So, the 2014-15 NHL Regular Season is over, which means we have reached that time again: Playoffs. With two rounds already finished, we are moving ever closer to crowning a new Champion. In my play-through of NHL 15, the NHL simulation title from EA Sports, I’m in the same position and it feels way different than it did before.
In earlier iterations of the game on previous gen consoles, the playoffs felt empty. There was never a huge sense of excitement when you won that fourth game and moved on to the next round. But this year, it feels bigger. It feels like you really made it to the big show. I was drafted to the Calgary Flames and led our team on a tear, finishing first overall in our division and lining us up against the Arizona Coyotes, the first wildcard team.
We dropped the first game at home, but then won the next 4 games. That game 5 was in front of the home crowd again, and yours truly scored the OT game, and series, winning goal. Then the animation plays, and the team pals around with eachother in celebration, and in that moment, it really felt like an accomplishment.
Then Round 2 started, and we squared off against the San Jose Sharks. Again, we dropped the first game at home, but didn’t have the same luck as last time. They had us on the ropes, 3 games to 1, but we battled back, and forced a game 7 at home, with us, again, raising our hands in victory. And again, in this moment, I felt like I had accomplished something; taking a team to Game 7 and winning.
Now, we’re the underdogs. Round 3 has us paired up against the Chicago Blackhawks. We’re down 3 games to 2, and playing game 6 at home. If we win this one, we take it on the road, and could maybe battle back to a Stanley Cup Final berth. And I gotta say, I felt nerves in game 5, knowing that could be our final game.
People often chastise the current gen versions of the game for missing lots of great features, such as Live the Life, which was unarguably a better version of ‘Be A Pro’. Other people have made a case for the ratings system being shoddy, wherein videos have been made to show that the best player in the game, Sidney Crosby, is no better than some of the worst, compared to previous versions.
These are valid complaints, and as consumers, some of us may feel cheated. But they did improve in some other small ways as well. The arenas feel true to life, the way the jerseys react to movement, the physics in hitting, the fighting – these make the game feel one step closer to the real game.
This is what the earlier games were missing. They lacked that feeling of accomplishment and immersion, and as much as EA has stepped back with NHL 15; they certainly have improved by leaps and bounds in terms of the little things. I can’t wait for NHL 16 to see what they have waiting for us.