I think I was maybe 7 or 8 the first time I strapped on that pair of virtual skates and took one of the NHL games for a run. It
was the original NHL hockey on the PC, and I remember getting
wailed on by the person showing me the game. I was hooked though. When I got a Super Nintendo, the first game I got was NHLPA 93, and have owned at least a couple of the NHL games on every generation since then. Needless to say, I’ve been excited to see NHL 15 debut on the next gens.

Release Date: September 9th, 2014

Rated: E10+

Available For: 

Get NHL 15 Standard Edition for the Xbox One

Get NHL 15 Standard Edition for the PlayStation 4

Get NHL 15 Standard Edition for the Xbox 360

Get NHL 15 Standard Edition for the PlayStation 3

Get NHL 15 Ultimate Edition for the Xbox One

Get NHL 15 Ultimate Edition for the PlayStation 4

Get NHL 15 Ultimate Edition for the Xbox 360

Get NHL 15 Ultimate Edition for the Playstation 3

I think it goes without saying that NHL 15 is the quintessential hockey franchise in sports gaming, and in my opinion, is often the best sports game every year (though I admit the NBA 2K series has tested that boundary the past few years.) The game has grown in such leaps and bounds over the years that you could get lost in all the different ways to play hockey without even playing for the Stanley Cup.

Promised this year was a lot of progress on the ice level presentation. The players would look better, the game would feel more fluid, and the crowd would even be more realistic. What’s more, the addition of Ray Ferraro (one of my personal all-time favourites) as an ice level analyst was going to compete side by side with all of the other sideline reporting in sports gaming. What’s more, since Ferraro lives in the same city the game was developed, there is even the possibility of ongoing commentary updates. Mike Emrick and Ed Olczyk in the commentary booth are also a new change of pace. They also appear in video captured forms too, which is something that reminds me of the generic John Davidson appearances all the way back in NHL 97.

Many gamers tired of the same song and dance constantly tell me how they feel like playing the NHL games are like playing the same games every year, so they don’t buy it. There are a few times that has definitely been true, but you will see definite changes to your gameplay experience from the moment the first period loads. One of the things I had touched upon in previews and pre-order blogs were the new puck physics. Everything was really a buzzword until I tried it out, but I admit that the way the puck reacts and changes the gameplay experience is fantastic. The puck’s movement makes so much more logical sense than it did before, and definitely allowed me to think my non-puck actions through better. The gameplay controls themselves are complicated as all heck like they usually are, but I don’t really think it’s something that can be fixed. 

The gameplay itself on the ice is great, thanks in part to more puck possession controls and cleaner player detection. NHL 11 was one of the first great strides toward the next generation of collision detection, and with a better processor, 15 shows us what gaming is capable of now. Every player can interact anywhere on the ice, and animations are based on the fly per what exactly happens between the sprites. This has led to some major problems in the past (even Madden 15 isn’t immune to it) and there’s been a bit of clipping trouble here, but nothing as bad as some of its contemporaries like the WWE series.

Perhaps the best part of the new experience may actually be in the way the arenas have been re-done and rendered, and how they contribute to the experience. As a Canucks hometowner, I can feel the disdain of Calgary fans when I step into the Saddledome, and as an LA Kings fan, I can feel the personal disgust from the people at Rogers Arena for cheering for a divisional rival. If you’re in it for just pickup hockey with buddies, or the occasional game online, stop reading right here, and consider buying the game. It’s not a night and day improvement over NHL 14’s gameplay (which is obviously really good already) but enough has been done that you’ll notice, and it will be a great game to you. Everything plays and looks fine, save for the infamous creepy Ottawa Senators fan (WARNING: Scroll below and don’t plan on sleeping tonight.)

                                                       Is that Rick “The Temp” Campanelli right above her?

For the rest of you that lived and died through the vast majority of NHL’s extra gameplay features, this is where you’re going to be disappointed. A lot of what you’ve come to love about the NHL series is gone. The Winter Classic, my favourite addition to the NHL series in years, is gone. Live the Life, which I also loved dearly, is also gone. Little things within included modes have been removed too, like the coach’s feedback in the Be a Pro mode (which, to be honest, is fine by me since it was a big distraction.) In fact, the mode becomes unplayable for impatient people like me, since the “Sim to Shift” feature is gone too. Hockey Ultimate Team Mode is still around for the vast population of NHL games that enjoyed it. It wasn’t my cup of tea in the past, and I admit I didn’t give it a lot of time here either, but it looks pretty straight forward. You can’t play against your friends right now, though I hope that one’s patched by year’s end.

While definitely seeing some great progress here already, it honestly feels like both a step forward and a step back. It’s nothing intended against the game itself. If you’re in this for exhibition and more traditional hockey gaming, this one’s for you. If you want the vast gaming modes the last generation and last few iterations bought, and you got invested in things like “Live the Life” mode, stick to the last couple years and wait for EA to have the time to re-dev and bring these modes over. Some of the previously missing features (like Online Team Play and the old GM Drafts) will be added through online patches, which, of course, outlines the beauty of the online era. I believe the Coach’s Feedback (much to my chagrin) is being patched in by the end of September too. But some of you others will have to wait it out to see if your favourite gameplay features return.

Inevitably, every console and engine-based rebuild goes through a feeling out process. Madden ‘06 for the Xbox 360, for example, was a shell of the game it was 2 seasons later. I suspect NHL 15 will be remembered as the same – A bridging game that introduces the new baseline gameplay and core elements and will be expansive in future seasons.

Perhaps it deserves the criticism and perhaps it doesn’t. The trouble is, gamers don’t forget. EA learned this lesson just a couple months ago when EA Sports UFC came out, and it didn’t immediately have everybody on the roster down to Flyweight Joshua Sampo or little things like PRIDE fighting mode. Series followers always feel the sting of having something given, and then taken away. The last time EA debuted on a next gen, it brought the shootout with it, and all was well with the world anyway, despite the fact that it wasn’t the deep title it could have been.

If you are one who plays the NHL series for the “other” stuff, it’s hard for me to recommend this game to you right now. However, traditional series fans, and those looking for the next step up won’t be disappointed. Enough improvement has been done to the traditional game, and traditional physics that you’ll be pleased with the ride.

Final Ratings
Gameplay: 4 / 5

Graphics: 4 / 5

Sound: 4 / 5
Controls: 4 / 5

Lasting Appeal/Replayability: 2 / 5

Overall Rating: 3.6 / 5 (72%)

It’s available now. Pick up NHL 15 at Best Buy and BestBuy.ca for the following consoles:

Get NHL 15 Standard Edition for the Xbox One

Get NHL 15 Standard Edition for the PlayStation 4

Get NHL 15 Standard Edition for the Xbox 360

Get NHL 15 Standard Edition for the PlayStation 3

Get NHL 15 Ultimate Edition for the Xbox One

Get NHL 15 Ultimate Edition for the PlayStation 4

Get NHL 15 Ultimate Edition for the Xbox 360

Get NHL 15 Ultimate Edition for the Playstation 3