By Craig Taylor | the Duquesne Duke
After last year’s disappointing start on next generation consoles, EA Canada turned to the NHL community for advice on how to make “NHL 16” a game worthy of fans’ praise. The result is the game “NHL 15” should have been one year ago, albeit with marginal improvements across the board.
“NHL 16” sees the return of two sorely missed modes: Shootout Mode, and EA Sports Hockey League. The marquee mode for “NHL 16”, EASHL has seen a few significant changes since its last appearance. First, the mode has become class-based. Before every game, players choose a class, such as Sniper, Enforcer or Two-Way Forward, which will dictate their skater’s strengths and weakness. While the attributes for each class are initially fixed, players can earn badges which will level up their stats for that specific class. It’s a refreshing change of pace, and plays will find challenging themselves to try out different roles for their club can make them a better overall player.
These new modes as well as additions to Be a Pro and Be a GM are nice, but it’s hard to celebrate the inclusion of modes that were just cut out last year. It’s a case of give-and-take, and while it’s good that these features are in “NHL 16”, it’s not worth praising.
As for the on-ice adjustments, “NHL 16” is largely a defensive game, at least for now. Poke checks are absolutely dominant this year. If the opponent isn’t protecting the puck, a well-aimed poke check will easily force a turnover.
But with the new defensive options comes a level of frustration on offense. The AI is incredibly skilled at reading and interrupting potential plays, and “NHL 16” demands that players finely aim their passes. This can make getting the puck out of your defensive zone unnecessarily difficult.
AI has also been generally improved. During scrambles in front of the net, the computer is smarter and more self-sufficient, attempting to bury the loose puck or redirect a low shot. Also, the AI will no longer jump unnecessarily off-sides when you’re on the rush. The computer isn’t perfect, as attempting to handle the puck anywhere near the blue line will still result in an almost guaranteed off-sides, but it’s a steady improvement.
Aesthetically, “NHL 16” has seen minor improvements as well. Arenas look just as good as “NHL 15”, and with new additions like team mascots. There are also arena chants, so going on the rush on a power play as the Penguins in Consol will yield a “Let’s Go Pens!” chant from the crowd. It’s small, but it adds authenticity to the arenas.
“NHL 16” is a worthy time-sink for a hockey fan. It’s a shame that this game couldn’t come out a year earlier, but it’s here now, and worthy of the $60 price tag. If you were burned by last year’s shell of a game or have been clinging onto your copy of “NHL 14”, this is a solid year to make the leap forward.