Santa was extra good to me this Christmas. In addition to getting tickets to the Caps game this Thursday, I also got NHL 17 for the Xbox One. This years edition of the EA Sports franchise features St. Louis Blues star Vladamir Tarasenko on the cover.
I’ll be honest when I say this, this is my first time owning an NHL video game since I owned NHL 14 for the Xbox 360. This was an upgrade for me in numerous ways. For one, the game looks very realistic. The graphics are modernized and the atmosphere of the game from the players on the ice to the crowd in the stands is similar to the way you see it on TV or at a live game.
This year’s edition features a Franchise mode where Caps fans can pretend they’re GM Brian MacLellan and take control of the team. In addition to making deals with players, signing free agents and making trades, you even get to control the fan experience by setting the price of tickets, concessions and making promotion nights.
There’s another mode called “Be a Pro” where you can create a player and take him from the bottom (the minors) to the top (the pros). You move up based on your performance in games.
Another feature is the World Cup of Hockey tournament, which mirrors the preseason spectacle that occurred this past September. The rosters are accurate for each country and the groupings for the tournament are the same. I played a game as Team USA and enjoyed seeing the atmosphere look very similar to the actual tournament that I watched on TV.
One feature that was notably absent from this year’s version was the Winter Classic mode where you could play in the 2011 and 2012 Winter Classics that took place in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. This was in NHL 14 and the cool part about those games was that the rosters of the Capitals, Penguins, Rangers and Flyers were exactly the same ones from when those teams participated in the New Years Day spectacle. I was disappointed that they removed that feature. I was looking forward to playing the 2014 game that took place with over 100,000 fans in attendance in the “Big House” at the University of Michigan and the 2015 game between our Capitals and Blackhawks that a lot of us (including myself) were lucky enough to attend. I’m sure if they had it, it would’ve also included last year’s game between the Canadiens and Bruins that took place at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts.
As for the gameplay itself, I played as the Capitals at home against the Penguins. It was a preseason game in Franchise Mode. The presentation itself had the feel of an NBC broadcast with Mike “Doc” Emrick and Eddie Olczyk handling the broadcasting duties. The atmosphere inside Verizon Center was electric like an actual game. When I scored, the goal horn sounded and it even included their goal horn from the beginning of last year which was the “Rock the Red” song by Darkest Hour.
The verdict: I give NHL 17 a 5/5. This game is a must have for both the passionate and the casual hockey fan!
By Michael Marzzacco