EA Sports NHL 17 beta has come and gone and you're wondering what this lifelong player of the series has to say about it? No you're not! You guys don't even know me. DON'T LIE TO ME! I'm going to tell you what I think anyway.
In a nutshell–just like Trump is every comedian's wet dream presidential candidate–NHL 17 is every hockey player's paradise.
I'm exited for NHL 17. I can't wait to see what the rest of the game has to offer.
Some History first...
I've been playing this game since 1991 on the Sega Genesis. In the 90's I bought it every year, not for roster updates, back then EA Sports elevated the game with each release. In 1997 I spent over $300 to upgrade my computer's 3D graphics card just so I was able to play it on PC.
We would painstakingly arrange match-ups and start local leagues on internet gaming forums. We used dial-up (way before your time, kids) to play against each other. We'd play 20 minute periods, full simulation with line changes and if we disconnected (which was often) we'd go right back to the start. There was no EASHL back then, just semi-solid 1v1 play over dated AT&T phone lines on 26k modems and for all its glitches and inadequacies we loved it.
PC gaming took a nose-dive towards the end of the 90s and there were some life changes for me. When I eventually got back into EA Sports NHL it was on the 360 in 2009 (NHL 10). Considering my lengthy hiatus from the series I was blown away, most notably by Be a Pro mode. However, I no longer saw the need to purchase the game every year. NHL2K was all but a memory and without competition Electronic Arts was far too content to rest on its laurels with the series. The next iteration I delved into was NHL 13. Sorry to say, fun, but nothing to write home about.
NHL 17 is quite possibly the single biggest improvement to hit this franchise since the game went 3D on PC in 1997.
Next gen consoles came out, alas I–being a poor writer–wasn't able to afford the technological leap. So to satisfy my hockey fix I bought NHL 15 on sale around Thanksgiving that year (little known fact; if you wait for the holiday sales you can usually pick up NHL and FIFA for around $25).
I was a little more happier with NHL 15 than I was 13. We all know it was a total and epic fail on Xbox One. That said, on the 360 at least, Be a Pro was developing nicely this time around. Even though they were simple text based situations/simulations, getting quizzed by the press after games and getting advertising endorsements really brought my head into my pro's career. I'm probably one of the few people alive that will say NHL 15 for the Xbox 360 was a pretty solid game.
The next year my brother-in-law loaned me his Xbox One (thanks Bo, love ya man, you kept me in the game) and again–around Thanksgiving–I purchased NHL 16 for around $25 on sale. At this juncture in my history with the franchise I wasn't willing to pay full price for this game any more, or for any Electronic Arts game for that matter. That said, in some ways there were many improvements over NHL 15.
NHL 17 customization is vast and exhilarating.
I was excited at first. I dove into NHL 16 Be a Pro like Bristol Palin's prom night date dove into her. I went incognito on Xbox Live so my friends wouldn't bug me. I raced gleefully through my BaP season even though I was disappointed it no longer featured that which immersed me in 15. Still, I persevered. My BaP grinded from the CHL to the Stanley Cup in two months.
At the Cup, a defining moment in any player's rookie year in the NHL, my pro was on the bleeding bench when the final horn blew. He didn't get to celebrate with his team. Hell, we didn't even get to see a team Stanley Cup celebration. The screen went blank. The season ended. The coach congratulated my pro for carrying the team and getting this trophy and that trophy... Two months down the drain. Over. It was all in vain. No reward (kind of like working your ass off in Red States).
I wanted to rant. I wanted to scream. I wanted to start my old blog up again and tell those idiots at EA Sports exactly how felt. Sigh. Deep down I realized I was getting too old for these childish rants and EA had disappointed me more often than not since its heyday on the Sega Genesis so fool me twice and all that.
If I've pre-ordered an EA game you need to realize my old and jaded arse is impressed.
A week later and feeling I hadn't got my money's worth out of NHL 16, I started playing EASHL (team multiplayer) and gradually overcame my frustration with the game and EA's propensity to do the least possible they can do for each release. Where BaP failed, EASHL succeeded.
After a couple of months, with my new found friend's help and guidance (thanks Drew, Chemical, and emerica!), I found I wasn't too shabby at the game. Well... I'm better at EASHL than I am at Battlefield! (shaddup, Sam & Eric!) Okay that's not saying much (right, redout?)...
Screw you try-hards, it's a game not a career, (Lip)!
