NHL 15 was a lackluster entry in the long running EA Sports series. The game felt rushed, many modes that have been included in past entries were missing and gameplay was unbalanced. As with Madden 16 this year, NHL 16 seems to be a return to form for the series, and a much needed one at that.

For as much as I disliked NHL 15, my college roommate and I probably put over 500 hours into the game. It’s the most time I’ve ever spent with an NHL game. You could probably say I’m well versed with the game by now. Having said that, I knew from the get go what I wanted fixed in NHL 16.

First off, the defensive side of NHL 15 was atrocious. Poke checks never worked, hit detection was off and just about every time I went to lift an opponents’ stick it ended up in a slashing penalty. NHL 16 offers up a huge improvement in terms of defensive gameplay, and with it, a much more balanced gameplay experience. Poke checks land correctly, pushing the puck away from the player and stick lifts are finally a useful tool.

The offensive side of the game has also received some tuning up in terms of puck control. You can now do much more in terms of dekes and dangles making for some pretty slick goals when you outsmart an opponent. The passing mechanics have changed a tad and takes some getting used to, but offers up a less automated passing experience resulting in more blocks and mistakes.

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One of the biggest complaints about last year’s entry was the lack of game modes. NHL 16 has remedied that complaint by including the much missed EASHL mode, a fleshed out Be a Pro mode and a much improved practice mode that now allows you to practice with teams instead of just 1 v goalie.

To help you even further improve your skills, the game now offers an on-ice trainer. The trainer has a multitude of different elements to help you improve your game like highlighting passing and shooting lanes, showing areas of the net to aim for on a goalie and even open teammates to pass to. It’s a great tool for newcomers to use and can easily be turned off if you’re a veteran.

While the gameplay has been tuned up, there’s still some work to be done in other areas of the game. The commentary, while a little more varied than NHL 15 is pretty much exactly the same. Other presentation aspects of the game are also unchanged from NHL 15, like the lack of a custom soundtrack for the game which is a tad disappointing.

The overall presentation of the game is still pretty good. Player models, especially in facial features look more realistic than in previous entries, especially with the addition of…wait for it…playoff beards. Team celebrations are also more personalized. The Red Wings for example raise their sticks to the crowd following a victory just like they would in an actual game. It’s a subtle touch, but a welcome addition.

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The online portion of the game, while improved with game modes is still lacking in proficient online connectivity. Just like in NHL 15, I’ve been getting disconnected from games pretty often, which is insanely frustrating since I’m competitive at heart and it provides you a loss for your record. Ugh.

For a franchise that had such a rough debut on the PS4 and Xbox One, NHL 16 remedies a lot of the issues that brought NHL 15 down. There’s still work to be done though in terms of the game’s presentation and online functionality. Is the upgrade worth the $60 this year? Personally, I’d say so simply because the fundamental gameplay challenges are very welcome and the trainer that’s included in the game is a big help to newcomers to the franchise looking to improve their game quickly. It’s not a giant leap above what was offered in NHL 15, but more of a hurdle that EA will hopefully expand upon further in the inevitable NHL 17.

Nick Calandra
OnlySP founder and former site owner.

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2 Comments

  1. I wish they’d release this game for Windows. I miss the series.

    1. Yea I’m not sure why they refuse to release sports games on the PC aside from FIFA. Hooking up a controller isn’t that hard anymore..

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