I am not a sports fan, at least not when it comes to the sports genre with video games. I grew up playing various sports and still have a healthy appreciation for athletics, but when it comes to video games, I am less interested. That changed a few years back when I reviewed NHL 15. It had been years since I had played a non-racing sports game (though I did play a golf game or two over the years). I loved NHL 15 and last year, with NHL 16 being among the best NHL games ever, NHL 17 has some serious shoes to fill.
I had recently been talking to Nick, who is a big fan of the annual sports games that EA and a few other studios put out, about the last few releases of NHL and since I skipped last year's release, I was commenting at how great the improvements are. From the speed, photo-realistic graphics, control, seamless integration between live action and CGI, to the incredibly robust career / franchise mode and its extremely detailed stat tracking, NHL 17 is a massive leap over the wonderful NHL 15. Nick and I were talking and he pointed out that while he was impressed with NHL 17, he was not quite as gobsmacked as I was, because last year's release of NHL was where a lot of these features were implemented. That did nothing to diminish the charm and awe that I have for NHL 17, as it is a rock solid entry.
I do have to argue one point though, and it is not in NHL 17's favor. See, I boosted the difficulty up really way super high to its maximum difficulty setting. Then I set the periods to 20-minute lengths (otherwise periods last 5 minutes, or a simulated 20 minutes). Then I fired up career mode, set it to 25 seasons (the maximum length for a career) and off I went, because glutton for punishment. Except not punishment, at least not in the sense that things are difficult for me. My first game as the Detroit Red Wings, at the end of the second period against the San Jose Sharks, had the Sharks at a cool 2 points, with about a dozen shots on goal. The Red Wings? Rocking along at 24 goals, with what must be about three million shots on goal. The moral of the story? NHL 17, when set to 20-minute periods, is not a hard game; just a long one. I ended up quitting the game, deleting my save content (thus restarting from factory default) and restarting with shorter periods because it was way too easy to get double and triple hat-tricks. Completely unrealistic.
There are a glut of different modes to choose from, so if you are a fan of the engine and overall game, there is no lack of things to do. Franchise mode, career mode, ultimate team, draft champions and several different online options. A bevy of features and sliders can be tweaked to customize the experience, so while the out of the box game is not terribly hard in and of itself, you can tweak the game in so many ways that the end experience can be just about whatever you want it to be.
Outside of the wonky difficulty issues, NHL 17 is a fantastic hockey game that is able to brilliantly straddle the line between arcade game and hockey simulator. While the step up from NHL 16 might not be all that impressive, for those like me that skip years, there are a wealth of new and improved features. From the new World Cup of Hockey to a new Franchise mode, NHL 17 has literally everything you could need for a solid Fall/Winter epic hockey shut-in. NHL 17 is a must have for any hockey fan out there.
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Article by Robert