After stumbling onto the ice with its first entry on Playstation 4 and Xbox One, EA’s NHL series bounced back with a much improved second shift last year. Last week we got our first glimpse at the company’s plans for the next entry in the series via a trailer that teased promising new features like international competition, team customization, franchise relocation, team celebrations, and net battles. As bigtime hockey fans, our wish list is slightly longer.
Getting all of our proposed improvements into NHL 17 (or even 18/19) is unrealistic, but we’d love to see these deficiencies addressed in the coming years as the series strengthens its position in the ranks of sports games. Hockey’s never been the most popular sport, but if EA smartly caters to the hardcore fans of old-time hockey and entices some new players into the fold, it could reclaim the glory of past entries.
Here are 29 changes we think could drastically improve the franchise.
Fine-Tune Game Day Broadcasts
The second year of broadcast team Doc Emrick and Eddie Olczyk was much better, but NHL still has some room for improvement with its presentation. The commentators still rarely dive deep on league happenings, injuries affecting the teams, potential trades, or any of the other common topics that fill the dead space between whistles. The stat boxes should show season stats as players rack up goals and assists instead of single game stats. To curb unnecessary repetition that kills immersion, the season specific commentary about players and teams should be removed when moving to the next season in Be A Pro and Be A GM modes.
Invest In Player Likenesses
Like basketball, you can clearly see the face of every NHL player outside of goalies during cutscenes. The overabundance of generic faces is a big problem in this HD era. Too many player likenesses are still missing from NHL, and EA Canada should invest heavily in securing these for every roster member, not just the star players. A new player model generator that delivers more variety of draft classes and created players would also be welcome.
Bring Back Outdoor Games
The Winter Classic, Stadium Series, and Heritage Classic are now NHL staples, but EA’s series lost outdoor games in the transition to new consoles. With the game’s foundation in place, it’s a good time to bring it back. Creating a couple generic outdoor stadiums and rotating the participating teams each year in Be A Pro/Be A GM modes would suffice. Having snowy weather factor affect the ice would also be a plus.
Add Authentic Coaches
Many sports games have already incorporated head coaches, but the NHL bench bosses are still relegated to being generic faces. I would love to see the Q-stache patrolling behind the Blackhawks bench or Avs coach Patrick Roy aiming his stare of death toward a ref after a dicey call.
Adding the coaches could be just the excuse EA needs to incorporate a wider differentiation of tactics into the game. We’d love to see Roy pull the goalie with four minutes left in the game while other coaches wait until the minute mark, or have a coach put some grit into the lineup if they got dominated the last time they played your team. This could help franchise mode games play out differently from game to game, and change your responsibilities when playing in the Be A Pro mode depending on what team you’re on.
Capture Playoff Intensity
Outside of a few zealous arenas, the atmosphere and buzz surrounding a playoff hockey game is exponentially more exciting than a midweek, regular season showdown. Crowds waving rally towels, loud vocal reactions to each rush and save, goalie chants, and more chirping after the whistle should all be incorporated to further drive home the high stakes of the cup. I’d also like to see EA Canada turn up the game speed a notch during the postseason to make the game feel faster as well.
Speed Up The Menus
Most sports game have already won this battle, but NHL still struggles with slow menus. From loading saves to transitioning between game modes, the game should be much more responsive.
Read on to hear our gameplay recommendations.