NHL 17 review

nhl-17

By Eric Escaravage

Arguably one of the biggest issues plaguing sports games in general is the fact that a new edition comes out every single year. While hardcore fans will line up and purchase the game regardless (certainly the case with the NHL series in Canada, and the FIFA series all over the world), most casual or fringe players aren’t willing to shell out the $69.99 for what they see as a repackaged expansion pack. Fans are especially leery after what happened with NHL 15.

For those who don’t remember, NHL 15 was plagued with a number of key issues, with many game modes missing at launch and a clunky gameplay that left a lot of players disappointed and angry. While EA was quick to address the missing modes, citing issues that came with developing the first set of games for the PS4 and Xbox One, many fans felt justifiably upset at receiving what they deemed to be an inferior product. While NHL 16 has made some strides to restore faith in fans after the fiasco that was NHL 15, NHL 17 completes the comeback and solidifies itself as one of the top sports games of this year.

Game Modes

All of the standard modes are back this year, with the ever-popular EASHL, Hockey Ultimate Team, and many modes making their way back. Along with these returning modes are some upgrades to old favourites and some completely new features.

nhl-17-04

Franchise mode: Among many upgrades to this mode are a series of management features revolving around stadium upgrades, ticket prices, concession and even…relocation! One of the hottest issues surrounding today’s NHL is now in video game form, with NHL 2017 giving you the option to negotiate the terms of relocating your franchise to your choice of over 15 cities.

Despite Quebec City’s unwillingness to negotiate with my team (like they would say no), I decided to give the Greater Toronto Area its long coveted second team and move the Arizona Coyotes to Markham, ON (Sorry yotes). After one more year in Arizona, the Coyotes packed up and completed its transformation into the Markham Marksmen. The relocation option gives you full control over your stadium type, intro, goal song, and several other customization options. This was probably the best new feature I tried and really gave the game a sense of ownership and immersion that was lacking from previous versions.

nhl-17-05

Be a pro: My personal favourite, the integration of the visual on-ice trainer and more dynamic coaching feedback really help develop your game and give you specific feedback and tips. Before long Pablo Escobar (I was binge watching Narcos, okay?) was tearing up the Memorial Cup and ended up getting drafted 3rd overall by the Columbus Blue Jackets.

However, this is a feature that EA may have missed a huge opportunity on. While the NBA 2K “MyCareer” prides itself on its off-court storytelling (It is worth noting that another EA title, FIFA 17, has promised something similar later this fall). NHL 17 Be a Pro is fun, but imagine riding the bus in junior, going over your first pro contract with your family and agent, getting your first apartment in the big city, etc. This would be a perfect chance to show gamers the unique path hockey players have to take to make it to the pros.

nhl-17-06

Draft Champions, World Cup of Hockey: Draft champions is a fantasy draft on steroids, allowing you to draft a team of superstars and compete online or against the computer. There are different classes (you can draft a team of Players who have had Hockey Ultimate Team Movember cards, for example) and by completing certain challenges you can gain Hockey Ultimate Team rewards.

Whether you love or hate the idea of the World Cup of Hockey, it was a must that the tournament be included in this game. The presentation, jerseys, players, it’s all kind of special to be able play the tournament as the real life tournament unfolds around the same time.

nhl-17-07

Gameplay/Graphics/Presentation

The first thing fans will notice about the gameplay of NHL 17 is that it’s much smoother than its 2015 sibling. Body checks and skating don’t feel clunky and are really integrated into the game much better than its predecessor. The game feels more natural as a whole, with a much better face-off mechanic to boot. The AI also seems to be more responsive and challenging as a whole as well. It’s hard to describe exactly, but some sports games seem to make the game harder by “nerfing” your team (goalie gives up really soft goals, your AI teammates miss wide open nets, etc) as opposed to simply making the other team harder to play against. NHL 17 does a good job of not only making your opponents tougher while still allowing you to play your game, but recreating the intensity and nervousness of a close hockey game.

The new net battles feature is interesting but nothing of note; I really only noticed it when I was in Be a Pro mode. The menu presentation is sleek and simple to navigate, but did lag quite a bit when loading certain game modes or options.

Goalie movement improvements were promised, and while they no longer seem to pivot in odd places like they are taped to a stick, there’s not much else to write home about.

nhl-17-03

The commentary is… lacking to say the least. I know I am spoiled by listening to Hockey Night in Canada on a regular basis, but Doc Emrick and Eddie Olcyzk commentary in this game seems forced, lazy and really dumbed down. Jim Hughson and Craig Simpson used to provide exciting and interesting anecdotes about the teams on the ice, but it seems that EA has done away with this strategy in exchange for a more simplified version of commentary. Think about what it would be like to hear someone describe a game of hockey to someone who has never seen a game before. Ray Ferraro offers an interesting take as the commentator between the benches, but most of it is too general and not team specific enough like for my liking.

As with most sports games, upgraded graphics are always welcome. Every year the stadiums and fans look a bit better and more and more players’ faces are more accurately portrayed. NHL 17 neither exceeds nor fails expectations. Some players resemblances to their real life counterparts is uncanny, while others will leave you scratching your head as to how they were approved to be in game.

Whether you are new to the series or an avid fan, NHL 17 is definitely worth your money this year. With tons of upgrades and new features, it’s fun, exciting, and everything a hockey game should be.

Final Rating: 4/5 Atoms

NR 4 Atoms - B(1)

Facebook Comments