Live out your NHL fantasy with NHL 17
It’s a great time to be a hockey fan, with the World Cup of Hockey in full swing, the 2016-2017 NHL season just around the corner, and EA Sports’NHL 17 available for Xbox One and PlayStation 4. NHL 17 represents a major step forward for the franchise that hockey fans will love.
NHL 17, the latest release from EA Sports, is filled with new game modes, deeper customization, improved presentation, better A.I., and gameplay refinements. With a large variety of modes at your fingertips, we’ll look at some of the most notable changes in NHL 17 and see why this is EA Canada’s best outing yet.
New ways to play
NHL 17 features a whole host of new ways for you to play the game we all love. After a 12-year hiatus, the World Cup of Hockey makes its return and is included in NHL 17. All eight teams are here complete with authentic jerseys and team rosters. Playing classic match ups such as Team Canada vs. Team USA and Team Canada vs. Team Russia is just as every bit exciting as watching the real-world game.
The “semi-pro” difficulty makes its return to NHL 17, and helps serve as a bridge for casual players of the game. I had quite a bit of fun in this mode with friends that weren’t as heavily invested in hockey stats as I am. Its difficulty lies between Rookie and Pro, and it allows you have fun with your friends and family without the worry of managing your lines and so forth.
Be A GM mode has evolved into Franchise mode and offers a more in-depth and detailed game mode. You now have to make roster decisions, set ticket prices, and even market your team. By changing the level of difficulty, you can change the overall way Franchise mode works. The greater the difficulty, the more challenging certain situations become, such as stiffer trade negotiations and higher owner expectations. Different teams and different owners have different expectations and range from high win percentages to revenue and profit expectations. Although Franchise mode wasn’t my cup of tea, if you are into managing all aspects of a team, Franchise mode is a pretty good representation.
New to NHL 17, Draft Champions allows you to create an all-star team through a 12-round fantasy draft, which can be used to play against friends in the ultimate tournament. You can use current and past rosters to create the best team possible. Players have the choice to play “head to head” against players online or simply against the A.I.
EA Sports Hockey League is better than ever
Quite arguably, one of the most controversial modes in EA Sports’ NHL games over the past few years on the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 has been the EA Sports Hockey League mode. Last year, EASHL made its grand return in NHL 16 and this year EA Canada has revamped this highly popular mode. With this in mind, EASHL was the first mode that I played upon booting up NHL 17 for the first time.
Right away I noticed when creating my player that NHL 17 had many more customization options than last year’s game. There are new hairstyles, more helmets, more base faces to choose from, more gloves, and more shoulder pad equipment options. However, the biggest changes with EASHL in NHL 17 are found in the arena customizations for your club. You now start out playing in a barebones, generic community ice rink, and as your team progresses, you’ll eventually move up to improved facilities that begin to resemble full-sized NHL arenas. Additionally, there are various customizations that can be tweaked along the way, including your team’s logo and team uniform, along your arena’s base architecture, scoreboard, boards and glass, netting colour, and so on. This is EASHL done right, thank you EA Canada!
Last year’s “Player Classes” system makes its return in NHL 17’s EASHL and this time has three new forward classes, and one new defensive class, whom you can play as. Each player on your team chooses a specific class, each one focusing on different elements of offensive/defensive play like skate speed, passing, playmaking, physical play, puck control, and so forth. As I played each of the forward classes—Hitting, Two Way Dangler, and the Jumbo Playmaker—I quickly found myself favouring the Two Way Dangler class. This class provides superior puck control when you cut deep inside the attacking zone, and makes for some sweet setups to your other teammates. The new defensive Puck Moving Defenseman class also caught my interest. I found this class to be extremely useful at gaining possession around congested crease areas and quickly passing the puck to forwards for clean breakaway opportunities.
NHL 17 incorporates enhanced drop-in tools that make it easier for those new to EASHL to find a team, pick their position, and get into a game fast. Additionally, there is a new post-game Dressing Room, which allows you to keep playing with your new team or look for another.
Hockey Ultimate Team
The Hockey Ultimate Team (HUT) mode is one of my favourite ways to play NHL 17 and after playing EASHL, I headed straight to the Ultimate Team hub to start cracking packs and building my team. The overall presentation of HUT has seen improvements this year, including flashy new visuals and sounds when you open up new card packs, but the more important change this year is the introduction of the Synergy system. The new Synergy system replaces the often-complex Chemistry system, where if you didn’t focus specifically on chemistry it could negatively impact on the overall performance of your team.
The Synergy system isn’t as penalizing, is easier to understand, and has a greater benefit if you focus on it. The Synergy system presents a completely new dynamic to team building as players who mesh together well can unlock special perks across your entire lineup. You need to make sure you have the right players, and right number of players to gain the perks, which will then benefit your team—including potentially your goalie as well.
New to NHL 17’s HUT mode are dynamic sets. This new feature deepens collecting and introduces a crafting system that makes every HUT item valuable. By collecting sets, you can now unlock unique rewards and trade items for items of higher value. This is a great feature that allows you to build and improve your team.
Adding to the already authentic hockey experience, NHL 17 adds the ability to engage your opponents in Net Battles. You can push players from shooting lanes, lift sticks, and tie up the body to make sure that puck gets to the net. Every piece of gameplay has been refined and improved from skating, to shooting, to passing, to puck pickups. The end result is a hockey game that is tighter and more responsive than previous entries in the franchise.
Quite possibly one of the biggest enhancements to NHL 17’s gameplay comes with the improvement in A.I. for both your teammates and goalies. Just like in a real-world NHL game, your teammates in NHL 17 now take greater risks and are more aggressive when the time calls for it. Goalies now replicate their real-world counterparts stances and showcase more emotion with post-goal reactions. The new Reactionary Save Intelligence allows goalies to read a play and react more realistically.
The Ignite engine creates a highly realistic-looking game
Each year EA Canada manages to improve the visuals on what is already a great looking game. NHL 17 once again runs on EA’s proprietary Ignite Engine, but there are noticeable, subtle improvements like better arena details, more authentic jersey textures, and a crisper sheen to the ice that make this already highly realistic-looking sports game look even more so.
Commentary is again provide by Doc Emrick, Eddie Olczyk, and Ray Ferraro. It’s pretty much on the same level of quality as last year’s game with not that much additional variety.
If you are a hockey fan, then without a doubt NHL 17 is for you. EA Canada has made crucial improvements to the gameplay, and added depth to the game making NHL 17 the best installment that the series has seen thus far. With substantial content both online and offline, the game has plenty of replay value to keep you busy well into next year.
If you are looking for an authentic and entertaining hockey experience, NHL 17 is a must-have game for you.
+ Lots of customization options
+ Improved A.I. for both teammates and goalies
+ EASHL is better than ever with new player classes and customizations
+ Tight and responsive controls
– Commentary can get repetitive
Lasting Appeal/Replayability: 4.5/5
Overall Rating 4.25/5 (85%)