I’ve taken a few days to check out the NHL 17 Beta on the PlayStation 4 and I’ve compiled my thoughts into a quick article. This year’s game has definitely taken another step in the right direction.
I’ve played the NHL series since it was created, so I’ve seen just about every hockey game known to man from EA (and most from other publishers/developers as well). I thought NHL 16 was a decent step in the right direction but that it was missing some depth as far as gameplay and EASHL were concerned. Coincidentally, those were two areas that EA Canada decided to focus on the most and the result has been mostly positive thus far.
I’ll start with Hockey Ultimate Team since there isn’t a whole lot to say about that. The addition of synergies is the big thing here which will add a whole new dynamic to creating your team. Not only are you worried about overalls anymore, it’s more about how players will mesh together as a line. This is far more like actual hockey to me and I was happy to see this implementation. I only wish they would add this for other modes. It would be great to see EASHL teams affected by this as it would change the way the game is played, but as far as I can tell it doesn’t carry over there. There are Player Synergies which affect all players on the team with that synergy, such as relentless fore-check. There are also Team Synergies, which affect the whole team when activated. These boosts add a little extra push to your team and make team-building a little bit deeper than before. I didn’t dive into this mode too much so I’m not sure if there are any other huge changes to comment on in the NHL 17 Beta, but I know there are a few more coming to the full game as listed in our article last week.
EASHL gets huge improvements this year and this is something I’m incredibly excited for. My team ended up winning pretty much everything last year and there was no reason left to play other than for the love of the game. In the NHL 17 Beta, there are a ton of unlocks for your player and team alike that will keep you playing long after you’ve won the League Championship. The amount of different customization options are astounding and really make your team feel like your own. From logos, to horns, to the colour of the netting above the glass, nothing is left out.
The game rewards your progressively and this will definitely make it fun to play through with your friends all year long. The seasons and playoffs remain the same, as they should and all the Championships remain in tact as well. EA improved what was lacking and left what was working. Drop ins are also very easy to get into by picking forward, defense, or goalie and being shot into a game that needs that position. NHL 16 may have had that as I never played drop-ins but it’s certainly a much better way of joining a drop-in game. New builds have also been added like, Hitting Sniper, Puck-Moving Defenseman, and Jumbo Playmaker. These additions have really added to the strategy of teams in EASHL, there are many ways to counter each type of player now and winning definitely comes down to what build each player chooses and how they use it.
The last thing I want to talk about is the gameplay which always seems to improve year after year. I don’t care what you want to say about sports games being rehashed every year, this game is changed immensely year after year in such subtle ways that make the gameplay experience so much better. The goal-tending has vastly improved in the NHL 17 Beta for the first time in years. Goalies move as they would in real-life which was not the case in NHL 16. They shrug their shoulders, stay square to the puck at the corner of the net, move all their limbs, and generally always give your team a chance to win. Too often in previous years, the goalie would allow a bunch of soft goals in quick succession and the game would be over in the first period. Now, goalies battle just as much as they would in real life. This coupled with tie-ups in front of the net and improved defensive AI have made for a much more balanced game.
The only problem that I feel will plague this game is on the breakaways, I don’t know that I’ve seen a single shot stopped on the breakaway. The shooters definitely have a bigger advantage than in past games. Goalies don’t seem to move fast enough to stop dekes. I don’t find it a huge issue because breakaways are definitely harder to come by than ever before with the emphasis on defense in this year’s game, but it is something to be wary of.
From my few days playing the NHL 17 Beta, I can honestly say that this is the most excited I’ve been for a hockey game in a very long time. EA has addressed a lot of the nuisances that plagues NHL 16 while still retaining what made it such a good hockey sim. There are definitely still things to be tweaked, but I’m loving the direction of NHL 17.