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Where NHL 15 will struggle to impress you is with the number of gameplay options

During the transition to the PS3/360 from the prior generation, EA Sports made a gross miscalculation in stripping many long-established modes from the new versions of its games. This put off lifelong fans who expected more - or at least equal - value on their new systems. Madden took years to recover from this gaffe, and moving into the PS4/Xbox One era EA assured us it wouldn't make the same mistake twice. NHL 15 proves that is a bald-faced lie.
In general, we’re in a golden age of sporting video games. The NBA 2K series continues to push the bounds of reality. Sony's MLB: The Show is a dominant baseball game loaded with fun touches. And Madden and FIFA continue to make strides, powering a strong year for EA Sports. One of the most notable problems with this iteration is how unfinished it feels, and not just because of its missing modes. That feeling is accentuated by the commentary itself, because there are often times where Mr. Ferraro will attempt to confuse players by announcing an injury in the most counterproductive fashion possible.
Instead of saying what team the player is from, most of his reports will contain the words “home team” or “away team.” Not only that, but it’s rare that the player’s name will actually be mentioned. Remember that this injury could have happened a period before the report, or may have occurred during a play that you weren’t a part of, and you’ll understand why this is such an annoying form of reporting. There was one time where the commentator (whose work I like in real life) actually named the team and its injured player; every other time, I was forced to try to think about who was injured and how it happened. It didn’t help that the in-game menus seemed to lack any sort of indicator towards the injured party.

A positive note is the actual presentation of NHL 15 is superb, the graphics are a huge upgrade and the physics of the game more or less are accurate with what would happen in an actual game. If a puck goes off a stick, instead of the puck going through the stick like it did in previous games, it actually gets deflected. Graphically, NHL 15 is stunning, the massive amount of crowd models means that no two people will look the same, the jerseys looks fantastic and flutters and flows as a player skates up the ice. Player models look almost exactly like their counterparts, Crosby looks like Crosby, Malkin looks like Malkin, even Andrew Ladd, looks like Andrew Ladd. The NHL 15 development team did a great job on graphics.
Where NHL 15 will struggle to impress you is with the number of gameplay options. Be a GM, Be a Pro, Hockey Ultimate Team and NHL Moments Live are all certainly deep experiences yielding varying styles of play. Yet the odd thing is that there were even more gameplay modes in last year’s title on a previous generation console. So if you were hoping to see ‘EA Sports Hockey League,’ the ‘Winter Classic’ or the fantastic ‘NHL 94 Anniversary’ mode, you will be sorry to see they and other options are absent. EA has indicated that some of the missing modes are planned for release via a series of free updates in the coming months. ‘Online Team Play’ will return later this month. A playoff mode is also due out this fall. Whether the rest of the remaining missing modes can be expected to materialize via content updates is uncertain.
There are still imperfections. The new player models break down into multiple parts, so (for example) the jersey is a physical object on a skater’s body rather than a painted-on texture. This allows for visual flourishes like flapping fabric as a skater careens down the ice but sometimes you’ll see that same rapid flap as the same player make his slow shame-skate to the penalty box. The puck is similarly unpredictable; it usually behaves like it’s supposed to, but it has a tendency to take some odd bounces, particularly around the goalie.
Ultimately, it’s the backward step in terms of features that works against NHL 15 the most. You’ve still got exhibition matches, Be a Pro/Be a GM modes, and the ever-popular card-collecting-meets-fantasy-sports mode Ultimate Team. But even these are trimmed. There’s no player-controller draft in Be a GM, as it’s pegged for a post-release update. Ultimate Team loses tournaments and the ability to play against a friend. And Be a Pro, the single player-focused RPG-like mode, no longer allows you to sim(ulate the game) to your player’s next shift on the ice.
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