- Presentation is good to look and listen to.
- Features are going in the right direction.
- Creation tools get in-depth.
- Commentary is repetitive.
- Controls are clunky and need to not be fixed when perfect.
- AI needs to be smarter and not stare at the puck.
Always around September every year we are graced by a new hockey game from EA Sports, and a new season of NHL hockey. I have seen the NHL franchise grow since NHL 94, It was like watching a child grow into an Adult. With that you know in life you have your good times and also your bad times. In my opinion NHL 94-2008 was in its prime and was striding to be a dominate sports game. In its prime it had its good balance of arcade play to sim play. That is what made the games fun to play back in the day and also had to keep up with its competition of the 2k hockey games. NHL 2009-2016 I call the dark years of hockey games, for one they have no competition anymore. They are like the WWE for hockey games the only competition they have now is themselves. When you compete with yourself it can be damaging and thats what I saw in the NHL franchise of EA sports. But how does NHL 17 match up to the Prime years and Dark ages of the franchise? This is my review of NHL 17:
Now I am going to start with the presentation of the game the evolution of it always astounded me in NHL. Starting off with the Menu selections of the game since they did the boxed theme from NHL 15. It makes its return and it doesn’t look completely different. They did improve the response time when you go in and out of each options of the theme. Also when you are editing your lines or creating your player it is a lot faster to choose items. Audio is my favorite part of the game because it builds the atmosphere of the fastest game in the world in a video game. From the crowd doing chants/booing, the arena sounds of goal horns and music in the arena. And also the players on the ice hearing the refs screaming when your about to get icing, or when the ice skates are scratching on the ice. The soundtracks of this game has me question the taste of EA sports or maybe the songs they got are cheap for the copyright. NHL has always been about having a rock music feel never really dabbled in the pop and electro music genre. Maybe like how the sport changed maybe the music changed with it. It just makes you want to fist pump now or even DAB while you shoot a puck into the net.Graphically the game will always look beautiful you can tell they put time in the details of the models and the arena to make things look more real like the sport and its environment. You can actually say hey that really looks like Marc Staal and they captured Madison Square Garden really well. What really lacked in its presentation is the commentary of the game. Now I love Doc and Eddie calling the games but I feel like this year they had limited lines. There was a lot of repetition to the the point where I had to lower the commentary at times because it was annoying. I got tired of Eddie O. saying ” Its like my dad always says, when you miss the net you won’t score.”. Other than that the presentation is really a strong point in this game and I feel will always improve every year.
With the NHL franchise they always like to innovate or intertwine their EA sports brother games features. With NHL 17 they make major strides but do not make a major leap in the features department. Offline/Online shoot mode is still in the game where you can pick a team and just play straight up shoot out matches. Be a pro , where you can create a player and play through your choice of position to grind through the farm teams of the NHL and to win the grand prize of the Stanley Cup. Online Team play , 6vs6 gameplay of when you and your friends pick one position and play a hockey game like in Be a pro mode. Playoff mode, where you can create your own playoff bracket to either play or simulate through to win the cup. And Season mode, where you can choose any league from NHL to WHL and control the team and play through actual long length seasons. You can control trades, edit lines , edit strategies, and do fantasy drafts. These features are the only ones that don’t have drastic changes.
But the following features some are old ideas reformed, question is did it change for the good. EASHL has been in the franchise for a couple of years now. They have had their ups and downs on this game mode but I think this year they out did themselves. In EASHL you play like online play mode of 6vs6 but it is more in depth and more competitive. It is like a clan creation tool for sports games. With the game have more creative control you can create your team with logos and Jersey colors. You can also create your arena which has an in depth creations from pyros , boards , seating , and etc. What is really cool with winning matches you unlock badges for your player and your arena/team. So you can do some renovations on your arena while having your players dab every time you score a goal. HUT(Hockey Ultimate Team) makes its return but with tons of reforms and a sibling feature within this feature. HUT is a game mode where you name your team and open hockey cards of the pros. With those cards they are your players for your HUT team. Last year I felt like it was more confusing with the cards because you had to worry about your players cards, injury cards , fatigue cards , and contract cards. This year you have the players , contracts , and injuries. They still have Logos , Jerseys, and the new arena cards but this only for cosmetic portion of the game mode. A really cool feature they added in HUT is the synergy aspect of the cards. So you can have for example a “Passing Playmaker” synergy and activate on a player and he has more points on his assisting. Now onto the sibling feature of HUT which is Draft Champions where it has the same concept to HUT but without the synergy and additional cards. So in Draft Champions you choose a group of cards for example I chose “Stanley Cup Finals” theme. And I would draft cards from every player that made it to the Stanley Cup finals. You play four games with that team and if you lose, the team you drafted is gone. Now you are probably saying what is the point of that. So within the four games you play , the games that you win you get rewards for your HUT team. The rewards are really not satisfying I only unlocked some gold players in the 80 rating and some credits to buy some packs. Another feature that is new but not really new is the World Cup tournament it is pretty much a rehash of Playoff mode but still cool to represent a country. The one feature that really surprised me is Franchise mode. Now franchise mode, it has elements of Season mode but more in-depth in what a GM handles . From trades, signing of free agents , checking on your scouts , handle contracts , player morales , and talking with the owner on what he wants. It gets even more crazy with upgrading/repairing your arena and facilities, keeping up with sales on tickets and merchandise, setting up promotions on player bobble head night, relocating a franchise to a new town and setting the prices on hotdogs. Now to me who just likes to sit down and simulate things rather than I guess run an actual NHL franchise in real life. It peaks my interest but with the additional in depth could fluster a casual user. So I can see the negative side of it where it is just way too much. To also touch up on the creation side of NHL the team and arena making is a joy just wish they had a logo maker. Because the lack of logos makes it a little lame creating a team. That is the features of NHL 17 again makes some major strides but not a major leap.
Now onto the meat of the game the gameplay where controls and AI effect my fun factor in the game. The gameplay for NHL franchise is like being bipolar some games had its rights and others had its wrongs. Now NHL 16 in my opinion I think they had the gameplay excellent with puck control , passing , and shooting. AI has always been a problem but that will never ever be perfect. NHL 17 is definitely a downgrade puck control is atrocious. Where the slightest bump on anything and anyone is like the player dropping its spaghetti on the ice and automatic turnover. Passing I feel like I have to play billiards in order to pass the puck to my desired player. Last year if I pointed the analog stick to the direction I wanted it to go it would reach the player. This year I do the same idea from last year, I completely miss or the opposing player jumps like matrix to intercept the puck. Shooting , I think with this game they listened to all the whiners of people who can’t score goals or don’t know how to one timer or dangle a goal. All the goals I scored in NHL 16 it is like they made every goalie like Patrick Roy in NHL 17. I either had to use the new upgraded AI feature of putting your players in front of the goalie to get tip ins. Or I had to crash the net a lot to get those dirty goals in front of the goalie. The AI of this game makes me angry there were times where my teammates would just stare at the puck and do nothing. Or when I change up strategies I have my AI teammates running into me which causes a turnover. The one thing I only like is how they battle in front of the net to get that real life feeling of the battles. Now I will say when I switched the difficulty from Allstar to semi pro it made the game a little fun but too easy. When you turn the game difficulty up that is where the sim play of NHL comes in. Doesn’t give the excuse for a broken game play and infuriating AI.
Now in conclusion what do I think about NHL 17? Presentation is almost perfect , Features going in the right direction but not earth shattering , and gameplay is where it gets dicey but has room for improvement. I think with the gameplay when they have it right do not fix what is not broken.