Sometimes the annual instalment of a sports game feels like a brand new experience, sometimes it feels like same thing, different year. NHL 17, available for play now on EA Access ahead of next week's release, is definitely the latter.
My kids really took to NHL 16 last year, so while I am not a huge hockey fan, I've played a TON of the previous instalment, enough to know that the core gameplay hasn't changed all that much. The game opens with 2015's Stanley Cup final between the Penguins and the Sharks, much like the previous game opened with the deciding game between the Blackhawks and the Lightning. It felt like I'd never left. The look, the feel — even the commentary opening the game, where colour commentator Eddie Olczyk tells Doc Emrick what it feels like to play in the Stanley Cup Finals, feels lifted from the previous game.
This sameness isn't a bad thing. NHL 16 was a return to greatness for the franchise, one of those good update years. I'm used to this, and the bits I'm a bit cloudy on are nicely filled in by the on-ice trainer, the returning feature most responsible on getting me hooked on the last instalment.
So it's a good game, plus it's got Franchise Mode this time around, which I cannot wait to sink my teeth into. There was not enough marketing management in NHL 16.
Basically, if you liked last year's game and aren't expecting a massive overhaul, you should dig this one. Have fun. I've got to go open up card packs. Mmmm, card packs.