Empty Net Goal.
When it comes to hockey, there’s much to say about the sport as a whole, from fan support, to media coverage, and of course the popularity of the players on the ice. All aspects can make or break the success the NHL has continually strived for. Yet, true hockey supporters know exactly what the sport brings and steadily show support in massive numbers.
To reward such loyal fans, as well as newcomers, EA is bringing us all yet another edition of their ever so popular NHL simulator. With every year boasting a number of highlighted game modes and features, fans have the opportunity to dive into a number of playable options and should expect no different. But I must say, this year, NHL 17 is showcasing a large and vast range of playable content that should please the most detailed-oriented of followers of the series.
Forget the semantics; let’s explore the concrete. NHL 17 caters to everyone’s hopes and desires. You name it, it’s pretty much all there. If the game is attempting to raise a legion of future hockey fans, players, and enthusiasts from around the globe, it's doing a fine job.
Starting with the familiar EA regulars, Draft Champions as well as Hockey Ultimate team make their return, strengthening their already formulated equations and offerings. As suggested by the title, Draft Champions is about selecting a number of players throughout a 12-round draft, compiling the best roster as possible. But before heading into your draft you must select a theme your team will run off of. This is where your personal flair comes into play.
It also can determine the style of action your team will compete with. Want to be a young gun and show all the old-timers what you are made of? Select a 25 and younger setting. Think you can still run with the kids as the old-timer? Select that 30+-year-old. There are also options of European-born talent as well as just an overall around-the-world game. Each setting is completely based on your choosing and will lean heavily on your style of play. I did find playing the different styles a bit frustrating when it came to the level of play from setting to setting. Sure, a rookie or younger guy may not possess the same talents of a vet, but the discrepancy felt a little overly lopsided, taking away the enjoyment of just being some new hotshot hoping to make a name for himself.
As for Ultimate Team, also about creating a fantasy team, the theme is more based on upgrading and bettering your current squad. Winning games and beating challenges unlock rewards that can be used to leveling your personal squad on your quest to being the best. At this point, Ultimate Team just feels like a time-filler rather than an actually sustainable game mode. There are tons of activities to keep you busy, but I question the reward in the building process compared to the actual gameplay.
The new “synergy” strategy, though, does bring a certain level of interest when building a team. When matching like-minded and similarly skilled players together, you better your chances of getting together a team with more chemistry and even unlocking specific upgrades available for use in games.
Like in all team sports, how well players work together is one of the most important aspects of the game. The team can consists of nothing but all-stars but how that translates into team play will determine true success. Which brings us to one my personal favorite modes NHL 17 has to offer: online team play.
Just like when constructing an actual team, you need guys to play certain positions as well as key roles. Online versus allows you to select your desired position and match up with others from around the world, playing a pickup game, doing your best to gel as well as an impromptu group can. The better you do, the faster your personal player will level his skills. It’s a great way to see formations and play as the pros do.
On ice, mechanics perform incredible well. Whether you choose an easy or standard button layout, controls respond well and allow returning as well as new users to pick up the controller and jump right into action. A minor disappointment comes with the hits; I miss the huge, make-you-jump-out-of-your-seats checks. I remember sending guys through the glass back in ’13, almost losing my mind with excitement. I’ve yet to make such an awesome hit in NHL 17, but I have high hopes.
Like I mentioned before, there are game modes galore that cater to the wide range of hockey fans. Don’t feel like playing a whole scrimmage? Jump into an online shootout mode and test your skills in one on one. Want to be the best on the planet? Take on the World Cup of Hockey. Regardless of your style and mood, NHL 17 surely has something for you. It is one of the most complete sports titles in recent years.
The game's overall presentation is solid, with the commentary and action cutscenes always making you feel as if you are a part of the heated battles and help keep the game flowing and relevant. There are few things I could say I wish NHL 17 had, mostly because it has them all. There’s no doubt EA has taken pride in bringing a well-balanced hockey simulator that's simple in delivery but complex in execution and something everyone can enjoy.