NHL 17 Review (Xbox One)
This years sports games continue to roll out from EA SPORTS and after a strong start from Madden 17, NHL 17 is next on the plate.
Recovering from a poor season
The NHL game franchise is on the path to recovery. Last years game was purely about getting all the missing features from NHL 15 back into the game. NHL 17 now looks to improve on those features that were returned in NHL 16.
NHL 17 HUT
Hockey Ultimate Team (or HUT) is the game mode that EA SPORTS claim to be the most popular within NHL 17 (there’s even an intro clip the first time you play that states this). For me this isn’t the case, but like with FIFA and Madden it does play a big part in the overall game. And HUT is currently sitting somewhere in between its two counterparts. For those unfamiliar with Ultimate Team modes in EA SPORTS games, this mode allows you to build up your own team by purchasing packs of cards that represent players, jerseys, badges, consumables etc. You then take your team to the ice in a variety of competitions (both single and multiplayer) in order to win more coins to purchase more packs to further improve your team, and so on. Introduced this year is the concept of sets from Madden. Though not nearly as in depth as the NFL equivalent, it does offer you something else to do with those spare cards you have no need for.
Be a Pro
While Ultimate Team may be the most popular mode in NHL 17, Be a Pro mode has always been my personal favourite. The return of the EASHL (EA SPORTS Hockey League) mode that allowed you to build a team with friends, taking to the ice together as your own individual players, last year was a welcome relief to me. The mode works much better in NHL than it does in FIFA, or would in Madden due to the nature of the sport. You need between 2-6 players on your team to join up in a game against another team, again competing in timed tournaments.
In NHL 17 EASHL rolls in with a huge new feature set around how you build your online club. Both players and the club need to progress in rankings and experience in order to unlock a whole host of options in customising your team, from jerseys colours and logos to the design of your arena. The Braehead Clan might not be featured in NHL 17, but at least we can recreate them in EASHL. (Send me a message if you want in!)
Franchise mode also features the arena customisation, and even takes it further allowing you to take control of the full financial side of running a hockey franchise. It definitely adds an extra layer of depth to the mode that already has you taking control of the ice and off. Negotiating for players has been made a little easier with the UI design in NHL 17, and you are given greater feedback into why another club has rejected your bid, or what they would be looking for in a trade deal.
On the Ice
In truth not much has changed with the on ice play. The on ice trainer remains to aid new players or those looking to brush up their skills and in Be a Pro modes you still have the options to sim between shifts. The presentation of this and the coaches feedback are a little improved over last year.
For those that like to play in goals the control scheme was changed greatly in NHL 16 and has been refined a bit in NHL 17. Positioning is everything, and if you are used to having to react to the direction of the puck with the right stick then it takes quite a lot of getting used to as the right stick is now used for different actions. Up is still poke check, down still butterfly, but pushing left and right on the stick is used for a quick push of the pads to move across the goal crease. Perfecting this is required for countering the one timer, but it is a skill beyond my abilities at least.
Rebuilding for the Future
NHL 17 is definitely a step up in refinement over last years game. That was all I asked for at the end of my review of NHL 16. The team has taken a lot of learning from their FIFA and Madden counterparts, and while the new features in HUT are maybe still not as refined as those in MUT or FUT it is a step in the right direction. However, the off the ice team building parts of the Franchise and EASHL modes are a welcome addition to freshen things up and set it apart from the other EA SPORTS titles.
8 stadium unlocks out of 10