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NHL 15 is noticeably lighter than old-gen iterations on PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, and online Team Play is gone

NHL 15 is a sports game developed by EA Canada and released on PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, and Xbox One. The first game in the NHL series on the eighth generation consoles, the PS4 and Xbox One versions have enhanced graphics, as well as many features not present in the PS3 and Xbox 360 version.
 
This is surprising in light of the fact that NHL was not present for the launch of the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, ostensibly so that EA Canada could make a splash with a true next-generation hockey game. As it turns out, however, NHL 15 was developed over the course of 12 months rather than two or three years. and it shows. I can't entirely fault EA for wanting to focus on getting the gameplay up to speed, but the numerous cuts have diminished the overall product considerably. Outside of NBA Live, which is in a category all its own, I think it's fair to say that NHL 15 is the worst of the major next-generation sports games. 
 
As a single-player-centric gamer myself, I've always gravitated towards offline modes, which is where the lack of content really started to sink in. NHL 15 doesn't even have a Season Mode, which was originally introduced in the Super Nintendo and SEGA Genesis era. To play a season, I had to actually jump into Be A GM Mode. Only to find that it’s been stripped of some of its own features, including basic online functionality. Be A GM Mode is actually awesome; I've enjoyed it in years past and it's always made me want a fully fleshed-out NHL game where you're a general manager. But it's really unfortunate that you have to extract Season Mode out of it instead of keeping them separate. I'm confused why I can't play a single season as a team of my choice without having to jump through hoops. It's 2014, not 1994.

 
NHL’s biggest shortcoming, however, is that it abandons modes that many fans have come to love while keeping one that earns extra revenue for EA. GM Connected, an online franchise mode that allows hundreds of individuals to play together in a common universe--or even just a couple of friends who love to be in the same league--has been eliminated. EASHL, the online team-up mode that spawned entire communities of tens of thousands of fans, is gone. These are not “extras” that only the hardest of hardcore fans look for; they are basic, fundamental features that NHL games have offered for multiple seasons. Meanwhile, Hockey Ultimate Team, a revenue-generating mode that lets you buy (with real money or earned in-game currency) virtual player cards and assemble a fantasy team to take on others online, is present and accounted for.
 
Speaking of modes, NHL 15 is noticeably lighter than old-gen iterations on PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 (and, in fact, the old-gen version of NHL 15, which is a clone of last year's), and this is where the overall package begins to diminish. Online Team Play is gone, as is EA Sports Hockey League, which were two community lynchpins. You can still play single ranked or unranked games online -- everything goes very smoothly when connected, with reasonable load times and no noticeable lag -- and you can bring your Ultimate Team online, too. Hockey Ultimate Team is still enjoyable in its own right, with the ability to create unique squads with a hodgepodge of players from different teams, leagues, and skill levels. It might just be NHL 15's meatiest and most substantial option.
 
Taken on its own merits, NHL 15 feels incomplete. In light of the NHL franchise's stellar history, NHL 15 is a colossal disappointment, and a major misstep for the series' first outing on a new generation of consoles. Despite these shortcomings, NHL 15 still a beloved game that hockey fans enjoyed. No one is perfect, let alone a game developed by human beings. There is no need to be so fastidious. We do believe that after a period of improvements, NHL will be a better game that suits the minorities. Only time can tell. At present, what we need to do is to enjoy the game. 
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