EA Sports NHL 16 is in my opinion what NHL 15, it’s a truer next generation console experience, it adds the features the all the missing modes that should have been included in NHL 15 and the new career mode is a much-needed improvement over the controversial changes to it last year.
First off the presentation is still as good as it was in the previous version, the dynamic shot of the cities the teams play from are still cool and the commentary handled by Doc Emrick and Eddie Olczyk is for the most part solid, while hearing the canned lines of “WAFFLE BOARDED!” or “Zigged when he should have zagged” is cool the first 4 times you hear it becomes old. The inclusion of Ray Ferraro on ice level is probably the weakest part, his canned lines age quickly as he constantly adds the 4 recycled lines every game and makes comments are generally vague in order for them to be reused for every potential teams playing each other. but generally the presentation is very reminiscent of the TV broadcasts which is what EA have gone for and while this is a lot better from NHL 14 it’d be nice for them to use some more diversified lines, there’s only so many times you can hear about how special it is to watch an original six match up…
Speaking of presentation they’ve included the mascots of most of the teams who have them, which I suppose is cool if your team has one but generally they’re just their to add a bit of diversity to the goal celebration transition with them cheering with the crowd when your team scores. That and certain goal songs now play just as they do in the real life arenas, if you’re anything like me and hate hearing Chelsea Daggers.. you’ll have to soldier through it. *shudders* That said it’s only certain teams that have it. It’s nice to see EA making the effort but it’d be nice to have all of them. Thankfully the Edmonton Oilers doesn’t play. We went from Pitbull to Metric and it’s honestly not that big of an improvement.
The biggest improvement for me was the improvements to career mode. NHL 15 made a weird change in which instead of going through minor league and earning your draft position you just get randomly chosen by a team at a random section of the draft. Thankfully EA has fixed this with the ability to start in the minors and earn that number one pick position, additionally allowing the players to play from a younger age instead of playing out your last season in minors and your first year of draft eligibility. The new off ice training was an interesting change, the player in between simulating to games has a set amount of time to train in particular ways to improve certain attributes, for example if you think you need to improve your slapshot you can spend a couple of hours training it which will improve that attribute. All of this adds to your player’s overall stat and this overall rank is now how the game will dictate your draft position, which is hit and miss as if you’re completely destroying the league with 50 goals and 80+ points you could still drop to the 5th round. So it really pays to make your player a lot more balanced, adding points to weaker areas in order to raise your overall stat.
Another significant change is the coaching objectives, now coach’s on ice instruction matter as you gain bonus exp for following his instructions, for example if he’s asking you to hit a slap shot on the net by doing so you’re rewarded with bonus exp. That said this is also hit and miss as sometimes the games just doesn’t register goaltender screens and breakout passes, which cause a lot of frustration now that the individual categories of; Offense, Defense and Teamplay have set target grades and by passing them you gain extra exp and not passing bonus objectives puts you at a disadvantage when trying to meet the grades. But my biggest pro for career mode has to be the improved presentation, in previous years unless you win the Conn Smythe Trophy you never touch a cup despite your team winning the Stanley Cup your character will never get a touch. This year you get that rewarding feeling of watching your character hoisting the Cup. Oh and Playoff beards. The ability to see your team with sweet beards is always a plus in my book.
The customization for both EASHL and Be A Pro mode is pretty impressive, your player is even more dynamic than ever before. As a stickler to the rules I normally stick to the basic black or white stick tape and white laces, but if you want yellow laces like Alexander Ovechkin or if you want to Teal equipment you absolutely can this year. The goalie customization is probably my favorite part with you able to choose individual parts of goalie pads any color you desire, I personal love my goaltender glove to look like a bunch of Bananas. Understandably the Goalie mask customization is lacking, in the league these are the ultimate expression of self of any player, with goalies masks adding motifs or featuring pop culture figures on them, so understandably this part while lacking in many ways is understandably so.
But probably the biggest return this year is EA Sports Hockey League (EASHL) there was a large outcry when it was revealed that EASHL wouldn’t be in NHL 15. But thankfully it’s back and it’s as fun as you remember it. There’s the same satisfactory feeling of seeing your passing plays turn into a highlight real goal or making a big save as a goalie keeping the team in the game. Coordination is key, team work really counts for something meaning that going into a game with a coordinated group really puts you in the advantage. In my experience over the last week or so I’ve found it difficult connect to games with my friends, from what I’ve seen this is most likely an issue that is subjective rather than objective, EA servers are an easy boogeyman to blame problems on.
Overall EA Sports NHL 16 is probably the most inclusive NHL game to date. The on ice trainer will help new comers in a way that NHL has never done before, even someone like me who has been playing the game for a number of years seems to have improved, breaking bad habits like favoring the glove side or poor cycling of the puck in the offensive zone. I think EA took note of player complaints from the previous game and made NHL 15 should have been.
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