EA SPORTS’ NHL 16 arrives on our Game of the Year 2015 list at #20.
For hockey fans, NHL 16 came as somewhat of a relief when it released in September of 2015, eradicating the memories of last year’s disappointing debut on the current generation of consoles; a game which was heavily lacking in features. NHL 16 modeled itself around the strong elements of its predecessor and enhanced in crucial areas, subsequently emerging as one of the very best titles to ever grace the series.
Gameplay-wise, NHL 16 didn’t need to innovate, but rather, refine. It did this by focusing on some of the inaccuracies of 2014’s game, including the overuse of cross-crease passes and the difficulty in controlling loose pucks. Goalies benefited from extra fine-tuning in addition to an overhauled control system for those who prefer to step between the posts themselves, while a brand-new Visual On-Ice Trainer tool offered the ability to utilize useful hints and tips in-game, for newcomers and veterans alike.
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Arguably the most notable addition to the game was the reemergence of EA Sports Hockey League (in which players can team-up together and compete online in up to 6 vs 6 contests) which made a welcome return.
While EA Sports Hockey League innovated in a number of areas in NHL 16, the most effective example of this was its focus on balanced gameplay. Gone were the days of being dominated by teams with overpowered players; now, it was all about individual player skill, and the mode benefited all the more for it.
The game’s stunning visuals were upgraded once again, including new, fun features such as playoff beards and mascots, while a number of game modes were improved considerably, particularly in the case of Be A Pro and Be A GM, offering a much more comprehensive package than they did in the year prior.
2015 was one of the most important years in the EA SPORTS’ NHL series’ history: a chance for EA to convince the fans that NHL 15’s shortcomings were a necessary evil in order to create a game that could live up to the series’ famously high standards. They delivered these high standards in abundance with NHL 16.