After an underwhelming 2015 showing, EA Sports took things back to the drawing board for their annual NHL outing. NHL 16 brings together all the terrific fundamentals that EA Sports has ironed out over the years but adds in the game modes that were conspicuously absent in the previous edition. It all comes together to be a legitimate contender for the best NHL game ever.
The one thing we couldn’t gripe about with NHL 15 was its gameplay and, smartly, EA Sports has kept that almost entirely intact this year. Skating and stick-handling are fluid and fast, a hallmark of the NHL games over any of their other professional sports counterparts. There are no hiccups, just precise movement and deliberate control over the puck. Passes glide across the ice like lightning, and it’s easy to unleash an onslaught of shots from slappers to wristers to backhands. If you’re struggling with the relatively small learning curve of the game, on-screen coaching (a new edition to most EA Sports titles this year) is there to hold your hand until you’re ready to take the training wheels off. Unlike Madden or FIFA, which can take months to fully master, NHL will have you up to speed in just a few periods.
The biggest (and best) difference between NHL 15 and 16 is the wide variety of game modes packed in this year. We dinged NHL 15 hard for its sparse game mode offerings. That’s no longer the case. EA Sports Hockey League, season mode and Online Team play help round out the ways to play NHL 16. These modes give you plenty of opportunities to get in on the ground floor with your favorite team and take them all the way to a Stanley Cup win and beyond. Mandatory one on one online play returns in serviceable shape too. There are no real frills to be found in online play, but the competition of other actual players gives that plenty of appeal.
As is always the case with the NHL series, graphics are gorgeous, and replays are easily mistaken for the ones you see when you’re watching the game on your couch on Saturday afternoons. The team behind NHL 16 seem to have a love of hockey that rivals the league’s most fervent fans. It shows with the care taken in almost every aspect of NHL 16, and we have officially forgiven EA Sports for the subpar NHL 15 because of it.
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