Graphics:
8.0
Gameplay:
8.1
Sound:
8.3
Control:
7.8
Replay Value:
8.5
Online Gameplay:
7.5
Overall Rating:
8.0
Publisher:
EA Sports
Developer:
EA Canada
Number Of Players:
1-4
Genre:
Sports
Release Date:
September 15, 2015


If you produce a game every year, your goal should always be to improve on the previous effort. In the past, annualized sports games have been accused of simply rehashing the same old formulas and simply offering updated rosters and a few fresh cosmetic features. However, I like what I see from the sports world in 2015; Madden NFL 16 was a definite step in the right direction, as it was a streamlined, accessible and heavily in-depth production that qualified for the term, “full package.” EA Canada took a page from that playbook, as NHL 16 is undoubtedly better than last year’s game in just about every way. There are still a few hang-ups but for the most part, this is a rock solid title for hockey fanatics.

The team has definitely worked to add even more animations and details to the on-ice action. Thankfully, it appears we’re past the days of plastic-y and absurdly shiny character designs, as these players are some of the most authentic you’ll ever see in the interactive space. Granted, there’s still work to be done – not all player models are superb and it isn’t a perfect visual presentation when the ice shards are really flying – but sports fans should be pleased. The arenas look and sound great, the effects are spot-on, and the commentary, while not quite where it needs to be, remains a highlight. And of course, you’ve got the flashy TV-style presentation that’s becoming a staple of the sports world.

As I said, the stadiums sound fantastic; they resound with the roar of the avid hockey lovers and the lighting is pretty impressive. When skating around on the ice, the effects take center-stage (and rightly so), as the crack of a slapshot and the satisfying thump of heavy hits put a smile on one’s face. Like this year’s Madden , the soundtrack is surprisingly diverse, so you’re bound to find a few tracks you enjoy. The music and commentary take a back seat to the in-game effects, which is appropriate for any sports game, and here’s where NHL 16 really shines. When you’re in the midst of the action, trying to control the puck or seeking to level the dude who has the puck, you’re awash in a maelstrom of sound and energy. Yep, seems about right.

Although I didn’t review last year’s entry, I played it later and spoke to a few friends who are self-admitted “rabid fans” of the sport in question. They were complaining about what EA had done to NHL 15 and after playing with them for a while, I acknowledged their irritation: Several of the features they’d loved in the past had been inexplicably removed – EASHL being first on the list – and the remaining modes seemed oddly awkward and unfulfilling. One particularly irate pal said EA “gimped the hell out of Be a Pro” and as such, he was leery about NHL 16 . Oh, but I have good news for him and all the hockey followers out there: EA must’ve heard your complaints from last year because they’ve taken the appropriate steps to win you back.

They’ve overhauled the modes, especially the crowd-favorite EA Sports Hockey League, and they’ve managed to implement a tutorial that will make newbies feel right at home. Let’s start there because the On-Ice Trainer is a fantastic addition for anyone who might need a little assistance. This is essentially a visual aid that teaches you how to play as you progress. The farther you go, the more it will deepen and broaden, eventually guiding you through more advanced skills like the more complex slapshot (as opposed to the simpler wristshot). Using the On-Ice Trainer means you won’t have any questions; you’ll know precisely why you succeeded or failed and you can always make the necessary adjustments. If you’re not perfectly at home in a hockey rink, this feature is an absolute must.

It will also prepare you for the Be A Pro mode, which starts you as a minor league player and ideally leads to a superstar career in the NHL. Combined with the standard instructions when you dive into this mode, the On-Ice Trainer proves to be an invaluable resource. Your coach can help you out in regards to offense, defense and team play, so by the time you’re ready to tackle NHL challenges, you’ll be totally ready. It’s a matter of schooling yourself in the fundamentals and then honing those abilities as you go, which makes perfect sense for Be A Pro. Getting started has never been easier and again, it’s like EA Canada took a hint from Madden NFL 16 , because it really welcomes newcomers to the series.