NHL 15 Hands-On Preview [E3 2014]


Those who know me are well aware of my love of the National Hockey League and its Toronto Maple Leafs. I’m a long-suffering diehard, like many others, and practically bleed blue and white. Not only that, but as both a gamer and a hockey fan, I’m also someone who plays each new instalment of EA Sports’ NHL franchise to death, while dreaming about what may come next.

Today was a great day, because one of my biggest hopes for E3 2014 came true, as I was able to spend quite a bit of time with NHL 15. It’s a big deal, and an even bigger title, because this year marks the series’ next-gen debut, and with it comes a host of new features, improvements and additions.

Following a PowerPoint slideshow presentation, which highlighted the game’s new features, we were able to go hands-on with Exhibition Mode and its four available teams, the New York Rangers, Los Angeles Kings, Montreal Canadiens and Chicago Blackhawks. I’ll talk more about that in a bit, though, because I feel that it’s important to highlight the game’s many improvements first.

To start, each and every player has been modeled in much more realistic fashion. EA Sports confessed that, in recent years, the players’ building blocks didn’t exactly reflect their human counterparts, and showed a rather bloated-looking design that was almost hard to believe. They then transitioned to this year’s next-gen designs, which look very realistic, and were even shown wearing properly sculpted protective gear. Said equipment can actually be seen under their newly-designed jerseys, which are close to photo-realism, and move in lifelike fashion, thanks to technology that was incorporated from the fashion industry of all places.

What’s also pretty amazing is the fact that EA Sports Canada took the advice of someone who worked on the Large Hadron Collider, in order to improve its NHL 15 puck physics. Last generation, the games’ pucks were actually more like balls than the real thing, and had occasionally wonky physics as a result. Now, it reacts like a real puck, which I experienced first-hand. I saw pucks flip up in the air after being hit by two players’ sticks at the same time, and also saw one ricochet off of a flap on King Henrik’s jersey. It blew me away.

I honestly can’t say enough good things about NHL 15. Sure, the demo was a tad rough around the edges, but it was incredibly realistic and a hell of a lot of fun. It’s a definite improvement over last year’s effort, and will mark another great plateau for the franchise. I mean, the game has 9,000 unique crowd models, 8,000 more than its closest competitor if its dev team is to be believed. That, and scuff marks on players’ pants. What more could you ask for?

This needs to come out now!