NHL 17 on PlayStation 4
Sports games seem to occupy a strange yet loyal area of the gaming landscape. Perennial releases aren’t just a given, they’re a requirement for keeping up with the real-world changes to the teams they represent, and EA’s NHL 17 is no different. Both the NHL series and the sports genre overall have received backlash for failure to innovate or create genuinely good new content over the years.
NHL 17 seems to respond directly to this criticism by adding some new material right out the gate. When players launch the game for the first time, they’re given a quick video explaining the new game modes that weren’t present in prior games. I spent most of my time for this review in one of these, the “new and improved” Franchise mode. Other new additions include ‘Draft Champions’ and the World Cup of Hockey.
In Franchise mode, NHL 17 puts players somewhere between the classic Season mode, guiding a team through their 82-game schedule, and the Be a GM mode that’s been popular with fans. Franchise allows players access to tweak budgets, ticket prices, player contracts, and more while also being directly involved in the games being played and the on-ice performance.
In terms of the “meat” of NHL 17, there’s not a lot that feels different from prior entries. The on-ice cues highlighted in NHL 16 have been touched up, but the overall look and feel of playing hockey is essentially the same. That said, it’s hard for me to pick at anything in particular that really needs to be “fixed”. It does end up feeling like EA put more time and effort into new content than on tweaking with the core, and that’s not a bad approach.
I do have to wonder about the appeal of NHL 17 to an audience outside of hockey fans. I’m a fan myself, which probably has an impact on my ability to enjoy playing it, because I’m playing as a team with players I’m familiar with and invested in outside of the game. For hockey fans, though, there’s definitely enough to the new game modes and tweaks to be worth checking out, particularly if you skipped last year’s annual release.
The Franchise mode in particular is a great addition to NHL 17. While EA Sports has included this in other series in the past, it’s a newcomer to the hockey side of things and offers a great new hands-on approach that lets players really feel in control of their would-be dynasty. To build on this, EA Sports has added in arena customization, so now your player-created teams can have a home all their own, complete with the colors and trappings that suit them.
Of course, not everything can feel fresh and new, but NHL 17 really does feel more reworked than the series has in a couple of years. The adjustments to on-ice play don’t stand out as especially different, but there’s a bit more precision that feels apparent as you get accustomed to the game. Passing is probably the most impacted aspect, and it definitely feels like it’s more centered on where you’re directing the puck than computer-assisted stick-to-stick play.
The other strong similarity to previous EA Sports games is, of course, the game’s navigation menus, sounds, and other dressing. Much of the play-by-play commentary is directly copied from prior games, and the updated soundtrack maintains its standard, yet appropriate, bland rock feel that’s true to the arena experience. The loading times do feel as though they’ve improved, but still drag compared to most other games.
All in all, NHL 17 continues the overall trend of the series, but brings some much-needed new content that builds on what’s already there. Teams, players, and arenas can be customized to your heart’s content, or you can simply dive in to a variety of different styles of interacting either online, solo, or with local co-op. NHL 17 is available now in the PlayStation Store for $59.99.
Score: 4/5 – Great