Last fall we saw the release of two new consoles and a trio of EA Sports titles for those platforms. The one glaring exception from the EA Sports lineup for those new consoles was the NHL franchise, which is now making its next-gen debut with NHL 15. Does the extra time in development make this the best of EA Sports' lineup on the new platforms?
I don’t think I can really start my review of NHL 15 without bringing up with the visuals. NHL 15 is drop dead gorgeous. Even if you have no interest in hockey, I’d highly recommend at the very least checking out the demo. If nothing else, this game is a great testament to the power of the new consoles. NHL 15 packs a punch. Right when you boot up a game, you have a beautiful aerial view of the stadium and then are brought into the real life version of Doc Emrick and Eddie Olczyk who introduce the game. On the ice, things are just as stunning. The crowds feel alive and might look the best of any EA Sports game out right now. Animations are smooth and the flow of the game looks like what you would see on TV. There are some weird animations that happen at times, but those are minor in comparison. In short, this is a gorgeous game of hockey.
The act of playing hockey remains impeccable. The developers did a great job of incorporating the great gameplay from past versions into this new iteration. Skating is something that EA Sports is constantly working on and it remains incredible. I can’t tell you how often I sit back and marvel at how good the game feels, especially in situations where you’re sprinting for a puck and the momentum makes it difficult to do a quick turn. That sense of realism is fantastic. There is a tendency on the default settings to call a heavy dose of penalties which slows the game down; lowering those settings, I found, made for a far more excited experience.
What impressed me most about both FIFA 14 and Madden NFL 25 for these new platforms last year was that they were nearly feature complete in comparison to the previous-gen counterparts. With extra time in development I expected NHL 15 to follow suit; sadly, it doesn't. Instead we get only a shell of what the previous-gen games have with a stripped down GM and Be a Pro mode. Both modes are stripped to only their essentials. Fans of the series who want to sink their teeth into the deep modes of the current-gen games won’t see that on the PS4 or Xbox One version. Be a Pro in particular is a mode I frequent each year and it’s in the worst shape it’s been since its inception. All modes in the game are as bare bones as I’ve seen them in five to six years. That’s a huge disappointment for a franchise that’s made huge strides in the last couple of iterations.
The other big issue that I had with NHL 15 is the commentary. I’m a huge fan of Doc Emrick and I think the combo of Emrick and Olczyk is great but the technical side of it fails far to often. They get it wrong a lot. I mean a lot. I would say at least a half dozen comments are just flat out wrong each game. Have a nice slap shot on goal, they might tell you that it missed the mark. Make a pass and you might find that Emrick will make a comment about a bad shot. There are far too many comments that don't match what's actually happening.
The action on the ice is fantastic. It looks great and plays even better. However even with the beauty on the ice there is a lack of substance within the game that makes NHL 15 feel like it needed another year before being released on the new consoles. Unless you’re starving for some digital hockey on your new consoles, I’d wait for a, hopefully, more fully featured hockey release next year.
The owner and editor-in-chief of Darkstation.com. I've been apart of the website since 2002 and purchased the website in 2010. Owning and running Darkstation is a dream come true. I love video games and I love writing and talking about them even more.