NHL 17 will hit the shelves this Tuesday and gamers will get to take to the ice once more. With tons of new features added to the game, there are some hits and there are some misses. We’ll start with arguably the most important feature; gameplay.

Gameplay

Last year, NHL 16 vastly improved from its predecessor and EA has continued the upward trend with NHL 17. The skating in NHL 17 feels much crisper and more realistic. Another big improvement for skating is the on-ice trainer. For people who are just playing for the first time, or even pro players who want to see how a pass will look, the on-ice trainer is a big help to all.

The trainer will tell you information such as how well you did on a face-off, while the heat map behind a goalie will help you see where to shoot it and even when you should switch players. I really do like the on-ice trainer, and it’s a real help even for experienced players.

EA made a big deal out of goaltending in NHL 16 and they made it even more of a point in NHL 17. After bringing in goalies from across the league during the offseason, NHL 17 now features brand new animations and 41 unique goaltending stances.

Each stance will cover different spots of the net and give you the opportunity to experiment and choose which one you like best. So far I am really liking stance #38, because it squares up well to the net as well as getting you low to the ice while holding your glove up.

Unfortunately, collision detection remains a problem. The puck sometimes goes straight through solid objects – including goaltenders. Cross crease passes can still easily be forced as AI defenders have the awareness of a potato sometimes, and sadly most of the same glitch shots that always work from years past still exist.

Draft Champions

The newest and most anticipated addition to NHL 17 is Draft Champions. Already seen in FIFA and Madden, Draft Champions gives you the opportunity to draft the team you want to play with and then fight for rewards in Ultimate Team. Every time you go to play you will pick a style (example: Canadian Players, All-Stars, Players Under 25) which will determine the players you get to draft and then you will head into a single elimination 4 game set.screen-shot-2016-09-13-at-4-10-23-pmThe more you win, the better rewards you get. This is a game mode unlike Ultimate Team where you have to spend a lot of money to have a top team and you can have level teams with everybody you play. I personally play Online Versus because I don’t spend money on Ultimate Team, but this is looking likely to become my new favorite game mode.

Ultimate Team Improvements

In years past with Ultimate Team, teams had their overall rating as well as their chemistry rating. This year, chemistry has been taken out and replaced with Synergy. In the spirit of customization, EA now says you can have a lineup of 5 defenders in front of a goalie.

Synergy is a way of customizing your team by getting players with certain synergies that will give them boosts for stats you emphasize in your gameplay. For example, get four players with the Wicked Wristers synergy and they all get a boost to their wrist shot power and accuracy.

While I like the idea of synergy, I still don’t like how you will not be penalized if you spend a ton of money and have players like PK Subban on the wing who have no business being there.Ultimate Team is a game mode where the best teams are in large part thanks to the actual money players put into them, but if you don’t want to spend any money and try to be good, this year is your best chance.

Sets are a new addition where you can trade in unwanted items you would never sell for a decent profit and turn them into a collectibles which can become quick sell items worth coins or go toward getting a hero card. Every team in NHL 17 will have a hero card that is a 94 overall former player on the team and is obtainable by collecting every player, jersey, logo and adding collectibles to their collection. I really do like what EA did here with the collections and I hope they add more as the year goes on.

Franchise Mode

While I still wait for an online franchise mode to return, EA has completely revamped its offline franchise mode this year. Every team now has owner personalities and arena amenities that can be upgraded and maintained like Madden had over a decade ago.

You can also undertake a new challenge for a franchise by relocating it to a new city and trying your luck. You may also pick any name you want, customize jerseys and the arena at the same time. I decided to take over the Coyotes and move them to San Diego to see how things work out. Definitely a fun mode if you enjoy offline gaming or the servers are down.screen-shot-2016-09-13-at-4-11-08-pm

World Cup Of Hockey

The final addition to NHL 17 is the World Cup of Hockey which makes its real life return after 12 years. Another offline game mode, you can choose any of the 8 teams in the tournament and try to bring home a different kind of cup than you are used to winning. Once again, this is a nice thing to try. If you have some friends over this could be a really competitive game mode so I would try it under those circumstances.

Verdict

EA really did a great job when it comes to all the potential customization, as well as the new game modes and improvements within the current game modes. The only problems I have are with gameplay, and particularly the lack of collision detection.

I like the direction EA is heading, but there are still too many problems with online gameplay for me. EASHL will be my main game mode and I will only play Online VS if my club is not on. EA has to put out some gameplay tuners to make the game more realistic.

Final Score: 7/10

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CJ Reo
When it comes to sports the only word to describe CJ Reo is a diehard, both real life and virtual. A competitive gamer since NHL 09 featuring being between the pipes for the PS3 Champion NHL Regulators in 2010 and finishing Top 32 at the 2012 Virgin Gaming VS Championships. An aspiring sportscaster who will do anything to accomplish his dreams.