One of the little things that annoyed me the most when playing NHL 16, is that the pop up after a goal was scored would show the goals the player who scored had in the game and not for the season.
It is one of those things that when playing a season makes you feel distant from the other teams you are playing against.
That is fixed, and there are so many little updates that make playing a game in NHL 17 much more enjoyable.
You get in-game pop ups when you’re facing a player in his first NHL game, and I even got a pop up that a team had a new president during the in-game broadcast. They focus on a player with two goals, saying he’s close to a hat trick. It all adds to the immersion without having to study all 30 teams.
There was even a fan in the stands who had a hand-made sign: “Jared Book, don’t screw up”... No pressure, right?
The gameplay itself feels and looks a lot better. Better collisions for both players and the puck, including incidental contact with teammates, other players and the boards. The sliders have been completely redone and are now a scale of 100 rather than the previous 10 allowing for more fine tuning.
There is also a new net battles engine that allows you to battle for the prime real estate in front of the net. With the importance of traffic in front of the net to score, like in the real game, you’ll see yourself using this feature.
Also, goaltenders have their own style. You can tell when you’re playing Carey Price or Sergei Bobrovsky as there is a distinct style difference between goaltenders. I played a game with Patrick Roy and it felt like Roy was actually playing.
Franchise mode continues to add more immersion. They added an owner’s mode which allows you to have complete control of your budget, relocate, and even schedule promotion nights. This adds on to the immersive scouting and morale interface that was already there.
In addition to relocating your franchise, you can also create a team and substitute them into your franchise before starting your season or fantasy draft.
It saves you the step of waiting a year to relocate and allows you to perfect your team before bringing them into the league. I used this to create the Quebec Nordiques and Las Vegas Knights.
Making the Nordiques was relatively easy. You already had their logo in the options to choose from, but the play by play doesn’t have Nordiques listed. They do have No Dekes, so that is close enough.
The options to customize your team are intense. The attendance model in franchise is based on the team you play, time of the year, standings, and their local and national popularity and you can change all of those options. It also means a pre-season game will have noticeably less people in the stands than a Saturday night game against Toronto or Boston.
You can also change the look of the arena, down to the type of stanchions and goal light. You can change the presentation of goals, introductions, and even the spotlights after goals.
And, yes, you can even change your goal horn and goal song. You have over a hundred options so if you really want to go through all of them (and you’re obsessive about having the right fit like I am) it can take a while.
It’s worth it when you find “Ride of the Valkyries” and make that the song before your power play takes to the ice.
I’m not a huge online player, but I did try the Draft Champions mode that makes its debut in the NHL series. It’s a lot of fun and I love just re-drafting teams.
If you’re not familiar, how it works is that you pick a theme. You have four options at a time and they can vary each time. They can be all-Canadian, Under 25, all-American or Around the World.
Once that is done, they give you a team of mostly scrubs based on your theme. However, you then have 12 draft selections with elite talent that replace the lowest ranked player at that position. You get a choice of four players and sometimes the choice is incredibly tough.
And keep an eye out on those players because you can get some legends come up. I have seen Doug Gilmour, Mike Bossy, Bobby Hull, and Patrick Roy among others depending on your theme. Once your team is drafted you can play solo against the computer or you can play head to head online.
It’s one of those game modes that has immense replayability and has been a favourite along with Hockey Ultimate Team. I’m not a huge Hockey Ultimate Team player or EA Sports Hockey League but both game modes have a lot of improvements including a new synergy calculator replacing team chemistry for HUT, and new player types and an improved progression model for EASHL.
This year’s game also has a World Cup of Hockey mode which is a lot of fun if you want to replicate the pre-season tournament. It has the added bonus of adding the official jerseys which means no more big flag plastered along the front of your jersey when playing internationally (those teams and jerseys still exist, though).
The game is available on Xbox One and Playstation 4 and is available now.