|System: PS4, Xbox One|
|Dev: EA Canada|
|Pub: EA Sports|
|Release: September 13, 2016|
|Players: 1-4 Players and Online Multiplayer|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p||Mild Violence|
by Patrick Tretina
Hockey is simply one of those games that keeps you coming back for more. Perhaps it’s the distinct ping of the crossbar on a missed shot or the elated excitement of undressing a goalie on a breakaway while the world watches behind you. Maybe it’s the camaraderie amongst teammates or the feeling of executing a perfectly timed two-on-one, or maybe the allure lies simply in the idea of skating on two pieces of thin steel without completely killing yourself. Few can truly articulate its majesty, even those with years of experience, but the ones who can will tell you it's all about the atmosphere - the sights, sounds, and smells of it all. EA Sports’ NHL 17 capitalizes on exactly that - the small nuances that make the game of hockey the most unique and magnetizing sport on the planet.
The biggest improvements from NHL 16 to NHL 17 are certainly contained in the gameplay mechanics. The improved on-ice functions make it feel as if you're truly engaged in an actual real-life game. Everything from the improved authentic skating movements, to the dreaded unpredictability of bouncing pucks, to even the improved passing and reception controls replicate the movements of hockey to an absolute T. Skating backwards and picking up the pass from your winger on a breakout has never felt or looked so good in an NHL game. The movements from top to bottom are jaw-dropping at times, but you certainly have to know what you’re looking for in order to see them.
Another major gameplay improvement comes in the form of net front battles. Through EA Sports' Net Battle system, players now have the ability to jockey, fight, and slash their way into the slot and screen the opposing goalie for all he’s worth. This added dimension could make the difference between heading into the locker with the lead or trailing by at least a goal or two. The responsiveness and the effectiveness of gaining position in front of the slot is just as deadly as it is in real life. The real test comes in not smashing the defenseman’s face in when he gets away with a cross check on your forward.
To complement the Net Battle system, EA Sports has also breathed some much-needed life into the goalie position. Goalies now reflect the movements, reactions, and tendencies of the real thing through EA’s new Recovery Save Intelligence system. This advanced piece of development engineering actually reads the puck handler’s movements down to the angle, position, stride, and speed in order to choose the most effective save motion. The awesome part of this system is that skaters, just as in real life, can sell their fakes and score in a multitude of ways. Pulling the puck back at the last minute and scoring a dirty goal is a feature that has never been seen before in an NHL game. The Recovery Save Intelligence system finally balances out the goaltenders with the puck handlers - no more cheesy goals or indestructible goalies, just pure skill versus skill.
The NHL franchise wouldn’t be the what it is today without replicating hockey’s most devastating hits. NHL 17 has put a sizable focus into the way hits are delivered and the way gamers view them. Big hits finally look and feel like the way they should and further immerse players into the game, especially when it’s a playoff game and your team is fighting to stay alive. At times, I kept asking myself how EA Sports could have possibly improved this system, but they have and it’s a nice added feature that gamers will love.
Following the path of added nuances that make this title a well rounded piece of flowing art is the addition of two new game modes and the further refinement of one. The two new game modes include Draft Champs and World Cup of Hockey. Draft Champs is very similar to the game mode featured in the Madden series where players have twelve rounds to fantasy draft their favorite superstars of today and yesteryear before taking them and a few role-players to the ice. This game mode is very intriguing as it allows players to experience the top rated HUT player cards without having to grind out so many games. Being able to draft greats like Jeremy Roenick, Brett Hall, Patrick Roy, and Mike Modano adds another element of excitement.