Sometimes a game can be disliked even though it’s competent because it lacks features that we’ve come to expect. NHL 15 is one of those games. The latest installment of EA’s series of hockey games and the first to arrive on the current generation of consoles, it lacks some modes of play that it predecessors had. However, the gameplay is still excellent, and in my book, that’s what really counts. Don’t see how they expect you to play so many games in a season, though.
Graphics: 9 out of 10
A couple months ago, I reviewed the latest Madden. My biggest complaint was that the graphics, while serviceable, certainly weren’t great. That’s definitely not the case here. Everything looks almost photo-realistic. In particular, they did a great job on the crowds. Some sports games overlook this sort of thing. This is a mistake. We, the viewers, make pro sports. Without us, there would be no big leagues. It’s nice when one of these games recognizes us.
Sound: 7 out of 10
I like the sounds as well. There’s some great intro and game menu music. Sound effects of puck shots, hits, and fighting also work well. Can’t say the same about the commentary, though. Color commentator Eddie Olczyk does a good job, but play-by-play commentator Mike Emrick is kind of annoying and monotone. Like a dentist. Also, while you can make a custom-made player a woman (no doubt because of statistics showing that the NHL has the least male fanbase of the sports leagues and that an underrated number of gamers are women, the announcers will still refer to that player as “he” and “him.” C’mon, EA, fix this!
Gameplay: 7 out of 10
The big disappointment for fans was the lack of features. Whereas NHL 14 even included a NHL ’94 mode (complete with a blue rink), 15 has only generic season modes and Hockey Ultimate Team, which uses a point system based on performance and any add-ons you bought (as if the $40-$60 you spent on this game wasn’t enough) for team advancement. So, yeah, this is very much a bare bones game.
But how much does that truly hurt it? The game still plays very well. There’s smooth controls, an accurate depiction of the NHL’s rules, and a very hockey feel. These are what really count. Although I certainly hope EA beefs up the features for NHL 16, it’s enough that this game plays well. If good gameplay doesn’t make up for the lack of features to you, than I fear that you’re missing much of the whole point of video games.
Challenge: 6 out of 10
Comically enough, the goalies are suckers for skating to the side and shooting once you get out of alignment. But I suppose they make up for the that with how well-coordinated the other opponents are on defense. They will form horizontal lines that can make it difficult to move in close. All said, the difficulty is decent.
My biggest gripe isn’t the difficulty but how many games there are in over a hundred games in a season. I know that real teams do play that much, but really, who has the patience to play multiple seasons, each with that many games? I had to reduce the time to five minutes a period for this to be realistic, and I still skimmed through a lot of games.
Overall: 7 out of 10
NHL 15 is not a great game, but it is a good one. It may be very basic, but as a pure hockey game, it excels. Just don’t expect more than that.