NHL 16 Review

Take the fall, act hurt, get indignant? Not anymore!

The Verdict

EA's NHL 16 is an improvement in every way over NHL 15. But there was really only room to go upwards. Some people will love the gameplay, others won't. It's really something you have to play and tweak. While I had a lot more fun playing with human teammates and opponents than I did vs the CPU, there are many improvements to the Pro and GM modes. The additions and return of a lot of things that weren't present in NHL 15 already make this a better game.

I also really like how easy it is for newcomers to learn the game, especially with the On-Ice-Trainer and Practice modes. That said, there's plenty of room for improvement, especially with the AI. While the additions and tweaks doesn't take the franchise where it's going, it does take it to where it should be. It has a strong number of modes and ways to play, is fun when playing with others, and it looks great. 

nhl 16

The Positives

  • NHL 16 is gorgeous. This doesn't just apply to the players; the arenas are truly something to marvel at. Little details have been added, like mascots and arena-specific features. Likewise, the presentation is one of the strongest points of the game, and really captures the feel of an NHL broadcast — much better than other sports games do.

  • All of your basic modes are present, but we have the addition of Shootout mode and Practice mode. While Be-A-Pro and Be-A-GM are the offline game modes that will get the most play time, it's nice to see the devs remember that PRACTICE makes perfect. 

  • Be-A-Pro is a blast, and for the first time I prefer it to a game's franchise/owner/GM mode. CHL teams are supported, and it just feels right to start on a minor league team instead of in the NHL right away. Sim-to-shift makes a return, and I like the progression system of how you get better at something by doing better at it, and if you do something worse, you get worse at it.

  • There is so much to do in Be-A-GM mode that it can get quite overwhelming, but one thing I love is managing player morale by holding player and team meetings. The game alerts you when players are feeling upset, and you can see the result of your meeting on their morale instantly.

  • While I don't care for Hockey Ultimate Team (or all of EA other sports Ultimate Team modes), I get the appeal. If Ultimate Team is a huge draw for you, you'll love it. If you've been nervous to jump in and play against others, you can now do single-player seasons where you play against CPU teams to earn coins.

  • EASHL (EA Sports Hockey League) returns, and it's a blast. It's a class-based system with loadouts that you'll choose, each with strengths and weaknesses. The highlight of EASHL is playing co-op with friends and going against another team of human players. 

  • The overall gameplay feels smooth, and precision skating is a welcome addition, while subtle. You have a lot more control over your skating in a variety of situations. Also, the puck pick-up system allows you to transition between animations to fight for the puck. 

  • Mast the one-timer, because your entire offense will revolve around it.

  • The On-Ice Trainer is awesome! It guides you through all of the controls and gives you suggestions on what you should be doing, and it helps teach you everything you'll need to know. Then, after each period, you're given feedback and a grade based on how well you did in certain areas, as well as your goal. I've learned that I don't win nearly as many face-offs as I should. 

nhl 16

The Negatives

  • While the presentation is awesome, the commentating doesn't go above and beyond, and gets quite repetitive.

  • Player responses to meetings are quite generic, and it's more of a learning to memorize what each player wants to hear type of things. It could just feel like a test that you have to get right.

  • Like every EA sports title, lag is still a problem here and there when you play online.

  • AI is lackluster in a lot of areas, especially on offense. A lot of passes aren't handled correctly. As far as pucks along the boards, your teammates AI doesn't react as they should, and the other team comes away with the puck far too often.

  • Switching between difficulties, I find that passing is either far too easy, or insanely hard. Part of this is due to the AI, but there's not a really good middle ground. I suggest messing with the sliders to find the sweet spot that works for you.

  • There seems to be some rubberbanding. Almost every time I go up a goal, the CPU scores a goal 30 seconds later. This results in a lot of close games, but not every NHL game is going to be like that. Some of it might be the lack of skill on a certain difficulty on my part, but it's far too often of an occurrence for that to be the case.

  • F**k the poke check. It's so OP it feels broken.

  • The control scheme can be daunting to newcomers. Luckily, there's plenty of schemes, even going back to the good ol' days when pass, shoot, and check were each one button. 

  • Framerate during cutscenes are atrocious. 

You know the first game in 'The Mighty Ducks' where Gordon Bombay takes over the District 5 team? That was NHL 15. It was a mess. It looks like EA went and passed around eggs on the ice since the release of NHL 15 (Bombay had the team do that in The Mighty Ducks, in case you didn't know). Maybe they even unleashed a flurry of slapshots on Goldberg. Whatever they did, NHL 16 is an improvement over 15. 

But how much of an improvement is it? Are things taken out of last year's game now back in? How's the gameplay? And most of all, is it worth your $60? 

The Positives / The Negatives

The Verdict