans
For avid hockey fans and video gamers (like myself), September 9, 2014 was a very exciting and long-awaited day. Why? Because arguably one of the greatest sports video game franchises of all time released NHL 15, the latest installment in EA Sport’s hockey series.
This year’s release is even more exciting than in previous years because it is the first game in the franchise to be released for the latest next-generation (next-gen) consoles, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. But before getting into the next-gen consoles, here’s a brief review of the changes from NHL 14 to NHL 15 (or the lack thereof) for the current-gen consoles (Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3):[Awkward silence]
I’m really at a loss for words… NHL 15 for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 is essentially the same game as last year’s. EA has added new announcers, a change also made for the next-gen consoles (see below), but that’s about the extent of it. Other than the announcers, the game is basically a copy-and-paste of NHL 14, with new rosters.
Owners of the current-gen consoles are definitely unhappy about this. As one of them aptly put it, “[c]harging full price ($70) for what amounts to a roster update, a new background menu, and new commentary is something I would never be able to do with a straight face.” Despite this dearth of difference, however, NHL 15 for the current-gen consoles might actually be your best bet; though EA could have saved some face by charging less than the full price for a carbon copy of last year’s game. But let’s give credit where credit is due.
EA clearly placed its focus and energy on NHL 15 for the next-gen consoles. EA’s new game engine, EA Sports Ignite (Ignite), adds new real-world physics and artificial intelligence to the mix, but Ignite is only featured in the next-gen versions of the game; current-gen console owners will have to make do with the “old-school” physics engine and graphics. The difference is that Ignite’s innovative engine “blends new technology with the best rendering, run-time physics, animation, intelligence, locomotion, and online systems from across EA into one powerful, new engine.” As a result, next-gen athletes now possess human-like intelligence for advanced decision-making, players will have the agility to change speeds and directions with true athletic motion, and living worlds will make the game experience as rich and dynamic as real-world stadiums and arenas.
I’ll admit, after playing the game on my Xbox One, the graphics and gameplay are literally something out of this world (pun intended). Even the audience members are unique and have their own personalities. None of them look the same, and when the home team is winning, you can see the shift in morale in their happy facial expressions. When losing, you can see the frustration on their faces. Hall of fame announcer Mike (“Doc”) Emerick and Eddie Olczyk have replaced Gary Thorne and Bill Clement as the game’s commentators. Any change would have been welcome by most gamers, but EA has really made a statement by signing these two to replace them.
When all is said and done, it may seem as though NHL 15 for the next-gen consoles is a sure win. But those of you who have chosen to go the retro route by sticking to your roots and buying NHL 15 for the Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3 may have the last laugh. I guess it really comes down to whether you are a casual gamer or a hardcore gamer.
Calling all casual gamers: you will love this game! Go buy it! The graphics are insane, the gameplay is phenomenal, and you know no better. It’s an awesome game to showcase the capabilities of next-gen technology. It’s a great game to play with friends and family for fun, money, shots of Patron, or whatever else you find worth competing for. The online mode is also worthwhile and enables you to see how you fare against others around the world.
Now for the hardcore gamers (like myself), NHL 15 for next-gen consoles is an utter disappointment, despite the amazing graphics and gameplay. Many of us are outraged at the loss of key game modes, the most notable being EA Sports Hockey League (EASHL). EASHL is a multiplayer online game mode that allows you to take a custom-created character and club online and compete in a 6-v-6 hockey game. Other game modes that are missing in the next-gen NHL 15 are: GM Connected (a multiplayer online fantasy-draft mode), online shootouts, online team play (similar to EASHL but without the custom-created players or clubs), and many more. Other die-hard NHL gamers and I who were duped into selling our old consoles and buying NHL 15 for the next-gen consoles are up in arms about these baffling exclusions.
One such gamer hit the nail on the head:
“NHL 15 on Xbox One and PS4 has presented me with one of the biggest cases of cognitive dissonance I’ve had in some time. From one perspective, it looks better than it ever has before, and it plays very well. From another point of view, it provides no meaningful ways to enjoy the game, offline or online. Sure, there are a handful of modes to be found in NHL 15, but when you consider the plethora of options that users have had before now, it just leaves a real bad taste.”
Other gamers have vented their frustrations on a popular video game forum, in a thread entitled “EA may lose 25+ percent of pre-orders/sales for NHL 15.” Some perplexed gamers have even purported canceling their pre-ordered copies of the game upon hearing of this disappointing news before the game’s release: “Man, If this is true I’d cancel my pre-order right now and wait for NHL 16.” Another stated, “EASHL is the only reason I buy these games. Definitely not buying if it’s excluded.”
While I can relate to these frustrated gamers, I’m enough of an NHL addict that playing online 1-v-1 mode is enough for me to get my fix, for the time being. Maybe if I knew about this before selling my Xbox 360, I would have stuck to NHL 15 for the current-gen consoles. Nevertheless, as frustrated as I am with the absence of EASHL, I am beginning to appreciate the next-gen graphics and gameplay.
The choice is yours, but these are just some things to keep in mind when debating whether to buy NHL 15, and for which console. Casual gamers can’t go wrong with the next-gen graphics and gameplay. If you haven’t already ditched your current-gen consoles, all of you hardcore gamers who have become attached to coveted game modes such as EASHL and GM Connected might want to hold on to them, at least until EA Sports decides to give back what it took away from next-gen gaming.
 See http://investor.ea.com/releasedetail.cfm?releaseid=766330.
 See http://blogs.theprovince.com/2014/09/09/nhl-15-review/.
 See http://www.easportsworld.com/en_US/clubs/nhl13.