Title: NHL 16
Platforms: Xbox One, PlayStation 4 (reviewed on Xbox One)
Developer: EA Canada
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Release Date: Out Now
Price: $59.99/59.99 Euro
Tagline: EA Finally Meets the Consumer’s Expectations with a Complete Feature Rich Hockey Experience
Family Friendly: Click here to read more
Verdict: Buy it Already
EA Canada dropped a load of disappointment last year with NHL 15, as it was a lackluster product missing features and lacking in the gameplay department. It left NHL 16 with a lot to make up for in the eyes of fans that have two choices when it comes to console hockey games – play the EA game or just not buy a hockey game. With NHL 16 now on the market and hitting consoles around the land, it has made up for a lot of the missteps made by its predecessor, but it still sits a few steps away from being a great sports title.
NHL 16 immediately shows that it has made use of the extra time in development that its predecessor did not have right from the start. Starting up NHL 16 drops one into a game between last year’s Stanley Cup finalists as you learn the controls and get a feel for the cleaned up engine. The mechanics of the game on the ice are similar to last year’s model, the game feels a little crisper with its passing and shot style. The Skill Stick system is back and it controls well enough for those that want a measure of precision in their gameplay, but as always, the NHL 94 controls are here for those that cannot let go of the past.
While last year’s model was riddled with missing features that players were accustomed to having in their game, NHL 16 offers up a full suite of gameplay modes that should satisfy all players both new and old. Finding all these game modes can be a little hectic as the main menu for NHL 16 is a cluttered and mashed together, making one feel like a codebreaker trying to decipher what each menu item might be. I love a game packed with options and gameplay modes, but make it accessible and easy to figure out what I am selecting.
Many players will find their way to the two more prominent modes in NHL 16 with the career mode and the Hockey Ultimate Team mode (who doesn’t love playing a little HUT). As with any career mode, you have the ability to pick your position, your style of play and then work your way through a career starting with a few games in the minors, the draft and then whatever you can make out of your career. New to this mode is the way that skill points are accrued based on how you play, so if you decide to shoot the puck a lot, your shooting accuracy will go up. Information about how you are progressing in your career is presented nicely and goals are clearly laid out before each game. The biggest hitch with the career mode is that it feels plain. Outside of the games, there is nothing extracurricular for your player to do. You play a game, train, repeat until the end of the season.
Hockey Ultimate Team plays out just as you would expect, substituting the formula from the other EA Sports franchise into the hockey paradigm. You get a starter pack full of mediocre players and then have to try and earn your way along to get better cards to improve your team. Card packs can be earned over time through gameplay, but one should expect to have to drop some cash in order to get the higher tiered card packs. The mode is fun in the beginning as you go through training, but once you get into the wild world of multiplayer, it can quickly beat you down as you face your third team in a row that has a killer lineup of players’ vs your scrubs that you have stuck with due to not wanting to spend cash right out the gate on better players.
Other modes that are here to entertain include the Be a GM mode where you manage a franchise to greatness, single game play using the daily games from the NHL as a basis and Online play for those that are looking to take the challenge to their friends or random players. While missing last year, the online mode should make many happy as the six on six online play is back and it performs very well. One cannot fault EA Canada when it comes to giving players a lot of choices as to how they can play their hockey game.
Modes and gameplay are all fantastic, but sports games are a genre where presentation is also a key component to the game feeling like its real life doppelganger. Sports games have special graphic overlays, splash screens and play by play announcers that help foster the sense of realism in the game. NHL 16 is no different, but it might be the one that pulls it off to near perfection. The NBC Sports logos are everywhere they should be, the FMV openings with both Doc Emrick and Eddie Olczyk giving their feel on the game at hand are solid and all the swipe transitions give NHL 16 the best comparison to its television compatriot. On more than one occasion my wife thought I was watching an actual hockey game on TV. The illusion continues even into actual gameplay as the Ignite game engine renders a beautiful spectacle for the player.
With all it does right, NHL 16’s faults stick out just as brightly. While the on-ice action is represented fairly authentically, there are times where the AI seems to be confused with the rules of hockey. On more than one occasion I found the puck right in front of one of my teammates, only to watch him spin around and ignore it. Or players getting hung up in corners or on the net, not sure how to get out of the predicament they are in. Also, games seem to have score outcomes that never represent the real world of hockey. Sure, I know that a 9-3 game can happen once or twice, but having six games in a row where the two teams combine for over 12 points is a problem. And it is not just me playing the AI, as fully simulated games in GM mode came out routinely with my team scoring 7-10 goals in multiple, sequential games.
Even with these bigger issues, NHL 16 is really your only choice right now for a quality hockey experience on the ice. Its slick presentation factored together with multiple game modes makes it worth the purchase right out of the gate. It is not a perfect recreation of hockey, but it is the best you can get and the best to be found so far on this current generation of consoles if you are a hockey fan.
- Includes most of the features wanted in a hockey game on the next gen consoles
- Slickest presentation of any sports title
- On-ice mechanics are spot on and customizable for all player types
- Games, even when simulated seem to have unrealistic scores for hockey
- Game is very geared towards Hockey Ultimate Team, which can be a bit off-putting for some
- Had lots of problems trying to transition to the bench from the ice
NHL 16 is pretty safe for most family members, as you would expect from a sports title. The only real deviation from that would be the fighting mechanic, which is a part of the game here as it is in the actual sport. I never came across a fight in my time with NHL 16, and because it required me to use button presses to make it happen, I figure it is a action that can be ignored. With that in mind, feel free to let the entire family enjoy some ice time and a stick.
This review was prepared using retail Xbox One code provided by Microsoft.