NHL 17 let players feel more like NHL 16
NHL 16 was a return to greatness for the franchise, one of those good update years. And now NHL 17 is upcoming. It will be the 26th installment in the NHL game series. It will be released for the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One consoles on September 13, 2016 in North America and September 15 in Europe. NHL 17 is a great game of hockey, but unlike last year, there isn't a standout mode or feature that makes this game substantially better than its predecessor. It rides off a lot of what NHL 16 did, and the new additions don't add anything crucial to the experience. It's still a lot of fun to trade players in Franchise, build a formidable roster in Hockey Ultimate Team, and actually play matches.
Sometimes the annual installment of a sports game feels like a brand new experience, sometimes it feels like same thing, different year. NHL 17, available for play now on EA Access ahead of next week’s release, is definitely the latter. I’ve played a TON of the previous installment, enough to know that the core gameplay hasn’t changed all that much. The game opens with 2015's Stanley Cup final between the Penguins and the Sharks, much like the previous game opened with the deciding game between the Blackhawks and the Lightning. It felt like I’d never left.
The look, the feel—even the commentary opening the game, where color commentator Eddie Olczyk tells Doc Emrick what it feels like to play in the Stanley Cup Finals, feels lifted from the previous game. NHL 17 has some real strengths, but it still feels like it hasn't quite made it out of the previous generation. The gameplay is strong but increasingly dated; the feature set feels haphazard, and there are lots of niggling quality-of-life issues. It feels more and more like the series is stuck in a rut, and it's hard to say where EA Canada should take it next.
For now, NHL 17 is another decent outing, but the next step remains elusive. While staying true to its ideals, NHL 17 is a set piece for all sports titles on the market, offering more freedom, flexibility, and customization across many different levels, which puts it at the top of the sports gaming genre among the likes of NBA 2K. It'll take a bit to get used to possession of the puck again, and playing as a goalie is more boring than it should be, but NHL 17 has more than enough to validate a purchase for both veterans and newcomers alike.