More customization is the noticeable theme this year, as the NHL 17 videogame from EA Sports digs its skates in with its newest instalment of the hockey franchise. NHL 17 introduces three new game modes this year. Draft Champions — a fantasy draft which allows users to build a dream team over 12 rounds of picks; World Cup of Hockey — the 2016 international tournament; and Franchise mode — which takes the previous ‘Be a GM’ mode and provides more depth than ever before, allowing users to control all aspects about a team, from managing the budget and relocation to concession costs, and everything in between.

Modes from last year’s version are still intact, but include new experiences. Hockey Ultimate Team transitions away from the old chemistry system and introduces Synergy, working similar to buff mechanics from the role playing game (RPG) style and allowing players to pair unique strengths and trait boosts to individuals, or their entire team.

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EA Sports Hockey League introduces four new additional player classes — jumbo playmaker, 2-way dangler, hitting sniper and puck moving defencemen to give players more options in executing their favourite play style. As games are played (and won), new items for your player and/or club become available. Features like goal celebrations, jersey styles, hairstyles and arena presentation effects are unlocked.

Be a Pro mode makes its return as well. EA does a good job of not only presenting it as a career mode, but also using it to teach users how to position themselves on the ice while learning the controls and facets of the game.

Goalies are much more authentic this year, playing with better positioning and using the reactionary save intelligence engine to decide whether they should attempt minor movements, like relying on their body positioning to control or redirect rebounds, or attempt big, reactionary saves if they need to cover more ground.

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Scoring opportunities are much different with net battles, allowing defenders the ability to engage and restrict offensive players from achieving easy one-timer goals. On offence, however, players use the feature to set goalie screens, position themselves to deflect shots and use defenders to create additional scoring chances. While this may seem like a minor addition to gameplay, it becomes evident how important the inclusion of this feature is, as it severely changes the game on both sides of the ice. The various minor, but noticeable differences in passing, shooting, defending and hitting result in a lot more responsiveness and a tighter gameplay.

The menu interface is also a lot cleaner. It’s more visually appealing and easier to navigate. Gameplay and graphics are much more fluid. The majority of changes to this year’s NHL 17 will be noticed in the way the game plays and its feature customization options on and off the ice, as opposed to game presentation.

Words By. Marlon Meggoe

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