It’s September again, which means it’s time for the next installment of EA Sports‘ NHL franchise. NHL 16 hit store shelves on September 15th and so far the outlook of the game looks to be much better than its predecessor.

However EA wants to dress it up NHL 15 was half of a game, but he majority of the features are back in NHL 16, along with updates to gameplay and visuals.

Gameplay wise NHL 16 feels very similar to NHL 15 with some fixes to blatant problems. The game is as similar to real hockey as it has ever been. Players can’t constantly skate end to end throughout the game, as it feels like there is a lot less room. In order to win a game players will have to get their hands dirty, battle in the corners, and grind their way to victory.

Passing has been improved from NHL 15, so now the majority of a player’s passes will actually go where they want. The A.I. was incredibly buggy during the Beta, but now they don’t seem to get stuck behind the net nearly as often. We are going to take a more in depth look at some of the game modes EA has updated.

Be A Pro

NHL 15’s Be a Pro was about as barebones as it could get, EA has come back and completely revamped the game mode. Players will have many options when it comes to how they want to start their careers. When starting a new Be A Pro career a player can start in Junior, go to the Draft, or choose a team and start playing professionally immediately.

Rather than sitting on the bench and watching the computers play, EA reintroduced “Sim to next shift”, so players will always be in the action. Off the ice players can choose weekly training regimens to help improve their character.

One of the best gameplay elements that EA added are the visual on ice aids. In previous games NHL had an arrow on the ice to show players where they should be skating, now there is a whole assortment of different visual aids. In the defensive zone a rectangle appears that shows where players should cover, as well as arrows to show which player to cover. When passing, NHL 16 will show players the different options available, and in the offensive zone the game shows the zones that the goalie is not covering.

EA has also incorporated a new way to gather experience in games. When a player does something good, like score a goal or block a pass, they will receive experience. When a player does something wrong, like turn the puck over, experience will be taken away. At the end of the game the experience earned is tallied by the game. The only time this feature becomes annoying is when you lose experience for something that is completely out of control, like if you tie up the Center on the face-off, and your wingers don’t come in to get the puck, resulting in a lost face-off and lost experience.

Overall, EA as made up for the pathetic Be a Pro that was in NHL 15 with the experience provided in NHL 16.

Be A GM

When NHL 15 was released and players found out that they couldn’t even draft their own players in Be a GM mode, many of them knew they were in for a rough ride. Thankfully, NHL 16 comes equipped with all of the features that were left out in NHL 15 along with updates.

NHL 16 brings back other leagues other than the NHL, so players can once again develop their prospects in the AHL or Junior. The franchises new and improved draft that was introduced in NHL 15 after launch is back. The draft features a timer for every pick, along with a more realistic GM experience.

Like Be A Pro, Be a GM features in game visual aids to help players improve their game. The computers can prove to be  challenging depending on what skill level players play on.

In NHL 16, EA has introduced player morale to Be a GM mode. Players will comment on different things throughout the season, which will affect their overall ranking, and in some cases they may demand a trade. This feature offers a new element to Be a GM mode, which will be fun at first, but will probably get as tiresome as the Be a Pro interviews from NHL 14, how many players still have nightmares about the comment “You were a turnover machine tonight”?

While Be a GM overall appears to be a great game mode there are a couple problems, such as the menu speed. The menus are incredibly slow, which can get irritating over the course of a season and the need to edit lines. Also, once the playoffs are over players can only update their trading block when the pro-scout gives them a warning before the draft, a problem that has existed for years.

In the end, Be a GM is a far superior game mode in NHL 16 with the improvements that EA brought to the table. Players will actually be enticed to play the game mode with all of the included features, something that wasn’t prevalent in NHL 15.

Online Versus Play

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Invite your friends over, because couch co-op is back in NHL 16. Unlike the previous game, NHL 16 promotes many game modes that allow users to play with their friends, whether it’s online or offline. In Online Versus Play (OVP) players will get to take advantage of all the new features that EA has packed into NHL 16.

The biggest problem in OVP comes in shootouts and penalty shots. In Online Shootout Mode players get to take control of the goalie to try and make the saves, yet in OVP players have to watch as the computer plays the goalie in shootouts and penalty shots.

Back in NHL 14 and previous renditions of the game, players were given control of the goalie, which made players responsible for what happens in the game. If a player tripped somebody on a breakaway it was up to the player to stop the opponent on the penalty shot, same goes for shootouts. In NHL 16 players have to hope their AI doesn’t get beat.

EASHL

After being away for a year the EASHL is back. Players get the opportunity to make a team, invite their friends, and compete against other players in the EASHL. The biggest change in the EASHL appears when building players.

Users will no longer be able to build their own player’s attributes. Instead users will choose from a list of preset player types, each player type coming with its own advantages and disadvantages. While this takes away some RPG elements, it does make the game mode more fair.

Instead of having grinders that can shoot like a sniper and snipers that can hit like grinders, player attributes match their player type. There are some player types that are still a little over powered; even after Beta nerfs, but those will continue to improve the longer NHL 16 is out. At the end of the day EASHL is back and gamers should be rejoicing.

Hockey Ultimate Team

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Of course Hockey Ultimate Team (HUT) is back, as EA says HUT is the most played game mode in the NHL franchise. HUT is a very creative and fun game mode, but it is also frustratingly annoying that it has a pay to win element, as players can simply buy HUT cards with real money.

This year, for the first time ever, HUT will be playable offline. If players aren’t interesting in competing online they can take their HUT team offline and face computers. EA also introduced a play a friend feature, so players can easily face off against their friends for bragging rights. Finally, EA added new cards to keep users coming back for more HUT.

Conclusion

After a not so successful entry on to the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 with NHL 15, EA came back swinging with NHL 16. NHL 16 may be the most impressive game that has ever been made in the NHL franchise with all of the features that EA was able to bring back and create. While there is always room for improvement It feels as though EA has created a game that will keep gamers occupied until next year.