NHL 16 Review
Brett Hull give me strength.
NHL 16 Review on PlayStation 4
Once the weather gets cooler and the leaves begin to turn brown, you know another NHL season is right around the corner. With each one comes a new entry in EA’s hockey franchise. Is this year’s iteration better than the dismal one from last season? In so many ways, yes.
Last year’s version on Xbox One and PlayStation 4 received universal hate, not because the gameplay was awful by any means, but because plenty of fan favorite gameplay modes were removed. In NHL 16, EA remedies this by giving the hardcore fans what they want. There’s an endless supply of game modes to select from: GM Mode, Be a Pro, Hockey Ultimate Team, etc.
Having such a varied selection, it can be difficult to pick just one. The options in NHL 16 reminded me of a buffet, plenty of decent things to try, but it was lacking a distinct standout.
The only mode that I truly enjoyed was Season Mode, which lets you play as your favorite team while you skate your way to victory over 82 regular season’s games. Of course, that’s a tremendous amount of NHL 16 to play, and luckily, you can skip whichever games you’d like. As a huge St. Louis Blues fan, it was nice to finally force them into the finals of the Stanley Cup.
The other game modes in NHL 16 are serviceable and, unlike last year’s NHL 15, have variety. For instance, as a subpar gamer of this franchise, I craved a great training mode — luckily, it’s found in NHL 16. I was allowed to practice both offense and defense in structured training regiments, something that was severely lacking in NHL 15.
Another big hit is Hockey Ultimate Team (HUT). Here, you open booster packs of varying rarity and you build your team based on which players you pull. I had fun earning coins to buy more packs and there’s a decent in-game Auction House, too. In the end, HUT’s interesting, but for beginners, it’s highly frustrating. It needed more tutorials, and at the start of a season, micromanaging contracts for players after every single game can be migraine-inducing.
There’s also a new on-ice training overlay in NHL 16. While you’re playing, the on-ice trainer will notify you where open lanes and best place to play the puck are. Basically it boils down to the screen looking incredibly busy. It’s great for beginners, but I felt it distracted from the action on ice level. The trainer will also let you know where the best place to shoot on the goalie is, which at times felt like cheating. I liked the ideas behind the trainer and with a bit more refinement it could be perfect for new comers, and if you hate it, there is an option of turning it off completely.
One feature that returning players might hate but newcomers might love is the NBC SPORTS broadcast commentary by Doc Emrick, Eddie Olczyk, and Ray Ferraro. Most of the lines are repeated from NHL 15 and can wear thin for veterans. The things they say are by no means low quality, but they tend to get annoying after awhile. If more lines were recorded, it would have helped the whole presentation they’re going for. Though there is the option to turn them off, the audio then sounds shallow as a result.
What NHL 16 and previous games do so well is capture the overall feel of a professional hockey game. The way the crowd cheers during a big hit or a goal, how mascots dance in the stands, and how the ice becomes worn down during a period. NHL 16 builds up on last year’s version and does indeed run smoother, as well — giving the players the closest thing to being on the ice besides actually being there.
What will pull you out of the experience is the sometimes off-putting decisions players make on the ice. Numerous times, the defensive line wouldn’t help contain the puck and just seemed completely absent. You can change how they operate via coaching but no matter what happened they seemed useless. The only way to feel truly part of a cohesive team was to play with someone in co-op.
Speaking of Multiplayer, online is a complete mess. You would fair far better having a friend play with you on the same console because most of the online features in NHL 16 were extremely laggy or immediately crashed. While trying to play the new 6v6 online mode, the game got stuck loading while all the players in-game were cursing the buggy experience. The game’s online modes seemed to only work when it was 1v1 and, even then, there was a chance for unstable gameplay, no matter the connection.
EA will hopefully release a patch soon to smooth over the online hiccups. If they can hammer-out the issues, the game will be a blast to play online. It’ll be interesting to see how goofy 6v6 can become while playing online. Maybe EA will patch in the Benny Hill theme song, as well? Only one can hope.
With plenty of minor complaints, NHL 16 is still the definitive hockey experience without ever going to the ice yourself. There are some fun modes, stadiums and teams are authentic, gameplay is great, and the NBC SPORTS presentation ties it all together. Once a few patches are released for the stuttering online experience, the game will most likely never be out of my PlayStation 4. If you’re a hockey fan, there’s no real reason you shouldn’t buy this game; it’s leaps and bounds better than the version we received a year ago and worth sharpening your blades for.
• Included all the features that was missing from NHL 15.
• Great for people brand new to the series.
• Atmosphere in the stadiums is incredible.
• Without patches, online gameplay is a laggy mess.
• Only a few game modes worth playing.