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Unfortunately Everything About NHL 15 Feels A Little Under Cooked And Underwhelming

This is a NHL game made by EA. If you have ever played NHL hockey from this company in the last five or so years, you know what to expect. These EA and all other sports games are an annual affair. You can set your calendars to them. In the case of EA’s NHL franchise, they release a new one every year in September which is approximately a month before the actual NHL season starts. Usually, nothing major changes. It is a $60 roster update so that you can make sure you are playing with the updated roster of your favorite team. It is such a little thing. But I was relieved to find out that the changes my favorite team, the Colorado Avalanche, had made to their roster in the off season, made it into the game. NHL 15 came out before the season started and at the time it seemed as if the developers simply ran out of time or had decided to remove many of the game’s most popular modes. 
 
The lack of modes surely means that the other popular approaches to the game had surely been beefed up? Unfortunately everything about NHL 15 feels a little under cooked and underwhelming. When comparing to other sports franchises the severe lack of proper statistics and presentation is very disappointing. Going into a player’s stats does not allow you to view where they previously played and also their total points and goals accumulated. This is an aspect that has such a huge focus in the NHL on the path of a player and for it to be missing seems like a glaring mistake. There are no game logs, split stats or personal best statistics, all of which would give the game a much more detailed feel. In addition to the lacking presentation is the once again mediocre commentary. 
 
While the team has been completely changed and updated for the first time in nearly 10 years, there is still a lot left to be desired. One introduction line for each team that gets repeated every single time you play as that team, incorrect information about which player they are talking about and what goalie has been pulled and then there is very little that actually discusses the players, teams and franchises. When directly comparing to NBA2K or MLB: The Show there are always great stories, anecdotes or fun facts discussed about the players, while in NHL there is nothing of the sort and this leaves the commentary feeling stale and dull. There is little to no flow with the commentary and it feels extremely forced compared to other sports titles who allow their voice talent more freedom.

 
Not everything here is a loss. For all of this rebuilt development comes a gameplay engine that is simply fun to play. It is far from perfect, and much like the revamps seen in Madden's engine over the last couple of years, there is room for improvement, but the NHL 15 puck physics and player impacts are better than they have in the past. Goalies still let a few too many slip by and this makes defense as difficult as ever, but on attack the passing and shooting are rock solid. There are also plenty of options from how the presentation looks to how the skaters are controlled that can be experimented with until you find a game style that suits you best.
 
Thankfully, EA has largely done away with the new age rock soundtrack in favor of something more subtle. A small quibble, but hearing those banal rock songs over and over was one of the things I dreaded in previous iterations. The online and couch multiplayer are both rock solid. The only issues found were when playing online against poor sports who quit when they are losing. So long as your connection is decent you won’t experience any dips in performance or dropped games. This part of the game makes the jump from last-gen unchanged, if you liked it in 2013 you’ll like it this year, its the same mode with shinier player models.
 
Do I recommend this game? Hard to tell. You have to know that you’re paying full price for about half of what you bought in a previous version. I have a problem with encouraging EA in its business practices and the way it’s pushing game quality down across the industry to make a buck. Get it used, rent it, borrow it from a friend, but it’s not worth full price for all but the most hardcore NHL series fan.
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