Review: NHL 16 – A Game Worthy of Lord Stanley

Game Name: NHL 16
Platform(s): Xbox One, PlayStation 4
Publisher(s): EA Sports
Developer(s): EA Tiburon
Release Date: September 15, 2015
Price: $59.99 ($53.99 with EA Access)

*This game was reviewed using the 10-hour EA Access Trial on Xbox One*

NHL 15 was somewhat of a disappointment on the 8th generation consoles, but it wasn’t without it’s successes. Be A Pro mode was a fair success, and Ultimate Team was…well…Ultimate Team. However, the game felt lacking, simply because the 8th generation versions of the game were stripped down, compared to the Xbox 360 and PS3 versions of the game. Well, this year, with all the focus on the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, NHL 16 begins to return to form, especially with the addition of the EASHL and Online/Offline Shootout modes. Add in a responsive On-Ice trainer, and you have a game worthy of Lord Stanley, competitive, yet accessible.

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A Lesson Well Learned

Honestly, for people such as I who don’t invest in NHL video games as much as games like Madden, the On-Ice Trainer may be the best feedback mechanic that I’ve ever experienced. I’ve learned more about the game just playing ONE game with this trainer on, as opposed to having to learn the controls by remembering the buttons shown on the loading screen.

That being said, the On-Ice Trainer is NOT intrusive at the least, as it’s more like little player-centric popups that indicate the best option for you in the current situation. When set to ‘Adaptive,’ however, these popups are tailored to your difficulty setting, so if it’s on Superstar, you’re expected to do more difficult actions throughout the game.

In Be A Pro, however, this trainer gives you active feedback towards your positive and negative actions, this time with experience point gains and losses along with it. You’ll even lose XP for taking longer shifts than you should based on your stamina level.

The coach’s feedback system has been revamped, with more concrete positive and negative feedback, as well as goals for where each of your grades should be based on your difficulty level. Personally, it encouraged me to make smarter plays as I became more experienced with the game, and with the AI being pretty damn aggressive, the feedback was pretty impactful to my play, having me go from a 10 – 0 shellacking in my first game, to keeping the game close with a 4-3 shootout loss. Not every game is a guaranteed win anymore, and that’s a good way to inspire people to get better.

NHL 16‘s Be A GM, as well as Be A Pro has been improved vastly to include the CHL within gameplay. In Be A Pro, you can choose to jump right into the Entry Draft, join a team straight up or play for the chance to improve your stock in the draft. Each option has its advantages and disadvantages, so it’s definitely up to the player to make the choice that fits them.

Be A GM, you have deeper management of CHL and NHL teams, where you can move players up and down the roster, as well as play both NHL and CHL games at any given time. If you want to improve your new pick up to replace a player on his way down the depth chart, you can do so, and quite easily. Everything else has been brought over from NHL 15, so everything is still fairly familiar to returning players.

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Online Shootout is a fun way to settle issues with friends, or even as a friendly challenge.

Online Is Smooth as Butter

Online Shootout may be one of the more fun modes in NHL 16. Albeit there not being many people online when I finally got a chance to sit down and play the mode, Online Shootout didn’t disappoint. The sheer pressure of close shootouts, as well as the anger of losing a close one by letting a puck get right by you, or an accidental own goal hurts, and you can certainly feel that in this game. For local games, there is an offline mode, where you and a friend can settle it on the ice.

EASHL is pretty straightforward. Create a player and find a squad to take it to the ice. Team play is the name of the game here, and when you and your team are all on the same page, it can create some real magical moments.

Online matchmaking is also pretty solid, but remember, a limited amount of people were on during the early access period, so this may change. However, the online play was pretty solid, with virtually no lag, so this should ease the minds of online players, especially with Hockey Ultimate Team.

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Arenas look better than the real ones at times, such as MSG in New York.

Grow Them Playoff Beards, Boys.

The authenticity of this game is amazing. Players look like their real life counterparts, down to the playoff beards come playoff time. You can even set your player to have his own playoff beard in Be a Pro, so that’s pretty dope. This was a major emphasis this year, and I’m glad that EA Sports followed through on it. The NBC Sports presentation is as authentic as ever, with Doc Emrick and 1994 Stanley Cup Champion with the New York Rangers, Eddie Olcyzk making the calls in the booth, with the commentary being similar to last year, albeit with a peppering of new storylines. The Islanders are also now in the Barclays Center in Park Slope, Brooklyn, and it looks magnificent as a hockey arena as it does for WWE events and Brooklyn Nets games.

But one of the major shining stars of this game is the sound. You can hear big hits pretty clearly, as well as the clashing of the sticks when going for the puck. The crowds are dynamic, as well as the reactions to the calls and goals from each team, being slightly different every time. 

Lord Stanley Would Be Proud of This Game

Honestly, NHL 16 may be the improvement that was needed to keep fans happy. By no means is it perfect, there may be some small foibles to the game, such as the overly aggressive AI, however, that’s not a hurdle that can’t be passed. Online gameplay is smooth, and that always counts. Be A Pro and Be A GM got some real overhauls to their modes, while keeping things familiar for returning players. This is indeed a game that Lord Stanley and NHL fans would give their approval to, easily.

  • 8.4/10
    Gameplay - 8.4/10
  • 8.7/10
    Graphics - 8.7/10
  • 9.2/10
    Sound - 9.2/10
  • 8.3/10
    Replay Value - 8.3/10
Overall
8.7/10
User Review
0 (0 votes)
Comments Rating 0 (0 reviews)

About The Author

Clinton Bowman-Christie
Managing Editor, Games & Technology

Teacher's Assistant by day, passionate gamer and wrestling fan by night. This describes Clinton to a T. A Brooklyn, New York resident for all of his life, gaming, Power Rangers, football, basketball and wrestling pretty much comprise a lot of his free time.

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