|Platform||XB1, PS4, 360, PS3|
EA Sports’ annual hockey franchise returns with its first entry on new-gen platforms. As usual, it’s all about the 30 teams vying for a chance to be the ones to lift Lord Stanley’s hallowed cup and show they reign supreme on the ice. Whether you guide a single franchise as the all-powerful GM, insert yourself on your favorite team as a created superstar, or try to get a little lucky by mixing and matching online with Hockey Ultimate Team, the choice is yours.
Every hockey fan should be excited about what EA Canada is doing with hockey on new-gen consoles. The developer is focusing on three key pillars this year in order to make sure NHL 15 is the best entry in the franchise yet. The first element is a new AI system: All 12 players on the ice are now thinking four to five seconds ahead and trying to predict where the puck will go, instead of just constantly reacting to it. From what I’ve seen, this leads to a lot more dynamic plays on the ice and helps provide a game that looks like its real-life counterpart.
The next pillar was revamping the presentation. Longtime series broadcasters Bill Clement and Gary Thorne have been dumped in favor of NBC’s lead commentary team of Mike “Doc” Emrick and Eddie Olczyk, along with TSN rinkside reporter Ray “Big Ball of Hate” Ferraro. The players have also all been remodeled with three layers of depth (the player, their equipment, and their jersey) to look as realistic as possible.
And this also ties into the last pillar: physics. While new player models will cause obvious tweaks as players react differently now to everything on the ice, a whole new puck model (it’s a true cylinder now, whereas it was more like a ball before) leads to more realistic bounces and scrums in the crease. Whether you’re a yearly veteran of the franchise or a casual observer, NHL 15 looks to give the most authentic hockey experience videogames have ever seen.