NHL16 was recently released and as an avid hockey fan I picked up a copy. To be clear I had very high hopes for this game. NHL15 felt like a beta. You had to wait months and download massive updates to finally get the full game. The actual gameplay was great, so my hope is that NHL16 expands a bit on that and they finally add in the missing features the older games had that NHL15 was missing. So let’s take a look and see how it measures up.
My first impression was one of annoyance. I hate how they make you play a game right off the start to test your skill. You have to play a game between the Blackhawks and the Lightening, two teams I could not care less about even though I do like Stamkos. So like the other titles that have done this I immediately quit out of it and get in the to main menu. I can tweak the game myself thanks. More on that later. The next thing I notice is that the menu system is surprisingly fast. There is still a lag, but it’s very minimal. I’ve mentioned before that it seems like every NHL title from EA has a laggy menu but they appear to have fixed that now.
I was pleased to see that we have playoff and season mode from the start this time around. I started season mode and groaned as once again they are not offering a shortened season. They used to offer 48 and 24 game seasons as opposed to the full season. Now with the new generation games it seems you have to play an entire season no matter what. I love the games but I don’t have the time or attention span to play 80+ games and the playoffs. But a 24 game season and playoffs? Done. Too bad that’s not an option so I will probably just keep playing the playoffs over and over.
The presentation is nearly spot on identical to NBC’s TV presentation and that adds a lot to the experience. Something I thought was removed but later saw was the little video of the outside of the arena they do before every game. I liked that and for some reason it wasn’t until my 5th game that the first one played. The announcers are good and I enjoy their enthusiasm but I wish they would record some more lines. I know it’s a very complicated thing for them to do but it would be nice to add in more dialogue. Maybe they did, but I can’t tell. They say the exact same things about the players as they did last year. The live action intro of the two announcers before the game is still a nice touch but it would be nice to have more videos. Watching the same conversation over and over gets old.
The game plays out very, very good. It feels just as good as last year’s entry with a few noticeable tweaks. I’m still on the fence on if I like the tweaks. The players feel a bit more weighty. They do not turn on a dime anymore which is more realistic and they seem to carry more momentum. I’m used to being able to quickly change direction on defense, line up the other guy and drill him into the ice. That’s much harder this time around.
They have always had a mechanic where if you start getting a big lead the game says “nope” and decides to start scoring and you have nothing to say about it. It used to just be a goal here or there but now the game will score on you in bunches. I was playing a game and leading by 3 goals and all of a sudden the game scored two in a row very rapidly. There was nothing I could do. I’ve played these games for years and years and feel like I’m pretty good but I could do nothing. The game just took over and was impossible to defend but after those goals it was back to normal. I don’t mind being scored on or even losing but I want it to be because I failed at the game, not because the game decided to lock me out of defending and rapid fire off a bunch of goals. This was something I experienced in back to back to back games. Once while playing Montreal the game scored three back to back goals, all fired from center ice. I chalked that up to a bug but the rest of the game we traded goals and I could not defend them at all. The cpu was just running away with goals, most being fired from way out near the blue line. I had to reset the game and once I did it was back to normal. The “catch up” mechanic was still very aggressive but no longer was it sniping perfect shots from at or near center ice. This needs to be patched. I like, and prefer, tight scoring games but I want the CPU to score on me fairly, not by some built in mechanic.
While on the topic of gameplay, the built in trainer is cool for beginners but I turned it off immediately. I don’t know enough about the system to confidently talk about it. All I know is it became annoying very quickly so it had to go.
I realize I have had a few gripes but to be clear, I have enjoyed the game so far. It is fun and I can see the progression from the last game and for the most part my hopes were met. I am critical of a few areas but I am sure I will adapt and get over it. This is a good entry into the series and the game I wish had been released last year. But this is an excellent point to grow from and I can’t wait for next years game to see more polish and love go into the game. This year gave us a perfectly playable game that nearly lives up to the game’s widely celebrated history.