The NHL 16 EASHL Beta has come and gone and now players have to consider if it will be worth buying the full game in September.
NHL games come out on an annual basis, with new features to try and make every game better than the last. NHL 15 had a regression as EA Sports tried to implement the NHL franchise onto Xbox One and PlayStation 4.
EA Sports received a lot of backlash for NHL 15, but they have defended themselves by saying, “we’ve been really upfront about why NHL 15 didn’t have [sic] all the modes you were used to.” EA Sports said in a comment on their Facebook page, “The game had to be completely rebuilt. Just like previous years it’s going to take a while to get everything back . . . It’s not a simple copy and paste job to go from one generation to the next. If that was the case we’d easily have put the same game modes as before . . . With an annual release cycle it’s just not something that could be done.”
Although I can see how EA thinks that this is a great defense as to why NHL 15 was lacking so many features, to me it feels like more of a big slap in the face. EA has admitted that they released half of a game to consumers for full price. The worst part was that it felt like EA tried to hide the fact that the game wasn’t complete until after people had bought it. Sure, EA mentioned that they were not able to put EASHL or GM Connected in to NHL 15, but they failed to mention so many other things. EA left out the fact that couch co-op would not be available in the game, that the draft would not be included in Be a GM until after launch, there was no AHL or Junior leagues to build your prospects, Be a Pro was a barebones game mode, and so much more.
The only thing that EA seemed to be able to put into NHL 15 was Hockey Ultimate Team, which is probably one of the most popular game modes in the NHL franchise, but it is also the only game mode with a pay to win element. Obviously, EA was going to put HUT at the top of their priorities, as it makes them more money after the game is sold.
After waiting for a year players were finally able to make their own hockey teams again, play with their friends, and compete in the EASHL. The EASHL Beta brought back an old fan favourite, and more importantly players got a glimpse at what NHL 16 will be like.
Let’s start with what the positives of the Beta were. The gameplay is very similar to that of NHL 15, which some people hate and some people enjoy. I for one love the gameplay. Hockey is a hard sport and in previous renditions of the franchise it was to easy to stick handle, shoot, pass, basically do everything that Hockey players do. Now it feels like there is a lot less room in the game, which is more realistic to the actual sport. Odd-man-rushes and amazing dangles don’t happen every second of the game, players have to find the right moment to get the best chances. Mistakes are heavily highlighted, as they can easily mean a goal scored against. It’ll be harder for some players to stick handle in the corner for five minutes, walk out front of the net and score. Collisions, bumps, and stick-checks all feel more meaningful. Cross-crease passes don’t just work every time now, if a defender is in the lane they are going to intercept the pass. Overall, while the gameplay is very similar to NHL 15, it is definitely more realistic than previous versions of the franchise.
The next topic is going to be a little controversial. EA has removed player building in EASHL and has limited it to just class selection. In previous NHL games players could choose a player type, then build their attributes how they wanted. This led to problems where people would pick an enforcer, who could hit harder than anybody, but then his shooting skills would be better than a sniper. I like how players have to choose a class with attributes that are already set. This will lead to a lot more balance within the game.
The first problem lies within the balance of the player types. Although the set player classes are great, some classes are overpowered and need to be taken down a peg to match the rest of them. The power-forward is amazing right now. Players can hit hard, and shoot the puck better than any other class. The two-way-forward also needs some changes to help balance the game.
One glitch I noticed that was more comical than frustrating was when my entire team got put on the bench in favor of the computers. For ten minutes we watched as the other team battled our AI until the whistle blew and we were freed from the bench. I’m sure that this line change was a fluke, and will hopefully be fixed in time for the full release of NHL 2016.
Speaking of AI, the defensemen need some work. I liked how the forward computers played, but the defensemen made mistake after mistake. The computers don’t seem to know that the net is a physical entity on the ice and they constantly get stuck behind it, or lose the puck by running into the net. For some reason in the offensive zone the defensemen will take shots at terrible times, and a high percentage of the time they will miss the net. Even worse are the breakout passes. The passes from the computer defensemen will mostly go to a player who is not open and get intercepted, or go up the ice to nobody in the neutral zone.
Passing seemed like an overall issue in the game, like it was in NHL 15 before it. Sometimes players can aim a pass perfectly, but it’ll go in the wrong direction. Saucer passes took skill in previous game, but once it was mastered, the saucer pass became a dangerous tool. Now saucer passes feel impossible, but maybe it’s just something that players will have to learn how to do once again. Additionally, the goalie passes could use some work. I highly doubt half of the goalies in the NHL could pass the puck as hard as the goalies were in the NHL 16 EASHL Beta. The passes never left the ice and were as fast as bullets. I appreciate how difficult it is to pass in certain situations, but I hope some tweaks are made before the games full release.
Those were just some of the things I noticed, and I’m sure other people have a laundry list of other things to complain about. However, since it was a Beta I’ll give EA a bit of a break. NHL 15 was a disappointment, but with the inclusion of EASHL, a revamped Be a Pro(trailer below), couch co-op, and the inclusion of so many things that were missing before, I have to say that I am excited for NHL 16.
NHL 16 drops on September 15th, 2015 for the Xbox one and the PlayStation 4. What did you think of the NHL 16 EASHL Beta? Has there been enough added to NHL 16 to make it worth buying?