Over the years, EA Sports’ NHL series has become the dominant hockey franchise, overtaking 2K Sports’ NHL 2K. It’s easy to see why, with a number of outstanding features like improved collision detection, the introduction of vision A.I. and other improvements to physics so players feel every bone-crushing check.
Still, last year’s release needed more. EA Sports wound up adding features to the game following its debut, leaving a few players less than thrilled to hit the ice.
That won’t be the case with this year’s NHL 16, as EA Sports intends to release the best hockey game in the series to date, backed by a number of returning gameplay fundamentals and new features that will make it a must for fans.
First there will be a focus on playing as a team, whether it’s setting up for the perfect one-timer in the zone, or making sure you extinguish a man rush to prevent the other side from scoring a goal. The game will introduce six versus six online play, with five players filling active player spots on the ice and the sixth taking the helm of the goalie.
What’s more, you and your teammates will have options depending on which game you prefer to play. If you’re ready for the big leagues, you can hop right into the EASHL – the EA Sports Hockey League – and compete with the best in ranked matches to see how well you hold up. If you prefer, you can also practice in private sessions, or partake in a couch co-op game.
In addition, the Hockey League was revamped, with the ability to choose specialized player classes before a game, whether it’s as an enforcer, shooter, goalie or other position. There will be opportunities to test your skills and see what works right for you, and it’ll pay off as you begin your pursuit of Lord Stanley’s Cup.
Part of learning the ropes and eventually amassing these skills for on-ice play is a nice visual training tool, one that provides you with aids when it comes to setting up shooting targets, recognizing open passing lanes to teammates and other little aspects of the game. You’ll also learn how to check opponents, possibly gaining the opportunity to steal the puck and find an opening for a quick goal.
Gameplay underwent a few minor changes. The precision skating for players is more dead-on than ever, with better stoppage in the ice, sharper movement with offensive play (through power plays and one-timers in the offensive zone) and even being able to read passing lanes for better puck interception on defense. Even the puck will react better than before, so it’s not so easy to let it slip away when trying to perform a slap shot. Between these improvements and the visual aids mentioned above, there’s no reason why you can’t be the next Gretzky, or Crosby if you prefer.
Along with online action, NHL 16 will come with many returning modes. Be a GM allows you to guide your team, either NHL or AHL, to victory, through dealing with trade demands, building relationships among your squad and finally, holding team meetings and sessions to help improve overall morale and performance.
If you prefer, you can step into the skates of a player and see how his career goes in Be a Pro, guiding him from the early days of the CHL all the way to NHL Superstar status. While not an easy journey (there’s a lot to learn and master along the way), eventually you could be up there with the greats.
The Hockey Ultimate Team mode, where you build a team from scratch using earned cards returns, but this time with Single Player Seasons, which allows you to learn your team’s skills offline before hopping into the Online Seasons battles or challenging buddies directly through Play a Friend. There will be hundreds of cards to choose from this time around, including various NHL legends.
Other features will be included in the game to boost its authenticity, including story-driven commentary by Doc Emrick, Eddie Olczyk and Ray Ferraro; distinct features on certain superstars like custom stick tape and tinted visors (which you can adjust accordingly), and most importantly, playoff beards. Because what’s a hockey game without facial stubble, right?
NHL 16 should be a true contender when it arrives on Xbox One and PlayStation 4 this September. While you wait, be sure to check out the best teams in NHL 15 and master last year’s beginner’s tips to apply in this year’s game!