“A good game that would be great if it was finished.”

Last Tuesday, EA Sports launched NHL 15 for the first time on the next generation of consoles. While there are improvements over last year’s edition, there are several flaws that prevent this from being a must-buy for hockey fans. Well, for now at least.

First, I would like to point out the highlights of the game. The biggest improvement I noticed was the player physics. The controls were significantly tightened up so that it feels like your player is skating on the ice, as opposed to the feeling that they were gliding in NHL 14. Slamming another skater into the boards with a body check is much more satisfying than before; you actually feel like you are crushing them instead of gliding into them, hoping for them to fall to the ice.

Also, the overall puck physics seems to be more consistent. It doesn’t jump around for no reason anymore; the reaction more reflects what is happening on the ice. However, I have noticed the puck likes to roll on its side quite a bit—a la that super shot from The Mighty Ducks—which can lead to some real funky reactions that you can’t anticipate.

The commentating is top-notch. I have yet to get annoyed by the repetitiveness of prior year’s commentating. The overall production gives you a feel that you are interacting with the real live broadcast of a hockey game. The crowds are no longer generic, nor do they look like cardboard cutouts. The arenas are full of fans that interact with the action happening on the ice.

Now, while I have pointed out some of the highlights of the game, I have to talk about the low-lights of this title.

First and foremost, it seems that EA launched an incomplete game, which is a trend that has followed the last two EA Sports titles. The Winter Classic, which was a great gameplay feature, is nowhere to be found. The biggest gameplay mode that is missing is Online Hockey Leagues.

The lack of leagues is the biggest issue I have with the game. Every year, my friends and I would create a team the day the game came out and battle it out with other teams until the next edition of NHL came out. It was a feature that kept the title evergreen. First person shooters have their multiplayer modes, NHL had leagues to keep the game fresh every day. EA has stated they are working on an update to add this feature once they work out all the kinks, but how are you supposed to play the game with four of your friends until then?

Also, I have an issue with “pay to win” options in a game you are already spending $60 on. There are many games out there that utilize this way of generating revenue (see League of Legends), but those game are free and you can continue to play for free as long as you’d like, hence the term “freemium.” Having the pay to win feature within the Ultimate Hockey League mode seems like another cheap way to get more money out of players who already spent good money on the game. Yes, some will say you can grind it out and not spend anything, but taking that approach will steal quite a bit of your time before you can be competitive. This is a grind many won’t enjoy dealing with. Others will say “if you don’t like it, don’t play it.” That’s a valid argument, but I just don’t believe you should have to be nickel and dimed to death to be competitive in any game mode in a game you have already paid for.

I have a feeling that once the game is updated to the point where all the features from NHL 14 are added and working, NHL 15 will be an excellent game that any fan of previous editions of the franchise must own. But until the game is complete and fully functioning—and has all the bugs worked out—the way fans have become accustomed to, I advise you steer clear until that day comes.

As new features are added to the game, we will be sure to keep you updated and give our thoughts as updates continue to roll out.

About The Author

Jason Lundgren

I have been an MMA reporter/opinion writer for over 10 years. I play WAY too many video games. I'm not on Twitter much, but follow me @JLundgrenSports