NHL 17 Takes to the Ice in Subtle but Highly Effective Fashion
Hockey is simply one of those games that keeps you coming back for more. Perhaps it’s the distinct ping of the crossbar on a missed shot or the elated excitement of undressing a goalie on a breakaway while the world watches behind you. Maybe it’s the camaraderie amongst teammates or the feeling of executing a perfectly timed two-on-one, or maybe the allure lies simply in the idea of skating on two pieces of thin steel without completely killing yourself. Few can truly articulate its majesty, even those with years of experience, but the ones who can will tell you it’s all about the atmosphere – the sights, sounds, and smells of it all. EA Sports’ NHL 17 capitalizes on exactly that – the small nuances that make the game of hockey the most unique and magnetizing sport on the planet.
The biggest improvements from NHL 16 to NHL 17 are certainly contained in the gameplay mechanics. The improved on-ice functions make it feel as if you’re truly engaged in an actual real-life game. Everything from the improved authentic skating movements, to the dreaded unpredictability of bouncing pucks, to even the improved passing and reception controls replicate the movements of hockey to an absolute T. Skating backwards and picking up the pass from your winger on a breakout has never felt or looked so good in an NHL game. The movements from top to bottom are jaw-dropping at times, but you certainly have to know what you’re looking for in order to see them.
Another major gameplay improvement comes in the form of net front battles. Through EA Sports’ Net Battle system, players now have the ability to jockey, fight, and slash their way into the slot and screen the opposing goalie for all he’s worth. This added dimension could make the difference between heading into the locker with the lead or trailing by at least a goal or two. The responsiveness and the effectiveness of gaining position in front of the slot is just as deadly as it is in real life. The real test comes in not smashing the defenseman’s face in when he gets away with a cross check on your forward.
To complement the Net Battle system, EA Sports has also breathed some much-needed life into the goalie position. Goalies now reflect the movements, reactions, and tendencies of the real thing through EA’s new Recovery Save Intelligence system. This advanced piece of development engineering actually reads the puck handler’s movements down to the angle, position, stride, and speed in order to choose the most effective save motion. The awesome part of this system is that skaters, just as in real life, can sell their fakes and score in a multitude of ways. Pulling the puck back at the last minute and scoring a dirty goal is a feature that has never been seen before in an NHL game. The Recovery Save Intelligence system finally balances out the goaltenders with the puck handlers – no more cheesy goals or indestructible goalies, just pure skill versus skill.
The NHL franchise wouldn’t be the what it is today without replicating hockey’s most devastating hits. NHL 17 has put a sizable focus into the way hits are delivered and the way gamers view them. Big hits finally look and feel like the way they should and further immerse players into the game, especially when it’s a playoff game and your team is fighting to stay alive. At times, I kept asking myself how EA Sports could have possibly improved this system, but they have and it’s a nice added feature that gamers will love.
Following the path of added nuances that make this title a well rounded piece of flowing art is the addition of two new game modes and the further refinement of one. The two new game modes include Draft Champs and World Cup of Hockey. Draft Champs is very similar to the game mode featured in the Madden series where players have twelve rounds to fantasy draft their favorite superstars of today and yesteryear before taking them and a few role-players to the ice. This game mode is very intriguing as it allows players to experience the top rated HUT player cards without having to grind out so many games. Being able to draft greats like Jeremy Roenick, Brett Hall, Patrick Roy, and Mike Modano adds another element of excitement.
The new World Cup of Hockey mode allows players to pick their favorite national team and battle for the honor of World Cup champion. The game has been loaded with authentic teams, rosters, and schedules that should get you all geared up for this year’s World Cup action. Team Canada is the heavy favorite to win and EA Sports made sure they adequately captured that in the roster ratings breakdown. Let’s hope Jagr can knock off the rust and regain his youthful form for the Czechs this year.
Franchise mode has been updated to now include complete control over the entire organization from roster management to ticket prices, arena upgrades, and even taking your favorite franchise to a new city. This newly added functionality has been on hardcore fans’ radars for several years now and it appears EA Sports has finally delivered. The realism contained in the game is leaps and bounds ahead of NHL 16 and on another solar system when compared to NHL 15 . Gamers should find the extras within Franchise mode to be both intriguing and exciting to experience.
I could go on and on about the added features, functions, and beefed up game modes like post-fight cuts and bruises, improved presentation delivery, amazing depth in game modes across the board, or even talk about the way defenders finally straddle the blue line like they should until we’re both blue in the face. NHL 17 is a piece built for the true hockey fan that understands the game’s makeup. Those fans that have been with the franchise for a lengthy period of time and truly know the game of hockey will fall in love with this title from day one – the casual fan, probably less so as they won’t notice much of a difference between NHL 16 and 17 . Plain and simple, the game delivers. It’s not going to blow your mind in the way you think it should, but that’s exactly how EA Sports wants it. Like the forgotten rookie flying under the radar with an 80-point season, it’s impressive, but only if you know what you’re looking at.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 4.5 Graphics
The graphics are wonderfully done from top to bottom. 5.0 Control
Easily the best controls we’ve ever seen from an NHL franchise game. Player movements are on a whole different level and truly cater to the hardcore hockey fan. 4.5 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Authentic arena sounds, fantastic commentary presentation that doesn’t get stale, and near perfect on-ice effects. 5.0 Play Value
NHL 17 is the largest game in the franchise from a replay value perspective. 4.7 Overall Rating – Must Buy
Not an average. See Rating legend below for a final score breakdown.
|Review Rating Legend
|0.1 – 1.9 = Avoid
|2.5 – 2.9 = Average
|3.5 – 3.9 = Good
|4.5 – 4.9 = Must Buy
|2.0 – 2.4 = Poor
|3.0 – 3.4 = Fair
|4.0 – 4.4 = Great
|5.0 = The Best