THE next-gen incarnation of one of EA’s longest sports strands does justice to the crunching game of ice hockey.
Game review with tips and tricks
NHL 15 - Xbox One (reviewed) / Playstation 4 / Xbox 360 / Playstation 3
Score: 8.3 / 10
Every shot, body check and punch hurled in anger is conveyed with a full-blooded realism, typical of the emphasis the publisher has placed on atmosphere in its various annualised titles. It is a faithful simulation of a sport where momentum and intensity are key. Over the long term, however, NHL 15 perhaps lacks enough modes and options that will keep players coming back to the ice time and again.
Even for those who not follow every twist and turn of the National Hockey League, the mechanics of NHL 15 make it easy to pick up and play, while rewarding to master. With a variety of customisable control methods and settings, it is possible to determine just how realistic you want your game to be. If you favour all out simulation, every nut and bolt is there; should you prefer a crunching arcade style game reminiscent of EA’s hockey titles on the Sega Megadrive, this too is possible with a few quick tweaks and adjustments.
With the controls at least, it is worth persevering with EA Canada’s most complex yet satisfying version; mastering the use of the two thumbsticks to determine the angle and power of shots can be perplexing at first, especially if you are using a camera angle where the point of view changes and shifts. Stick with it, though, as it offers the best and most nuanced way to play. The satisfaction of cracking in a shot from distance that fools the keeper and causes his Gatorade bottle to come tumbling on to the ice is second to none.
While the fundamental physics and mechanics of the game are excellent, you should not expect too much from your AI teammates. They are slow in breaking from defence to offence, meaning that too often you will be forced to go on your own mazy skate past defenders instead of searching out a killer pass. Similarly, when you are on the back foot and being crowded out by the opposition, your teammates will not be entirely forthcoming in lending a helping hand.
As is to be expected from an EA Sports game, there is a variety of modes; unfortunately, NHL 15 represents a backwards step for the series in this regard. The one where I devoted most of my time during the review process - Be A Pro - dispenses with minor leagues, throwing your character in the starting line-up of a leading team, robbing the mode of any real sense of progression. Similarly the Be a GM offering is stripped back compared to previous years. EA has promised to bolster the main game with additional features in the months to come, and here’s hoping it stays good to its word. As it stands, NHL 15 is a very good representation of ice hockey, but the elements that could have made even better seem painfully obvious.
TIPS AND TRICKS
1) In a game where one on one skating is crucial, learn how to master the deke. It can buy you a few precious seconds to get your shot away.
2) If you are a newcomer to the series, don’t fall back on the easy option of using the arcade controls. The thumbstick alternative may be the hardest way to shoot, but it is the most fulfilling.
3) When defending, it is sometimes better to guard possible pass routes than take on the puck carrier one on one. A general rule of thumb is to try and force players outside and commit only if you have to.