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It seems as if EA Canada focused their efforts on the live presentation at the expense of the aesthetic presentation

“It’s in the game” has been the motto that EA Sports has lived by since the early 90s, but with the release of NHL 15, the motto no longer applies. Compared to last year’s offering, which did not release on the current consoles, NHL 15 feels painfully bare bones, with many missing features, a sluggish menu system. EA Sports has done a complete disservice to the long standing hockey series that has survived going up against the 2K series without resorting to buying the exclusive rights to the sport. While not everything from last year ended up on the cutting room floor, the remaining modes lack many of the details that made them enjoyable. I won’t even get into the fact that EA has once again shunned the PC audience.
 
Did you know that NHL 15 launched with less than half of the game-modes available in the previous title released a year before? No? Neither did the general public. It wasn’t pretty watching the Internet set aflame a beloved franchise in the days following the game landing on shelves. Did they tell everyone that they were going to include all of those modes? No, so it’s not like you can REALLY get mad at them. Point consumer, it is assumed that the designers of the NHL franchise wouldn’t take a notable step back. Does this mean that there is actually enough time in a calendar year (or slightly greater) for a team to completely revamp every single mode the game once offered? Probably not.
 
I’ve come to know the NHL games as annual masterpieces next to FIFA and the NBA 2K series, so I was excited to play NHL 15 as it seemed like the development process went in the right direction, taking off last year on the PS4 and Xbox One so they could focus on delivering a solid game that wasn’t half-assed. It turns out that they did - NHL 15 on the ice is a fantastic game. I really like it a lot. The improved physics, the more realistic gameplay, it gives a hardcore NHL fan every reason to nerdgasm. The gameplay of NHL 15 is absolutely top-notch. Each ice-spraying turn, each hit against the glass, every slapshot looks beautiful and more importantly feels beautiful. As someone who is naturally really into the current Blackhawks dynasty, you can imagine how great it feels to move down the ice with Kane and Toews, but sadly, the brilliance ends on the ice.

 
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. 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. 
 
Fortunately, there are some undeniable improvements between the predecessors and NHL 15. The most noticeable change is the improved graphics throughout the entirety of the game. Whether you are watching a cinematic or skating down the ice, the more powerful consoles really demonstrate what they are capable of visually. The layering of clothing and independent movement which was promoted prior to release is visible and it is easy to see the movement of a player’s jersey as they power down the ice or turn quickly. The fans in the arena are far more varied and you will see some diehard fans scattered throughout the arenas just as you would at any real hockey game. There are painted faces, signs, various pieces of team-specific apparel, and when a team scores, there is a high likelihood you will be given a shot of a fan taunting opposing fans.
 
Despite losing some very significant game modes, NHL 15 is still a great hockey sim and, more importantly, a great time. While the missing features will drive some players away, some things will be making a return before the next iteration comes out and some in future releases. Despite all of that NHL 15 still stands as one of the best sports games on the market.
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