(whispers) Sorry folks, had to shout out my pals. They're all Bronies and they get really upset if you don't do that whole friendship is magic thing. (Evil smile)...
I'm telling you all this because you need to understand the history of the love/hate relationship I have with this game and EA Sports. I've cursed EA out more times than my wife should've put with. I'd be the first person to say EA screwed up if they had. This time EA Sports has earned its accolades.
All the slights I ever felt EA Sports unwittingly inflicted upon me in the past are heartfelt forgiven.
Now to NHL 17...
I played the hell out of EASHL in NHL17 beta and it is quite possibly the single biggest improvement to hit this franchise since the game went 3D on PC in 1997. So much so, for the first time since the 90s, this will be the third consecutive year I've purchased the game. Hell, I've actually forgone my cardinal rule of never paying full price for an EA Sports game and pre-ordered. SHOCKER!!! If I've pre-ordered the game, you need to realize my old and jaded arse is impressed.
The soundtrack is well on par with FIFA. The interface is sleek; pretty even. The customization of everything from your player, to team uniforms, to the chairs in your stadium are vast and exhilarating. The gameplay is consistent. The hitting better this year; solid. There's new player classes for you to choose. This is the first time in years I can earnestly say that EA Sports NHL 17 is worth the price of admission right out of the starting gate. All the slights I ever felt EA Sports unwittingly inflicted upon me in the past are heartfelt forgiven.
I was worried about Net-Battles when I first heard about them being reintroduced. It was an utter failure in the past; a black-hole vortex in front of the net that was near impossible to get out of. The mechanics are simple now. Battles need to be well-timed body and stick tie-ups because they are fairly easy to get of (maybe a little too easy). Do it at the wrong time and you'll end up out of position with your target wide open for a pass. Time it just right and the forward doesn't have a chance of receiving that pass, making that shot or tipping it in. Defensive players who master this game dynamic will emasculate all those glory-hounds in front of the net.
Overall, I'm genuinely not sure if any of these gameplay issues were due to player ineptness or coding inadequacies.
The puck seemed to roll like a coin more often than not causing it to jump over player's sticks on the boards and on the ice; this might need to be toned down a little or it might play out to be a great game dynamic. Goalies complained they could not get back off their arses quick enough and this might need to be tweaked a little. Most of the goalies I talked to were impressed with their new game dynamics at first, but when the glitch goal finders found their groove the goalies started to get a little flustered. There seems to be a lot of slappers and one-timers from the top of the circle that go in more often than not. You know it's a glitchy goal when every sharpshooting forward is camping that space.
Overall, I'm genuinely not sure if any of these gameplay issues were due to player ineptness or coding inadequacies. In all honesty, I feel like if people just played their positions on defense (center chases the puck, right and left wings cover the points, defense camps each side of the net or if everyone simply covers their zone) a lot of these "glitch" goals won't make it. People have to stop being glory-hounds in NHL 17, it's now more important than ever to play as team and communicate in EASHL and stop chasing the puck.
One thing I was really happy to see was we no longer had to waste a team pause of the game at the beginning of a match so the game won't crash. EA's new netcode seems to solve this tragic NHL 16 dilemma by a serious lag spike after the first drop of the puck. Easily sussed by relaxing for the first few seconds, playing defensively, and watching for the douchenozzle trying to take advantage of the lag.
EA Sports NHL 17 is worth the price of admission right out of the starting gate.
I didn't try playing anyone 1v1, playing with randoms is not really my thing and at this juncture I'm not used to switching players and find it hard to adjust (or maybe I'm simply too old to want to change... holy cow, am I becoming Conservative? Nah, I'm just too lazy to try-hard). Notably, I was unable to invite a friend for a more comfortable experience that wouldn't frustrate me. This mechanic was broken. I'm sure EA will have this fixed by release.
Were there bugs? Hell yes, it's a BETA. You'd have to have a full blown case of affluenza not to understand beta bugs are part of the testing. None of the bugs I witnessed or heard of are game breaking and I'm confident EA Sports will solve them all eventually.
That's my quick and dirty review of the NHL 17 beta. Will they make up for NHL 16's horrendous BaP? EA has disappointed us all in the past before. I promise I will review the full game within two weeks of its release, so if you're sketchy hold out and wait a month before purchasing NHL 17 and see what people have to say about it. I'm not going to rush my review. You all deserve to know how great or how terrible it is, and a game reviewer can't do that by playing the game for a mere 24 hours or so.
I'm exited for it. I can't wait to see what the rest of the game has to offer.