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NHL 15 draws a major misconduct penalty in its opening minutes

National Hockey League loyalists are used to getting their emotions tossed around, whether it be by frustrating TV deals, the way the sport gets swept under the rug by popular American culture, and the general lack of media attention and press it gets. They must endure these harsh realities, forever cursed in knowing their sport is secretly the best thing to ever happen to humanity.
 
Part of that tragedy was realized a little less than a year ago when we found out that the iconic NHL series would not be making an appearance on the brand-new NHL 15 Xbox One and NHL 15 PlayStation 4 consoles. At the time we were told the team was focused on delivering the best-possible experience on NHL 15 Xbox 360 and NHL 15 PlayStation 3, but the final product proved to be a step back.
 
Let’s start with the players; they have been rebuilt with three distinct layers. The body, equipment, and jersey all interact independently of each other; making every contact look more realistic. You can clearly see player’s jerseys flapping in the air as they gain speed or fold under hits from pucks, sticks and other players. The effect almost makes the character models photo realistic. Player likenesses have also been updated. Every player is almost immediately recognizable, stars and goons alike. Player’s faces take on emotions and different animations, like anger or just being out of breath. I noticed on more than one occasion hard skating players puffing hard trying to get their breath back at the end of a long shift. 

 
Take Be a GM mode in NHL 15 for example. If I'm entering a mode where I am tasked with running an NHL franchise, there are things I expect to control. Drafting players, consulting the AHL affiliate team for who is ready to come up, and more were all part of the fun in NHL 14, but NHL 15's GM mode loses all of them. The draft is CPU-automated, the up-and-coming players are merely waiting to come up, and I’m basically a figurehead, not a GM. I want to run a team, EA Sports, and you took some of the best parts about running a team away from me while assigning others to the A.I. What if I don't want the player the CPU drafts for me? What then?
 
On the ice, the player faces and clothes are rendered very well (despite some inaccuracies). Cloth physics are visible, as their jerseys have some natural flex, and the stitching can be clearly seen if you zoom in. The ice shows some great reflections and displays a nice progression of being scratched up during the match. The plexi-glass has a good number of scuffs and scratches, and if you put the camera behind it, it’ll also show off some distortion. The crowd exhibits all the right actions at the right times, even if the crowd isn't as diverse as the press releases would lead you to believe. You can see numerous fans performing the same motions only a few seats away.
 
It is inexcusable that some of these features are missing on day one. Better to delay the release and get your content set than launch on time and dupe fans into purchasing an incomplete product. The NHL series was absent when the PS4 and Xbox One launched in 2013, and many fans suspected it would be primed this year for a stellar new edition for the annual franchise. Instead, we get a regression.
 
All of which beckons back to our original thesis statement: Hockey isn’t sexy. This didn’t happen with Madden and it didn’t happen with FIFA. Both of those series appeared in 2013 at the console launches, and they’re back again this year in new and improved form. Even with an extra year on the bench to develop and evolve, NHL 15 draws a major misconduct penalty in its opening minutes. It might not be a prime-time sport, but that doesn’t mean fans deserve anything less than the very best.
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