NHL 16 Hands-On Preview [E3 2015]


When people ask me what my favourite game of E3 2015 is, I have a hard time not being super Canadian and saying NHL 16. It’s easily the game that I’ve logged the most time with, and it’s one I would spend hours with if I could, but there are a lot of great offerings out here. Still, I’m hard pressed to think of a title I’ve had more fun playing while in Los Angeles.

Unfortunately, NHL 15 was kind of a disappointment. Then again, it wasn’t so much its gameplay but its unflattering and unacceptable lack of modes/options that made it a dud. Being that we’d waited a couple of years for our first next-gen hockey fix, coming to terms with it being gimped was difficult. Thankfully, that doesn’t sound like it’ll be a problem this year.

Surprisingly enough, my first game in NHL 16 ended up being against a Montreal Canadiens fan, and, as a Leafs fan, it sparked a heated affair. He went up 2-0 in the first, but I ended up tying it in rapid succession, then won the game.

Outside of him playing alone as one of my team’s rivals, the first thing I noticed when I set eyes on NHL 16 was its new prompts, which can be toggled on and off in the 1080p game’s menus.


The noted prompts aren’t tutorials, so to speak, but they’re similar in that their gameplay aids. For instance, if you hold down the pass button, a broken line will show you the exact path it’ll take depending on where you’re aiming. Where your shots are aimed is also indicated using small targets, which change colour and break away in pixellated fashion when you score. It’s a nice touch that will help make the game more accessible for newcomers, and I may even keep them on for a bit. After all, they can be helpful. The same is true of the faceoff-related ones, which tell you if you’ve moved in too early or too late.

I do, however, believe that the most hardcore of NHL fans will turn the indicators off almost immediately. They can be a bit distracting at first, but once you get used to them they’re not too bad at all. Those who’ve put hundreds if not thousands of hours into the recent games won’t need them, though, and may quickly become annoyed by their existence.

To each their own, I guess.

The gameplay itself is better than it’s ever been. It’s fast, fluid and frenetic, and delivers a thoroughly authentic representation of NHL hockey, albeit with the potential for more heavy hits than there usually ends up being. I’ve perfected the art of hitting, though, and found that I was doing so far more often than even the developer I played against.

Our most memorable game in NHL 16 went to a shootout, which we won. The game had been pretty even prior to that, but I’d had a lot more hits and quite a few more shots/scoring chances. The pressure fluctuated, and things got pretty crazy at times, like a playoff game between two teams who hate each other.

After my demo was done, I was told by the developer that the game will ship in 1080p on both the Xbox One and PS4 this September. That said, I did find that the PS4 version looked a bit sharper and better. The Xbox One controller was better for gameplay, though.

As I sit here in my hotel room, typing away on my laptop, all I can think about is how much I’d like to be playing NHL 16 right now. Not only is that a great indicator of the game’s lasting impression on me, and its fun factor in general, but also how much of a Canadian I really am.