NHL 16 is the 25th release to the popular ice hockey video game series by EA Sports. It was developed by EA Canada with the Ignite engine and released in September 2015, quickly building the hype and making it one of the best sports game releases in 2015. Interestingly, EA Sports returned to many of the features missing in the very disappointing predecessor NHL 15. The game was released on both PlayStation 4 and Xbox One and, although it was indicated differently beforehand, there was a separate release for both PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.
NHL 15 was indeed a disastrous attempt to innovate the approach to the beloved ice hockey series through removing features such as the EA Sports Hockey League while modes such as Be a GM and Be a Pro totally malformed. However, EA got the cue, seem to have quickly recognized the issues and acted upon them as NHL 16 was widely recognized as one of the sports game titles of the year and one of the best in its franchise.
NHL 16 Gameplay
The gameplay simply feels great, with a more complete control of the puck, players and the team overall. You simply feel easier skating, passing and shooting, while defending is much better enacted and even as the goalie you get more control and actual power to catch the shots.
With the improved gameplay, EA satisfied many long-standing customers, but EA has also produced a great tool to attract new players – the On-Ice Trainer. The On-Ice Trainer will help you develop and improve all your skills while playing, through on-screen instructions and explanations. This does not disrupt your gameplay and automatically turns off once you’ve mastered certain segments, but if you do mind it you can easily turn it off manually at any time in the menu.
The menus and the team selection can be confusing and they were the main points of the criticism. The information provided in the team rosters is too extensive and sometimes just too hard to grasp. However, just as with the On-Ice Trainer the in-game presentation is great and not getting in the way of the genuine feeling players enjoy.
The only big negative remark is the online gameplay, where you can often experience stuttering. While the online gameplay is enjoyed by many players worldwide, it has been obvious that it needs addressing as there are connection errors and issues, and some games even go to the point of being unplayable.
The Graphics and Audio
The graphics are astounding with NHL 16, and the actual gameplay and cutscenes sometimes just feel as if you’re watching the real game on TV. There are various features enhancing the feeling such as real pre-match videos and announcers just immersed with the realistic graphics into a great hockey SIM.
The arenas feel genuine, with more detailed crowds and surrounding than before, and EA Sports really deliver the adrenaline that comes with the NHL. You could say that the On-Ice Trainer does ruin the feeling, but once you get a general understanding of the controls you can turn it off and enjoy your matches.
The gameplay modes coming with NHL 16 are probably the main reason for the players’ delight with the game, as they range from the improved Be a Pro & Be a GM modes, to the reintroduced EA Sports Hockey League and Hockey Ultimate Team, as well as the couch crowd-pleaser offline Shootout.
Be a Pro allows you to go through the minors and create an NHL career for you character, starting as a rookie or joining a league team. You choose a role in the team and are assessed in three aspects: offense, defense and team play. You will have to satisfy the coach to get more playing time and ultimately make a great career.
Be a GM is an all-round role to create the best team out there and ultimately win the Stanley Cup. Making important choices trading players, setting up the line-ups and winning matches brings back the old enthusiasm and competitiveness about the game.
The EA Sports Hockey League is also back in the offer and largely increases our positive feeling about the game. You can create and make detailed customizations of a player, choose a position and class, join teams or randomly join matches and enjoy quick gameplay with other players. As we’ve already said, there are glitches and issues with the online gameplay but overall, it’s still enjoyable. The games allow you develop your skills and character of your preferred class in a highly competitive environment.
The Hockey Ultimate Team is based on the packs you can obtain in-game or purchase with real money, forming your line-up and team with which you can then play against AI controlled teams or online. This is a very popular game mode as you can actually grind in-game money as well as make real money purchase and improve your team quality.
Last but not the least, the offline shootout is back! We have enjoyed this so much in the past as it’s one of the ultimate home hockey challenges and after harsh criticism, EA Sports got it back in the menu. The shootout is fun and fast-paced, easy to restart and generally still very enjoyable.
NHL 16 is a great hockey game returning the series where it should be after the NHL 15 disappointment. The game returns with all the loved modes like the co-op EASHL, offline shootouts and much more, while also providing great graphics and gameplay. While the experience is highly realistic, we could not help but notice the repetitive announcers and introductions as well as cut scenes but this did not break our overall impression.
The game is a great improvement over its predecessor and we very much enjoyed playing it, local and online. NHL 16 provides a good hockey experience and has had overwhelmingly positive reviews from both veteran players and new customers who are just learning the ropes.
NHL 16 Competitions
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