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NHL 15 is a very good representation of ice hockey, but the elements that could have made even better seem painfully obvious

As is to be expected from an EA Sports game, there is a variety of modes; unfortunately, NHL 15 represents a backwards step for the series in this regard. The one where I devoted most of my time during the review process - Be A Pro - dispenses with minor leagues, throwing your character in the starting line-up of a leading team, robbing the mode of any real sense of progression. Similarly the Be a GM offering is stripped back compared to previous years. EA has promised to bolster the main game with additional features in the months to come, and here’s hoping it stays good to its word. 
 
While NHL 15’s core functions as a single player experience don’t capture what I am generally looking for out of the NHL experience, the competitive multiplayer experience does. At least with friends. Playing against friends, be it online or off, is always a good time and when both players understand the goaltending situation is cringe worthy and makes for some fun times. But most players, including myself, won’t be playing with friends and the rest of the game just doesn’t get it right.
 
What makes these various shortcomings so frustrating is they are in the NHL 15 PS3 and NHL 15 Xbox 360 versions of the game, but without the improved graphics and gameplay of the next-gen versions. Unfortunately it's those small details, challenges and accomplishments in the various game modes that make the game interesting and playable in the long run. Even in the couple of days I had NHL 15, I found myself more interested in playing other games, and coming from an ice hockey fan that's a worry. Overall, the game definitely looks the part but because of what's missing it feels incomplete.

 
NHL 15 does nothing to explain how the game works to you. The main menu is divided into three tabs. The Home screen offers you a “quick play” of your most played mode, a list of alerts and news about the game, a provocation to play new game modes, and a button where you can watch a trailer for the game you are playing. Other tabs include Play and Customize. The former is a container to play the various modes - quick play, online play, the ultimate hockey mode, playoffs, general manager simulation, pro player simulation, practice mode, and a replay editor. The latter allows you to edit rosters, choose your favorite team (which seems arbitrary as far as I can tell), enter product codes, and change your game settings.
 
What’s here is highly impressive, but what isn’t dampers the experience. EA has omitted multiple modes and features from the current-gen debut of the franchise, most noticeable of which is the fan-favorite EA Sports Hockey League (EASHL), which allowed players to create their own clubs. More still, last years upgraded Be a Pro mode, Live the Life, has been downgraded back. Another mode introduced last year, NHL 94 Mode, has also been removed. The ability to use its control scheme in regular modes remains, but gone is the fun recreation of the classic game. Some modes that made the cut have been stripped of functionality, including the inability to draft in GM mode. More stripped features and modes include Battle for the Cup, OTP, Winter Classic, GM Connected, Shootout, Season Mode, Tournament Mode and Battle for the Cup.
 
Late last year, I reviewed Sony’s MLB 14 The Show and found that the experience of watching the game translated well to PlayStation 4. I’d say the same for NHL 15 if it didn’t give the player so many options to tweak and own the way they play. You can still view the action from a broadcast perspective and you can even dumb the controls down to NHL 94’s one-button layout. You can even alter the opposing difficulty or set specific lines for your favorite team.
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