NHL 15 played a fine game of virtual hockey, but the game was marred by a stripped-down feature set and limited options. It was the latest example of a developer holding back in its first version of a game on a new console generation.
The NHL series had been one of the best sports video game franchises around, but the rather lackluster effort on NHL 15 had soured some folks on the series. Even a few post-release updates didn't save the title from the wrath of the angry consumer.
One of the biggest omissions was the absence of EA Sports Hockey League. The mode that is affectionately known as EASHL allows gamers to use their personal created player online in a team-up fashion with friends to take on another team of human-controlled, created players.
At its best, EASHL was not just some system that allowed gamers to get together for one-off games. It had the structure of a league with some relegation concepts and more.
The wildly popular mode is being brought back to NHL 16, and you can tell how much fans have requested it by the tone in which EA Sportsannounced its return. EA Sports wrote:
Sharpen those skates and grab your buddies because the EA Sports Hockey League is back! This fan-favorite online team mode has beenreimagined and lets you choose specialized player classes to deliver a balanced competitive experience on the ice. Player skill and your ability to play as a team will now be the determining factor in who wins and loses hockey games.
In this year's game, players can pick what type of player they will be from the time they create their potential star.
There are 12 different classes to choose from:
- Power Forward
- Two-Way Forward
- Two-Way Defenseman
- Offensive Defenseman
- Defensive Defenseman
- Butterfly Goalie
- Stand-Up Goalie
- Hybrid Goalie
Each style has its own strengths and weaknesses. The purpose of the styles is to carve a path of development for the created player and also to provide the classification for building a solid team. If you're trying to construct the best EASHL team, you need to have a balance. The player classes give you the information required to build the team the right way.
Online Seasons returns to the concept as well, and this is a welcomed addition. The stakes are high with the inclusion of a standardized way to measure your team's skills against an entire community.
The teams are classified by skill level, and each level has 10 different divisions. The more your team wins, the higher it rises in the division. Losing relegates them to the bottom of the division. That dynamic can create a very intense, fun and competitive gaming experience.
There's also increased customization in the mode. Players are now given the options to change almost everything about the way their created player looks. This freedom brings the gamer even closer to their player and generates more of an attachment.
The mode was tested in a beta preview that began at the end of July but extended through the middle of August. The beta access was delivered to fans to replace a traditional demo, and the response seemed predominantly positive.
You can take a look at the mode in action in the top-10 plays highlight reel from EA Sports NHL below:
Even with the beta having tested the waters, it seems wise to expect a few bumps in EASHL during post-release. This is the first year it will have appeared on the current generation of consoles. Oftentimes, the transition of such huge features can be up and down.
That said, EA Sports has done well recently with the implementation of modes like Draft Champions in Madden 16. Hopefully, EASHL is more like DC than not when it comes to functionality.