EA Sports NHL is consistently a high point of the EA Sports lineup, and in EA’s annual catalogue as a whole. Every year, Sean Ramjagsingh and his team at EA Sports Canada do a great job of refining an already brilliant simulation of the sport, while adding new bells and whistles to enrich the experience. The NHL 15 season, however, is one of transition, stretching the team between preparing the current-gen installment and priming the next-gen iteration for its debut. So how does the former work out in that environment?
What is it?
NHL 15 stands to drop the mic on what has been a monumental current generation of Hockey sims, with next-gen, at least in theory, hitting full-stride next year after a bare-bones if technically impressive debut. With EA’s apparent unwillingness to let another year go by without next-gen Hockey being available, you’d think the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 would receive a minimal effort with roster and uniform updates and not much else, but that’s not true at all.
Why should I care?
In truth, NHL 15 on the current-gen platforms feels every bit as different, and almost as improved, as its next-gen counterpart. All the little tweaks and tunes made to the core gameplay add up to what can only be described as the best Hockey experience these platforms are capable of delivering, because it’s hard to imagine getting any closer to the sport without a generational transition. Better still, all of those modes and features missing from the next-gen version make their return in the current-gen NHL 15, including the surprise encore of the popular NHL 94 Anniversary Mode, which could have very easily been an NHL 14 one-off just by virtue of what it is. Live The Life, GM Connected, EA Sports Hockey League, and other modes that make NHL one of the most robust franchises in the sports genre make their return here, ensuring all the content is in place to make the most of the tweaked gameplay and physics engine.
One major change that didn’t make the cut is NBC Sports integration. Although the new broadcast team of Mike Emrick, Ed Olczyk, and Ray Ferraro are present, the scoreboard and other HUD is lifted straight from NHL 14. This updates the commentary, while still not quite delivering the feel of watching a live game. It’s only a minor gripe in the face of everything that’s right with this game, but it’s kind of hard to understand why something that could have contributed so much to the authenticity of the experience was left out.
What makes it worth my time and money?
While the next-gen version of NHL 15 is dripping with potential in place of actual content, its current-gen counterpart not only delivers as usual, it comes with a laundry list of long-needed improvements to the core gameplay that make for a game that should be considered one of the true high-points of the franchise. As the developers up in Vancouver work hard to get next-gen Hockey ready for prime time, it’s nice to see that our veteran consoles will still provide us with an ever-improving simulation of the sport.