Before the release of NHL 15, the developers and EA Sports were bombarded by complaints from the fan base because information was released about the content of the game on Playstation 4 and Xbox One. A list (which I am putting below) was compiled by the Operation Sports community and fans of the series started cancelling pre-orders and voicing their disgust.
No GM Connected
No Online Team Play (when this is patched into the game later this year, it will use real NHL players and teams)
No EA Sports Hockey League
No EA Sports Arena
No Online Shootouts
No Live the Life
No Be A Legend
No Winter Classic
No tournaments or Battle for the Cup
No season mode (you can only play seasons in Be A GM, which is limited to NHL teams)
No NHL 94 Anniversary mode
No custom music support
No create-a-play designer
Cannot customize each team’s AI
No way to edit individual players
Practice mode is now limited to one skater vs. an AI goalie
No custom camera option
No Action Tracker replay highlights
No Top 3 Stars at the end of games.
Be A GM
Yearly draft is fully automated by the CPU
Cannot play the AHL games for your chosen franchise
Players sent down to the minors do not accumulate any season stats
No fantasy draft option
No preseason games
Be A Pro
No option to sim ahead to the next shift
You only play in the NHL; you cannot play for minor league teams
The Memorial Cup tryout period is gone. You now begin by picking an NHL team, or by letting a random CPU team draft you.
No All-Star game
Before I bought the game this morning I was fully aware of this list of omissions but decided to buy the game anyway. I had skipped NHL 14 because after NHL 13 I was sick and tired of how stale the series had become. The commentary team had remained the same for years and gameplay was lacking. Goalies on player controlled teams were awful and the game just didn’t provide me with an authentic hockey experience. I bought NHL 15 because I wanted a hockey game on my PS4 and also because I play offline Be a GM more than any other mode.
After a few hours of playing I realised that on top of the omissions noted in the list, there were a couple more. I scored a hat trick with Bobby Ryan at the Canadian Tire Centre and yet no hats were thrown onto the ice (despite the commentator making reference to hats being thrown onto the ice). You can’t even edit a player’s gear, meaning that when I signed Brodeur he was resigned to wearing a boring, dull white helmet.
The game itself features unrealistic contact physics meaning that hitting once again this year is just bad. There is no other way of describing it. Sometimes contact wouldn’t even register and other times a much smaller player would take out a larger player and fling them back a couple of feet. Does everyone remember the hilarious glitch from a couple of years ago where a player was flung into the stands by a hit? EA Sports made light of the incident but it’s not funny anymore. Already, after only a few hours of gameplay, I’ve seen players flung over other player’s heads only to land in a way that would surely result in major bone fractures. Goalies on player controlled teams were just as unreliable as ever and seemed to be fooled by every deke. The AI team doesn’t bother setting up plays in the offensive zone and “forechecking” is a concept seemingly alien to the players.
While the commentary and presentation are certainly new, it’s not “better”. The dialogue seems a little robotic and there is rarely conversation between the two announcers. It just seems like sentences strung together one after the other with no real flow, except for at the beginning of the games. Even then, the dialogue seems a little weird and suggests that the development team may have had grander ideas for NHL 15 than what has come to fruition. At the beginning of a game verses the Panthers, Eddie Olczyk makes reference to something happening in the media which sounded a little bit like an outburst. This never happened anywhere in the GM mode and left me very confused as to what he was talking about.
The worst part about the game is not anything listed above, but the crashes which result in lost games and anger from the player. I decided to write this rant after crashing for the fourth time, losing my game data. This needs to be fixed because the last thing EA needs right now is more problems with this game.
I knew I was getting a bare bones game but on top of visuals it seems like no significant improvements have been made, not just on last year, but on NHL 13. I still have the same complaints that I did two years ago.
Insult to injury was added to those in the community playing the game on the PS3 and 360 when it as revealed that the latest installment is pretty much a carbon copy of last years game, but with newer rosters and a new commentary team. Youtuber Domski made a really good video highlighting all the similarities (and no, it’s not fake): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xn5XHhd9zbc
EA Sports could have done a variety of things to make things better. For one, they could have delayed the release of the game. NHL 15 is clearly unfinished and the team should have been given more time to work on the title. The NHL season hasn’t even begun and I’m sure people would have waited a bit longer for the game if it meant getting an improved experience. FIFA doesn’t come out till the end of September when the big leagues like the BPL etc. have already started in real life, so NHL being delayed till the start of the hockey season wouldn’t have been that strange in my eyes.
They could also have reduced the price of the PS4 and Xbox One versions. I traded games in to get my copy but other people have paid upwards of $70 (CAD) for this game which is essentially a really good tech demo. The modes people love and play most often are not there such as EASHL and GM Connected. People are left wondering why when FIFA and Madden were able to get a complete next gen experience to fans when the new consoles were released, why the NHL development team has failed to produce similar results almost a year after?
If EA really didn’t want to reduce the price they could at least answer their fans. I tweeted Sean Ramjagsingh, the producer of the series, numerous times leading up to the release of the game and I did not receive one reply. If you look on his twitter feed he only tweets positive things about the game (obviously because he wants the series to have a good image) but when the community is clearly outraged, it would look better for him to face his critics. I have seen the series stagnate and worsen in recent years and whether Mr. Ramjagsingh likes it or not, he is the face of the franchise. The Facebook page is similarly quiet, the wall being dominated by complaints from the community yet there is not a word in reply from the company. There is no dialogue and this is harmful to the series, especially as EA has such a bad reputation among the gaming community anyway.
As I write this the user Metacritic score for NHL 15 on PS4 is 3.1 and for Xbox One 2.4. Playstation 3 is even lower with a 0.8 and lower still for 360 users coming in at 0.7. The game should be seen as an embarrassment by the developers because it only looks worse when compared to the likes of Madden 15, FIFA 15 and (in my opinion) the current leader in the sports game market, NBA 2k.
If EA Sports don’t sit up and take note, things can only get worse for NHL 16.