NHL 15 Preview: Lace up your skates and hit the ice

While most of the EA Sports portfolio launched alongside the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 last November, the NHL franchise must have missed thememo. Sadly, it didn’t release on the new consoles last year, instead staying behind on the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. This year, however, EA Sports is bringing the world’s coolest sport to the new generation with NHL 15, and they’ve decided to whet our appetite with a demo.

How nice of them.

Now, with the debut on new hardware, it’s important to make a good first impression. This is something NHL 15 absolutely nails. Make no mistake; this is the NHL on NBC. You won’t find any fake “NHL on EA Sports” or game specific logos here. From the “live” (as in not in-engine) shots outside a team’s stadium, Doc Emrick and Eddie Olczyk actually appearing on your screen (also not in-engine), and the familiar music playing as the game loads, this is sports presentation at its finest.

It’s fitting due to the game’s fast paced nature. While more popular sports such as football or baseball allow time for players to adjust to the game, hockey is something that requires quick decisions and reflexes. It helps that this impressive presentation amps the player, preparing them for a game that authentically feels special. It’s something that the Madden franchise has been trying recently, but NHL 15 succeeds due to superior play-by-play and commentary. There’s no disconnect between the reality of an actual NHL broadcast and the replication of the video game version.

There’s also a severe lack of repeated lines, too. I can’t stress enough how important that is.

Of course, all of this would be for nothing if the game itself didn’t match up. This is a particular note of interest due to the fact that the NHL franchise has recently had a tendency to be a bit inaccessible. That’s not to say the game is hard to pick up and play, but doing well can be a bit of a challenge. Scoring an NHL goal is hard and it’s just as hard to do it in past NHL games. The same rings true in NHL 15’s demo, but to be honest, this is true due to the incredibly shortened periods founds in the demo.

You also have to take into account about how precise you’ll need to be to execute an offensive strategy, even on the power play. Now, this shouldn’t come as a surprise when playing with the more complex control schemes, but even at its simplest, NHL 15 has a tendency to not be very forgiving. My power plays had a tendency to look like those of the Chicago Blackhawks.

I don’t mind being compared to my beloved Blackhawks in a lot of places, but the power play is not one of them.

Despite this issue, the NHL 15 demo is an enjoyable experience, one that offers a positive outlook for the franchise’s first release on the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. Perhaps over time, and a lot of practice, I can overcome my power play struggles and light the lamp on a regular basis. If not, I’ll just boot up a copy of NHL 94 and see how many goals I can score.