GEEK – Another year, another installment of EA Sports’ famed NHL series… another “face-off” review between stepbrothers. Bill, has EA Vancouver made enough additions and improvements with NHL 17 to justify snatching another $60 of your hard-earned cash?
NERD – Dude, NHL 17 has been a real pleasure. While there might not be any glass-shattering changes like last year’s On-Ice Trainer, it’s hard to be disappointed with this year’s version. Let’s drop the puck with what’s noticeably different. GM Mode–even after adjusting gameplay–is much more challenging than last year. Adjusting sliders is just not what it used to be; I can’t score 8 goals in a game with Brad Marchand like I used to–with a slight adjustment. Good thing. They have also added arena management to the mode, and added a much cleaner GM Mode menu interface.
MOODY: As a fan of the Big Bad B’s myself, I’m a huge proponent of the Net Battles out in front. That grind hockey that guys like that LA turncoat Milan Lucic and jerkface Claude Lemieux made so popular is back. Since most goals in the NHL come from sort of the “cheap” variety–and EA wants to make the NHL games as sim as they can–it only makes sense to spotlight slapshot deflections and tip-ins, with defensemen able to lift the sticks and smother power forwards out in front of the net. Goalies are much sharper this year, too, not looking so silly always trying to make that big save.
BILL: While it seems your focus this year, Moody, was on the in-game additions, I bodychecked the Game Modes even harder. Everyone knows I am a huge fan, if not semi-professional player, of the EASHL. While I still disagree with EA having to use a predetermined build, it does seem to make the drop-in games a bit more even. There is one noticeable element added to the EA Sports Hockey League this year. The more players level up, the more access to player customizations and celebrations they will have — an interesting addition that can still, sadly, get old quick. This NHL nerd also found EASHL to be much more “arcadey” than that of NHL 16. The deflections and redirections seem to happen more, and the net tie-ups you mention, while great, I found hard to initiate manually and not automatically.
MOODY: Here are my frustrations, Billy Boy. There’s nothing like watching the 6’9″ Zdeno Chara lay out some 5’11 left wing to oblivion–only to see the little bastard hulk the fuck up like the “Immortal” Hulk Hogan and get the puck back before Chara can even take a sniffle at it. Hell, even in NHL ’94, the guy would be laid out with blood sprawled across his face and there would be a stoppage of play. As for modes, Be A Pro is a far cry from what I can do in NBA 2K17‘s MyCareer mode. Maybe people won’t think hockey is so boring if EA brought some personality to their game! Even FIFA 17‘s going that route with their “MyPlayer”esque career mode, so why not hockey?
BILL: Tough! One more bit I’d like to add about the EASHL (since I admittingly spent 80% of my time with this mode, and will likely continue spending 95% of my time with it further), is the new Stadium Editor. You can create your own jerseys, arenas, etc. If nothing else, EA Vancouver really amped up the customization in this game. Passing also seems to be a bit more of a challenge this year, especially on higher difficulty modes. The stick check seems extremely over used–I mean, when isn’t it?–but I’d put money on the fact that EA will patch this up within the next couple of weeks. But why is there no hip check??? At least as of now, it appears nonexistent.
MOODY: I wish I could answer that for ya, man. As our viewers can see in the video clips we’ve included, NHL 17 comes packed with two new modes: Draft Champions (same as Madden, where you’ll put together a team of 12 players ala Fantasy Football/Hockey), which requires an online connection even againt the AI (OK?), and the World Cup of Hockey, which is basically the same thing as a Stanley Cup tournament, except with forthcoming World Cup tourney teams in it. Cool.
BILL: I’ll leave those modes up to you, Moody! At least NHL 17‘s graphics are amazing, with very few glitches. As of this publication, the online play is a lot more stable. Whew! One out of every five games would freeze up on EASHL last year, and you’d have no choice but to restart, restart, and restart the game. EA has also implemented a punishment system to decrease the amount of people that leave games early. So, “Rage Quitting” Moody might want to stick to his single player franchise mode to avoid being apprehended. In all, I’m satisfied with all the improvements EA has made with NHL this year, even if it often feels like the same game. 4/5 Pucks.
MOODY: I’ve totally given up on questioning why EA refuses to insert an emphatic pre-and-post game report (ala 2K’s NBA series), and in-game/halftime highlights from around the league. Yeah–it would make playing 82 games during the season far more intriguing than how many hot dogs I can sell and how many bathrooms I can improve (i.e. Be A GM). It just seems like EA has a strict budget on what they can do with NHL since most of that money goes to the higher selling franchises like Madden and FIFA. “It is what it is.” I’ll dock off 0.25 from my review score last year for releasing basically the same game. But I’m glad you’re happy, Bill. 3/5 Pucks.