NHL is a unique series. Despite being focused around a sport which isn’t hugely popular outside the USA, it still receives a huge amount of attention from EA Sports. In recent releases, we have seen excellent improvements from year to year, always delivering a great experience for hockey enthusiasts. Unfortunately, NHL 15 appears to have broken that trend.

Anticipation was huge for NHL 15 in the months prior to release. With this year’s release being the first on the new generation of consoles (PS4 & Xbox One), fans of the series were expecting great things in the areas of graphics and gameplay. Fans will not be disappointed with this particular area of the game, as it delivers on this promise.

Graphically, the game looks phenomenal. The environments, crowds and players succeed in blurring the line between video game and reality. The jump from last-gen NHL 14 to new-gen NHL 15 is incredible and certainly will be very impressive to any fan making the jump.

In terms of gameplay improvements, NHL 15 also delivers a suite of upgrades. Puck physics, a highly advertised improvement prior to the launch, has seen huge overhaul. Tackling and taking shots feels and appears more true to life than ever before. However, one area which I have not seen any improvement to is the behaviour of the AI goalie. Shots which don’t approach from the usual direction will almost always score without fail. This is something which the team needs to look at improving in the future.

However, while NHL 15 delivers on promised gameplay and graphics improvements, the end product has turned out to be highly disappointing. Most of the game modes known and enjoyed by fans of the series have either been stripped down greatly or made unplayable at this present time.

The highly popular “Be a GM (Game Master)” mode has had many of its useful features removed. Scouts now have full control over your draft, with no input from the player. The fantasy draft option has also been removed from the game.

Classic 6-v-6 online team multiplayer has also been removed from the game. EA Sports have stated that they plan to patch this in in the future, however, it will be in a more limited form than in the past and certainly should have been in the game at launch.

I am not an expert on hockey, however, the “Be a Pro” mode has also been stripped down greatly by EA. In the past, you would need to work your way up the ranks of teams. Now, it appears that you are inserted straight into the top ranks of a team. Additionally, a bizarre exclusion from this mode which I noticed while playing was the removal of the option to sim time in between your playtime – meaning you must watch these sessions from the bench.

These changes have resulted in a game which plays ok for casual fans of hockey, but are horrible for the hockey enthusiasts who have relied on NHL through the years to provide a realistic experience which accurately simulates play on the ice. It remains to be seen what will be patched into the game, but for now, the game looks rather poor for hardcore fans.