When Sean Ramjagsingh and his EA Sports NHL team sat out the next-gen rush last year, the assumption was that their Ignite-engine adaptation of the franchise was well underway, but needed another year in development before it had the polish and depth to be deemed ready for public consumption. After all, “Rammer” and his studio have consistently upped the ante year after year, even when each release is effectively the best Hockey video game ever produced at its respective point in time, so rushing a game to next-gen platforms without living up to what EA Sports NHL has stood for in recent years would be unacceptable.
What Is It?
NHL 15 for Xbox One and PlayStation 4 marks the first example of an Eighth-Generation Hockey game. It runs on EA Sports’ in-house Ignite engine and is built from the ground up to take full advantage of the new hardware. Things that weren’t possible on older systems, such as multi-player collisions and more realistic puck physics, have been implemented here. The presentation has been given its own extra shot of realism with the addition of NBC Sports’ television software, making the game look that much more like a live broadcast.
Why Should I Care?
Simply put, next-gen NHL 15 plays a magnificent game of Hockey. The new gameplay engine and presentation go together beautifully to paint the image of a bright future for Hockey on our new consoles. However, that’s all it does, and we’ve got a longer wait ahead of us before that day actually arrives, because this is where things get dicey.
The first sign of trouble came when reports started to emerge that the next-gen NHL would not be as robust as its current-gen counterpart. As more info came in, it became clear that just about everything was in question, from staples such as Online Team Play and EA Sports Hockey League to more recent additions, such as GM Connected and the “Live The Life” enhancements to the long-running Be A Pro role-playing mode. In reality, it would take a whole seperate article to detail everything that was left on the cutting room floor in the transition to next-gen. A simpler way of describing this release would be as more along the lines of an NHL 09 remake, which, to be fair, was the game that changed everything, but was pretty bare-bones compared to more recent offerings. One post-09 feature that did survive the transition is EA’s brand-wide card game, Ultimate Team, presumably because money. Some dropped features, such as a manual entry draft for Be A GM and the aforementioned Online Team Play, will be added via patches in the coming months, but it’s pretty safe to say that such support will be limited, and unlikely to bring back the most critical omissions, such as Live The Life and EASHL.
What Makes It Worth My Time And Money?
If you want next-gen Hockey to the point that you’ll take a warts-and-all regression to NHL 09 (complete with gobs and gobs of ice time in Be A Pro regardless of your role on the team, for example) in order to get it, this version of NHL 15 is for you, and it does strongly hint at some positive changes to come for the franchise as it develops further on the new hardware. The core gameplay as a whole also makes it difficult to be too hard on this first effort.
If current-gen is still an option, however, its notable list of improvements and all the retained features make it a no-brainer as the way to go. Those who get to play both, meanwhile, can only fantasize sadly about the game that could have been, with current-gen features alongside the next-gen engine and presentation.