Wednesday, September 10, 2014

NHL 15 Review: Taking The Step Back in Next Gen Tech

EA Sports NHL 15
Note: This review is based from the PS4 experience.

Now that I've had some significant time in to successfully experiencing everything that EA Sports NHL 15 produced and has to offer, I feel comfortable enough to give it a fair enough review. I didn't want to join in with the knee-jerk reaction and slam it the way most of the hockey fan gamers seem to have reacted. But the critical review this game needs is crucial to the sport, the video game itself, and a glaring indictment towards the direction the video game and next generation technology is headed.

I was able to download the free preview before the game came out and "spoil" my surprise of being a first-time user. I wanted to acclimate myself to the PS4 controls and look for other things to anticipate for the review you're reading now. The free preview download time took a while, but once it was done, I was pleased at the cosmetic changes as well as the higher resolution to detail the game developers provided. It only allowed me to choose the NY Ranger or LA Kings with the only options to having home or away jerseys.

So, now that the longer I played, the more and more broken heart'd I had become with NHL 15 where so much expectation and hype was replaced with disappointment and frustration.

EA Sports knows we hockey gamers are going to buy this game. $59.99 in their pocket is a sure thing with no motivation to pleasing all of the fans all of the time. In this case, I'm going to have to say that EA's first attempt at the next generation technology is going to have to get a mulligan and hope they have learned from their mistakes with this edition.

The Good

The improved PS4 technology with frame rates, response times, social media integration, suggests that you CAN indeed polish a turd. The introduction screen blasts people with the potential of higher definition and more fluid movements of the players. They succeed in putting a fine gloss on every single little detail of every single facet of the real-live game experience. I am certainly glad that EA Sports does want to produce a totally reproduction of an actual game. I believe that we've gotten it here in NHL 15. The next generation frame rates completely improved the motion capture of each player as well as sculpting their facial likenesses in the game. As a veteran franchise gamer back from the NHL 98 days, I appreciate the time and detail that goes into getting the look and accuracy that the hockey fans demand. I remember the flat faces, the cloned create-a-player, and the other early stages of the technology that now looks extremely outdated by comparison.

That's about it. There is really not much else good about this game. Mostly because of how much they put in to the game's polish, they discontinued or removed a lot of favorite aspects of earlier games I wished were still there. You'll read about them in....

... The BAD

Let's begin with what they felt they needed to take out of the game or what they had to discontinue. Gone is the Tournament mode play, the ladies Angie, Haley, and Cammi, the winter classic mode, the winter classic jerseys (WAS and CHI) don't have their most recent classic jerseys up despite them being already unveiled this summer, the hockey legends of Mario and Wayne et al, the

Everything is focused around the HUT or "Hockey Ultimate Team", so if you don't participate in HUT that for whatever reason, you are being phased out and demographics (and social media) ignored.

But if HUT and other online games are your thing, then continue paying again and again for Playstaion Plus access as the online settings only work as long as the user's subscription is up to date.

No matter how many rules you put in place for competitive play in games, there will always be an outnumbered faction of ass-holes that will exploit those rules to gain the advantage. I'm referring to the way that everyone on-line plays the game in HUT or random pairing online versus mode. What you will find are the constant poke-checkers who will perpetually tap the buttons to poke the puck away from you so many times it spoils the experience for you. If it's not a poke check, then it's the constant divers that will always get in your way and spoil the authenticity of any real life defensive strategy. I've complained about this for many many times on twitter, but I don't think they hear me.

The Ugly!

NBC has been worked into the game telecast production lending their branding to become even closer to a truly authentic game broadcast. Gone are the CAN-con content of  Jim Hughson's familiar voice and instead presents pre-game analysis from Doc Emrik and Ed Olczyk in pre-recorded videos. I think the change brings a real fresh presentation and allows for more fans to get used to the NBC branded broadcast as it's the exclusive American rights holder.

I think it's going to backfire on the bigger picture here and really cut into the Canadian sales market. They don't want to be subjected to the American branded broadcast and the American announcers no matter how familiar they are. I haven't seen the demographics as to how many are sold in each country, but I bet that the Burnaby, BC based developers have more of a loyal Canadian fan base to fleece.

In conclusion, the NHL 15 product is far below the expectations of it's loyal fan base and will have certainly destroyed a lot of good will that it had built up with the previous games. I hope that EA Sports will have read up on all the harsh (and tempered blogs like this one) criticism and fix things for NHL 16, because.. well.. they already know that they have our money again next year.
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