So what’s new in EA’s latest hockey game? Well, it seems that after the backlash over features being cut out of the 15 version (full disclosure: I missed 16), they put at least some of those features back in. Shootout mode is back, along with other stuff.
Other than that, it’s NHL as usual.
Graphics: 9 out of 10
These are among the best-looking games on the consoles (of course, so is NBA 2K, though not Madden). Faces are fantastic, as are stadiums and uniforms. Everything about this visual presentation is just right.
Sound: 5 out of 10
Unlike in some other recent NHL games, there are no good intro and menu songs in this one. The theme song of nationally syndicated NHL games is recreated well here, but even that is compromised by Mike Emrick’s inferior, half-hearted commentary. He’s not just phoning it in for these games, either. He sucks at calling the real games as well.
Gameplay: 9 out of 10
The controls handle extremely well. They are extremely smooth and fluid. Becoming a hockey player in this game works just fine.
Also, it seems easier to trigger fights than in previous installments of the series.
The only problem is that seasons in this game are still too long. Playing an entire career is ridiculously time-consuming because there are so many games to play before the playoffs (admittedly, that is true to real life).
Challenge: 7 out of 10
Goalies on both sides aren’t very good, but computer opponents do have great formations that make for high-scoring, modestly challenging, fun games.
Overall: 8 out of 10
I would recommend this title. As a hockey simulation, it hits the nail on the head. As a pure video game, it’s an exciting, balls to the wall experience.