E3 2014: NHL 15 Hands-on Impressions and Trailer
Changes in sports games happen on a yearly basis; every year, there is a new addition that is supposed to change the way the game is played. It’s supposed to be a monumental change, but it’s usually gone the next season. So, with all the changes for NHL 15, is the game better for it? The answer is a resounding yes, check out my hands-on impressions below:
The game’s presentation is far superior than its previous iterations. The wear and tear on the ice is apparent, and most importantly, actually causes the puck to interact in different ways. For instance, towards the end of the period, pucks would skitter past the intended player. Whereas early on in the period, the pass could be made with ease. The new announcers provided a sense of fresh air, even if you don’t actually like them. The inclusion of their actual likeness, as shown in the photo below, helps bring about the realism of the game.
Equally as impressive are the arenas and the fans. The arenas looked insanely detailed, they always looked great, but wow did they look nearly picture-perfect. Seemingly to battle the show, which is using 1,000 unique models, NHL 15 is using 9,000 unique models, or to put this in better terms, every person in the lower bowl of the Staples Center is unique. The creative director said those 9,000 character models have their own nuances and attitudes and even said you’ll see some of them taking selfies.
Another visual cue that means a ton to me and little to most others is, there are actually four officials on the ice, two Linesmen and two referees. Does it make a difference in the gameplay? Of course not, but it’s nice to see that EA is recognizing the importance of making the game as close to the real deal as it can.
One big change that is quite apparent is the puck physics. In past games, the puck would easily fly across the ice with tape-to-tape perfect passes, this changed slightly in later games, but it still didn’t have the feel of an actual game. While playing, I went to receive a puck in the defensive zone and skated full-speed, assuming that I’d easily be able to gather the puck, little did I know, the puck bounced against the boards and pitched out over my stick. Which, in turn, forced Quick to make a spectacular save. The new dekeing technique, the ability to control your lower-body and upper body separately, allows for better puck control and more dekeing variation. You can finally control the puck by shielding it with your body while cutting in the opposite direction. No more of that holding ‘X’ no sense is necessary. Thus, allowing many dekes to be done just with the analog sticks. The dekes feel less pre-canned and more real, more lively. Instead of playing through a canned animation, the player actually seems to react to the situation. Not every deke is successful, but a failed toe-drag can turn into a lucky deke by hitting off the opponents’ skates and landing back on your stick.
Also, with the ice degradation, players aren’t as sure skaters and some speed is lost. At times, you can see where the ice is cut-up, and watch the puck as it launches off the small divots of ice and sputters through air, sometimes drastically changing direction.
The speed of the game feels a tad faster than last year’s game and from the two periods I was able to play, hitting was less powerful and more realistic. You couldn’t make a beeline straight for an opponent, because with the new ability to protect the puck and handle the puck wherever you desire, hits could drastically put you out of position. It seems to level the playing field a bit for the novice players, while still allowing the depth for the veterans.
Introduced a year or two back, collisions became an important part of the game. In NHL15 the collision system is expanded to support more than two players as it previously had in years past. Now, scrums in front of the net are actual scrums, multiple people will tumble to the ice. Also, if you skate into your own teammates, they will actually fall over and they will, more than likely, lose possession of the puck. The person I was playing drove to the net, narrowly missing Quick and crashed into the post, the net dislodged and the player tumbled into the boards. It’s these small, yet meaningful intricacies in game play that impact the overall atmosphere of hockey.
The decision to skip a game in-between console generations appears to be warranted. Where the first next-gen madden felt half-baked, this year’s NHL game already feels polished for a game coming to a new generation.
Check out the official E3 trailer below to get a taste of the game.