Review: ‘NHL 17’ solid but unspectacular

Improving upon an annual sports game franchise is tough, especially when it’s got a solid base from the previous year. Developers clearly want to improve the game from year to year, enticing loyal players to drop another $60 for more of a similar game.

EA Canada, the team behind “NHL 17”, certainly put in work on various modes and gameplay systems. There’s no question this iteration has more to offer than last year’s solid model, “NHL 16.”

So why doesn’t “17” feel like the must-own replacement for “16”? It’s not improved enough, even though it’s still pretty good.

The big additional modes this year are Draft Champions and World Cup of Hockey.

Draft Champions follows the model established in “Madden” last year, allowing players to quickly draft a team to play a few games and earn rewards for the returning Hockey Ultimate Team mode. Drafting is fast and fun, and this mode will be standard fare in all sports titles very soon.

World Cup of Hockey obviously ties into the rekindled NHL-affiliated international tournament that begins Saturday. The bummer is it lacks fanfare if you take your national team of choice all the way.

Franchise Mode technically is a new mode, but it’s really a replacement for Be a GM that adds total team control. Want to revert the Carolina Hurricanes to the Hartford Whalers? It’s doable — and for hockey fans over 30, it’s necessary. The level of customization to arenas an uniforms is deep, but a lack of custom logos is a bit of a disappointment.

Mainstay modes such as EASHL are back for online junkies, and the progression and customization systems gives even more reason for you and your friends to keep playing.

Unfortunately, Be a Pro mode seems to have been lost in the shuffle after taking a step forward last year. “NHL 17” is beginning to lag behind when compared to other sports titles’ comparable modes.

For all the effort that seemed to go into improving the arcade-like feel by which the “NHL” franchise occasionally is plagued, it still struggles to achieve simulation-level play. Scoring bonanzas are frequent despite improvements to goaltending. It’s rare to achieve a 3-1 final score, win or lose.

At least the on-ice trainer is as strong as ever for those who don’t play “NHL” religiously.

Don’t worry, “NHL 17” is a solid experience. Just think it through if this year’s changes are worth it for you.


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