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Whatever NHL 15 gains in visual fidelity, it loses several times over in depth and replay value

Year-to-year attribute progression is much more consistent in NHL 15 for players with high star potential, as your young studs will grow about one to three overall points every year, so long as you keep giving them ice time in the NHL or the AHL. Conversely, guys who spend too much time being injured or being scratched, or who get few opportunities on your third and fourth lines, won’t progress much, regardless of their potential rating. In the five seasons I was able to simulate, older players seem to regress properly, based on their age and yearly performance. Veterans in their early 30s can still make slight improvements to their skills if they have a great statistical season. Player progression in NHL 15 is simply a matter of whom you decide to play and how well those people perform when they’re on the ice.
 
As usual, players can change their team’s strategy instantly with the use of the directional pad on the control. New strategies include Quick and Controlled Breakouts that EA Sports says gives players “dozens” of options while carrying the puck up the ice. While in the offensive zone, A.I. players will always be moving to find the open area of the ice to try and set up the best scoring chance possible.
 
Some of the modes that did make it into NHL 15 are severely gimped. Be a Pro mode is the one that takes the biggest hit, turning a grueling uphill climb from the draft to NHL into an absolute joke. No longer are you able to take part in the pre-draft games to try and improve your draft seed; instead, you’re left with just a bare option to select draft and watch as you are randomly selected by a team, usually in the first round. Making matters even worse is the fact that once selected, you go straight to the pro team and take your place on the lower lines, never having to earn your way onto the NHL roster.

 
Further confounding the situation is the fact that EA Sports has removed the sim to next shift option in the game, forcing you to sit on the bench and watch all of the action until your next shift. Don’t worry too much though, your player rarely gets tired enough to come off the ice and even with being on a 4th line or 3rd d-pair, you never leave the ice. This will be good for those who aren’t hockey nuts, but for people like me, it was annoying watching my 3rd pair d-man play more minutes than the top pairing. They even took out the between shift talk from your coach, who used to offer critique while you sat the bench. EA Sports has begun anew with the Ignite Engine and new architecture, resulting in many of the graduated modes of play being rebuilt or even being completely vacant. So many are missing, in fact, that it’s actually quicker to list the modes that remain. It is safe to say that NHL’s first year on the new console generation is in a “rebuilding year”.
 
Play Now and Versus Play represent the basic experience of jumping into the skates of any team from leagues across the World. Anyone that’s played an NHL game in the last two decades will feel right at home here, but when it comes to the extended gameplay modes, the “return to basics” mentality becomes clear. Online Versus Play is head-to-head only, and Play Now features only generic games, without the facade of Winter Classics or Stanley Cup Playoffs games. I haven’t even mentioned the non-existent customization features, the absent Winter Classic game, or any number of other, smaller things that serve to render NHL 15 such a profound disappointment. Sure, the game on the ice is still capable of delivering a thrilling gameplay experience, but this is also true of last year’s game, and the year before that, and the year before that. EA can tout its unprecedented realism as a reason to give this year’s game the benefit of the doubt, but that’s not a strong selling point when it’s the selling point for every sports game you release annually, especially when it’s meant to make up for a wealth of discarded features. 
 
In asking players to pay a premium price for this game, you’re implying that all the stuff that’s been tossed aside in favor of just getting a game running on these machines didn’t really matter, that you should still buy this game because it plays hockey pretty well and looks nice. Given that I’ve just dusted off my copy of NHL 14, and tossed my copy of NHL 15 on the shelf with no intention of touching it for the foreseeable future, let’s just say I very much disagree with that notion.
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