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With Next-gen Visuals and Updates to the Skill Stick Feature, NHL 15 Continues its Reign of Domination with an Awesome Professional Hockey Experience

NHL 15 looks, and plays, incredibly on new-gen. It’s just a shame there’s so much missing content, something that’s pissed off a lot of people. The stars seemed aligned to successfully usher the NHL franchise into the next generation thanks to its overhauled physics, living crowds and reactive, but still same-same, commentary, all of which makes this the most authentic ice hockey video game ever. But that missing content. Oh well. Maybe next year they’ll get it right.
 
Be a Pro is a key game mode of NHL, and again this mode has seen a reduction in features. The Live the Life mode that was introduced in NHL 14 is rolled back to the more traditional and basic Be a Pro style. Gone are the college years and the Memorial Cup where you can nurture your player as a prospect and secure a high pick in the draft for yourself. Instead it’s a simple choice between a random draft pick, or choosing your favorite NHL team. Not franchise, team. There’s no longer an accompanying AHL for you to get sent down to when you play poorly, in fact there is no coach feedback at all, just some season long goals to aim for. In game you can no longer simulate between shifts either. Personally I like to play as the goalie where this isn’t an issue however, NHL 15 seems to be the hardest iteration yet for this play style. 
 
On top of being difficult on the ice, the new UI system does not make it very friendly in customizing your equipment. I say customizing, but most of the customization has gone from the game. You can’t change any of the colors of the goalie pads as you could previously, and searching through all the goalie masks has been made extremely tedious. Also missing are the attribute boosts that you could unlock throughout your career, so XP is the only way to improve your players skills now. Goalies as a whole seem to have taken a battering in NHL 15. Every game seems to be a tightly fought match up with a relatively close scoreline, but there’s a lot of goals. Almost every match I’ve played has seen upwards of five goals, and while hockey fans love to see this much action in a game, it just doesn’t happen every night.

 
NHL 15 is powered by EA’s Ignite engine, which is used in all of the publisher’s other sports titles, and makes this year’s version look ridiculously realistic. All of the player’s models are highly detailed, so much so a quick glance of them on-screen will trick you into thinking they’re the real thing. The only thing that breaks the illusion is, aside from your holding a controller, is the stiff, sometimes buggy animations that momentarily overrun a player. Still, with the addition of NBC’s sports broadcast graphics clogging up the screen, and commentary provided by real-world folks, Mike Emrick and Ed Olczyk, I often felt like I was watching a telecast of an actual NHL game rather than playing one in a video game; Though Emrick and Olczyk’s commentary began to wear thin after I heard the same sound bites a little too often.
 
This being a sports game, the achievement list is a predictable one. Scoring goals, winning games and tournaments and leveling up your Be A Pro skater combine to form the bulk of gamerscore, although there are a couple of bizarre ones included for not skipping over the cutscenes that link together pauses in play. Clearly, someone is very proud of their 'broadcast quality presentation' and are not shy about encouraging you to watch it.
 
That’s not to say that NHL 15 doesn’t have redeeming qualities, but good core gameplay and impressive presentation don’t make up for the fact that there’s very little for you to do. There’s a lot of potential here for future games in the franchise, but that’s really all it is: potential. Right now, the game is a lot like a player that beats everyone to the goal and has a wide open shot, only to bounce the puck off one of the posts. There’s clearly potential for future success there, and he’s obviously doing quite a few things right, but in the end, all you’re left with is a missed opportunity.
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