Update: I was unfortunately not aware of Shamus Young's severe criticism of Fallout 3 available here to link in the original piece and I regret that. It dovetails rather nicely with what I've written and it's much better executed than my piece. I strongly recommend anyone...
With EA’s NHL franchise, people always have mixed feelings from year to year. Mostly because out of all of EA’s major sports titles, its hockey title typically doesn’t change that much. Of course, this is an understatement and truly there are many little differences that help add a quality to the game we can sometimes under-appreciate. It’s all in the subtlety that gives that refreshing taste, rather than all the many bells and whistles we see in other titles.
With NHL 15 fast approaching, one of the more bolstered updates has come in the form of visual stimulation. The creative team wanted to illustrate the sights and sounds of professional hockey. Added detail to every little aspect of the game has seemed to be accounted for. Starting with the crowd, there are now 9,000 individual screaming spectators. Some with face paint, some with soda cups, others carrying signs—all you would see at a real event.
Stadiums have also been specifically modeled after their real-life molds. In a presentation given at E3 2014, comparing real photos to screenshots, many people couldn’t even tell which was the game and which were the actual venues. In an interesting twist, while in game, camera shots to the announcers booth will reveal real recorded video of commentators that were used. This isn’t to trick us, but to further add a touch of realism. Plus with having full NBC sports licensing, it doesn’t hurt to utilize such elaborate features.
Player jerseys have also been modified to keep up with times. Before, jerseys were mostly one layer and were just an attachment of the player. Now, extra layers have been added, such as pads underneath the jersey. Specific equipment will move differently and react to a number of movements. The puck even hits off different pad and body parts in new and different ways. A hard shoulder pad might send an incoming puck ricocheting in weird directions but a deflection off a player’s stomach could have the puck fall harmlessly to the ground.
Additions to gameplay so far have come in the way of smarter players. With the new Vision AI system, “thinking ahead” is possible. Teammates react differently to plays and other skaters on the ice. Having the ability to plot out strategy takes some pressure away from human-controlled players and creates more dynamic scoring and defending opportunities.
NHL 15 is still much in development, but we shouldn’t expect EA to drop the puck on this one. As of now, we are looking at a September 9 launch date for Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, and PlayStation 3.