The last time a Bruins player was on the cover of an NHL video game, it was Andy Moog, awaiting a scoring chance from the L.A. Kings Tomas Sandstrom as Ray Bourque laid sprawled out, and short-lived Bruin Clark Donatelli braced for impact to impede Sandstrom's opportunity. This was for NHL '94, widely regarded as the greatest hockey game of all time, and one of the best sports videogames to ever be created. So clearly, EA Sports wanted to use Patrice Bergeron as the spokesperson for what would be the next "greatest hockey game ever," right? Right??
Sadly, EA focused too much on making the game look pretty by giving fun wigs & face paint to fans, and making sure that the steps at Joe Louis Arena had cracks in them. And while the game looks astonishing—seriously, check out the recreations of Madison Square Garden and TD Garden if you haven't seen them yet—they forgot that people actually play the game, not just stare at it.
After skipping a next-gen release last year, they took extra time to make sure that NHL 15 was just right. Yet over a dozen key features that were a staple in the NHL series up through last year's NHL 14 were simply left out of the next-generation release for NHL 15. A list that includes...
- No EA Sports Hockey League (EASHL)
- No Season Mode
- No Create-A-Play
- No Create-A-Team
- No Player Customization
- No Action Tracker
- No GM Connected - instead, an offline bare-bones version of "Be a GM".
- No Live the Life - instead, a bare-bones version of "Be a Pro", in which you can't simulate to your next shift.
- No Tournaments Mode - to be added in September as "Playoff Mode".
- No Online Team Play - to be updated via a patch in October, but now only 5v5.
What's left is a game that allows you to play exhibition games with friends in person, or play one on one against friends online. You can't play in the Winter Classic. You can't play as an NHL player coming up through the CHL and AHL. You can't be a GM and track your prospects progress, play their minor league games, or even manually draft the players you want (This will also be updated via a patch in October). No more 6-on-6 games with friends online. No more preseason games.
There were more features left out of NHL 15 than there were carried over from last year's installment.
What's additionally disturbing is that EA Sports also asked gaming sites, who they gave advanced copies of the full game to, to hold off their full reviews until after the game had been released. Clearly, hoping that people will go out the day of release and purchase the game before knowing the full extent of what has been excluded.
After the game was pre-released to members of EA Access for Xbox One users last week—players got the full game for a six-hour time period—there was much backlash over the amount that was missing, and even speculation that EA had given a mere trial of the final release, instead of the full game like Madden 15 had last month. Finally, after nearly a week of outrage, Sean "Rammer" Ramjagsingh commented via EA Forums. Read the full post, and follow the rest of the forum, here.
Thanks for being part of this journey as we head into the launch of NHL 15 on the Xbox One and the PlayStation 4, the start of a new generation of hockey videogames. We’re incredibly proud of the next-generation gameplay and presentation experience we’ve created for all our fans...
However, we’re not done. We’re committed to keeping the experience fresh throughout the hockey season, in addition to the roster and ratings updates you’ve always received, the list below contains the free content updates for the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 we’re working on and our expected window on when you will see them in the game...
Rammer confirmed the addition of Online Team Play, the 3 Stars of the Game feature, and a "new" GM Draft, along with vague timetables on when the updates will be made available, and admitted that the development team was "not 100% sure" that Be A Pro shift-simulation and editing of NHL players would make it into the game this year. So, while it's not the worst thing in the world, it still begs the question—why release a game when it's half-finished?
If these are just the tip of the iceberg in terms of updates, why should the public rush out to purchase the game on September 9th? What incentive is there to start a season as a player or GM, only to restart it a month or two later once the full experience is now playable? You're telling me there would've been more of a backlash if they'd announced the game would be released instead on the first day of the NHL season, but fully intact?
And don't think that playing the game on Playstation 3 or Xbox 360 will be much better of an experience. The game is essentially a clone of NHL 14, with a couple small tweaks, a roster update, and the new commentary duo of Doc Emrick and Eddie Olczyk (although without the NBC Sports presenation). Everything else is exactly the same.
It's apparent that the jump to the next-gen consoles was tough on the EA Sports Canada development team, but to be fair the NHL series has been declining since the release of NHL 11 back in fall of 2010. The Metacritic Scores—critic and user ratings—have steadily declined year after year, and last year's installment was it's lowest score since NHL 07, which was the last time the series made a console jump.
But regardless of what the status of the series is, it's clear that this year's game is being released a little undercooked. If you were to judge the game on looks alone, or how it plays once you're on the ice, it is definitely Patrice-approved. But with the game lacking as many features as it does, I'd like to think that Patrice actually passed on the opportunity, and Nino Niederreiter became the official spokesman of this close-but-not-quite videogame effort.